Location South Korea South Korea

CIA reports on Gwangju uprising declassified

By Kim Hyo-jin

A civic organization said Thursday that it is analyzing CIA documents declassified this week to find answers to remaining questions about the 1980 Gwangju civil uprising.

The May 18 Memorial Foundation, a Gwangju-based civic body that investigates the movement and manages commemoration projects, said it started searching for the CIA documents relevant to the Gwangju movement.

The agency declassified roughly 930,000 documents covering the 1940s to the 1990s, Wednesday, and made them accessible online through the CIA records search tool.

Expectations are high that the data may fill in the blanks for the democratization movement the details of which were left unanswered due to a lack of information.

The more than 12 million pages of declassified documents include a myriad of topics, such as early CIA history, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Berlin Tunnel project, the Korean War, and the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft.

The publication was reportedly prompted by a lawsuit from the open-government nonprofit organization MuckRock. The documents were only available during business hours at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, before.

“We are buoyed by the accessibility of declassified records to the public. We are hoping to unveil the truth about the uprising,” said an official with the foundation.

She said there have been difficulties in unveiling the details of the government’s suppression, including who ordered the firing on citizens, the whereabouts of missing persons, and if the army fired from helicopters.

The foundation is also looking into 89 relevant documents written by the U.S. embassy, according to the official.

The embassy delivered the documents reported to the U.S. government on the 1980 uprising, to the foundation when outgoing U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert came to Gwangju to visit the May 18 Memorial Park, Wednesday.

The official said they contain information on the number of victims during the movement and reports on the political situation in the 1980s.

A total of 88 out of 89 documents overlap the documents the foundation has already secured but the foundation is still hopeful of gaining more information as they are not censored versions.

“We appreciate the U.S. embassy delivering the relevant documents for the first time. It carries some significance. We will work on securing more information from the U.S. based on the trust made this time,” said Kim Yang-rae, the foundation chairman.

According to the May 18 Bereaved Family Association, at least 165 civilians died during the uprising and 76 were unaccounted for, presumed dead.

In 1995, the National Assembly passed a special law that enabled those responsible for the May 18 massacre to be prosecuted.

Chun Doo-hwan, an army general-turned-dictator who commanded the suppression and his successor Roh Tae-woo were sentenced to life imprisonment and a 22.5-year prison term, respectively, but in 1997, President Kim Young-sam pardoned them based on the advice of then President-elect Kim Dae-jung.

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