Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo has issued an official apology for the sexual assaults committed by South Korean soldiers during the harsh crackdown on the Pro-Democracy movement in the southwestern city of Gwangju,.. 38 years ago.
During a televised apology at Seoul's defense ministry on Wednesday, Minister Jeong bowed his head and expressed deep remorse.
"On behalf of the government and the military, I bow my head and deliver this apology for the unspeakable pain inflicted on the innocent female victims. The military exists not for power, but for the people. It should protect the people from external threats and protect their human rights and dignity. Once again, I offer my deepest apologies to all citizens and the women who suffered because of troops and state power during the May 18th Pro-Democracy Movement."
The apology comes a week after a government investigation team, jointly comprised of officials from the nation's defense and gender ministries,.. as well as the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, confirmed a total of 17 cases of sexual assault by the military against Gwangju women in 1980.
The troops were there to enforce martial law in the city.
The victims were women of all ages, sexually assaulted during their detentions, during demonstrations, or while they were searching for family members.
The joint investigation team did not reveal the identities of the perpetrators or their troop units, but a further probe will be done to track them down.
The defense ministry vowed it will closely cooperate with the government's fact-finding investigation efforts.
This is the second time during the Moon administration that a Minister of National Defense has apologized for the 1980 crackdown.
In February, former defense minister Song Young-moo apologized on behalf of the military for its excessive use of force during the Pro-Democracy movement in Gwangju.
In May 1980, citizens took to the streets in Gwangju, protesting against the military coup by Chun Doo-hwan, who took power and became president.
Hundreds of civilians were killed or went missing,.. and hundreds more were wounded during the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.
Park Ji-won, Arirang News.