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The Special Committee on Fact-finding of the May 18 Democratic Uprising Takes Its First Step in Gwangju

The Special Committee on Fact-finding of the May 18 Democratic Uprising finally kicked off its mission in Gwangju.  

Judging it should not delayed any longer, on December 26, President Moon appointed nine members of the Committee, including the Liberty Korea Party nominees who were previously deemed underqualified.

According to the May 18 Democratic Uprising Fact-finding Special Act, the Committee comprises nine members who were nominated as follows: one by the Chair of the National Assembly, four by the Democratic Party, three by the Liberty Korea party, and one by the Bareunmirae Party.  

On December 27, the Committee had its first plenary meeting at the National Human Rights Commission of Korea in Seoul and elected Song Seon-tae as its chairperson and Ahn Jong-cheol as general secretary and vice-chair as well. The two will also serve as the Committee’s standing members along with Lee Jong-hyeop, a former military personnel.  

List of the Members of the May 18 Democratic Uprising Fact-finding Committee
▲ Song Seon-tae (Chairperson, Former Executive Eirector of the May 18 Memorial Foundation, Man of May 18 Merit, recommended by the Democratic Party)
▲ Ahn Jong-cheol (General Secretary, Chairperson of the Korea Institute of Contemporary Social Studies, recommended by the Chairperson of the National Assembly)
▲ Lee Jong-hyeop (Standing Member, Reserve Major General, recommended by the Liberty Korea party)
▲ Lee Seong-chun (Professor of Songwon Univesity, Reserve Army Colonel, Researcher on Supreme Court rulings on Chun Doo Hwan & Roh Tae-woo’s crimes of murder for the purpose of treason, recommended person by Democratic Party)
▲ Seo Ae-ryun (Lawyer, Complainant of Chun Doo Hwan's memoir’s libel the dead, recommended by the Democratic Party)
▲ Min Byeong-ro (Professor of Chonnam Natioanl University Law School, recommended by the Democratic Party)
▲ Lee Dong-wook (Former Journalist of monthly magazine The Chosun, Writer of Park Jeong-Hui’s biography, owner of a publishing company Jayujeonseon, recommended by the Liberty Korea Party)
▲ Cha Gi-hwan (Lawyer, Former Judge at Suwon District Court, recommended by the Liberty Korea Party)
▲ Oh Seung-yong(Professor at Chonnam National University, recommended by the Bareunmirae Party)  

The Committee will write a report after completing fact-finding mission for three years maximum. Its work will be focused on human rights violation cases by the then government, history distortions and fabrications committed by secret military organizations, pinpointing those who should be held accountable for the first mass shooting, locating the commander of the shooting from martial law helicopters, massacres, uncovering civilian deaths and injuries and disappearance and victims’ secret burials. Once completing recruiting 34 researchers and 50 assistant staff through open competitive employment process, the Committee will conduct its signboard hanging ceremony.  

On January 3, the Committee members visited the National Cemetery in Daejeon, the May 18 National Cemetery in Gwangju, and the site of the former Gwangju Prison where the remains had been recently discovered. They then in the afternoon had a meeting with May 18 related organizations in Daedoing Hall at the May 18 Memorial Culture Center to explain the Committee’s activities and listen to their opinions.

Mr. Lee Choel-Woo, the Chairperson of the May 18 Memorial Foundation, made a request, saying, “Please, make sure to reveal the truth of the Uprising this time that has been buried for 40 years. We, the May related 18 organizations will also do our part in cooperation with the Committee to bring out the best outcomes.”  

The May 18 related organizations suggested that the Committee make a thorough investigation in order to attain materials on how the relevant military records had been doctored and damaged. They also suggested that it is necessary for the Committee to investigate the first-class confidential documents that have been archived at the Defense Ministry, at the Army headquarters, at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and at the Military Security Assistance Command. They lastly suggested that the Committee should make sure to adopt means guaranteeing victim-centered investigation, such as securing victims’ right of statement, and to reserve legal status of the Committee’s final report.

Mr. Song stated, “We will do our best to uncover the truth of the May 18 Democratic Uprising. The enemy of truth is oblivion not lie. We are here to prevent any future unfortunate incident from happening again.” He then added that it would have been undiscovered, if the testimonies from those conscientious retired soldiers and government officials, who had written, preserved, and managed secret documents, did not come forth. He also said that the Committee will conduct in-depth investigations into related data obtained from the Defense Security Command and the National Intelligence Service and will keep track on personnels who prepare and manage relevant documents.  

He lastly emphasized that the Committee will make sure to contain the following in its final report:
  • Restoration of the honor of the May 18 victims
  • Bring resolutions to unsettled issues and establishing countermeasures for victims and their families
  • Legislating new laws to prevent recurrence and improve habitual practices
  • Linking the above to May 18 Uprising Distortion Prevention Act