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Chun will attend next hearing in libel trial

Jan 09,2019
Former President Chun Doo Hwan will show up at the next hearing in his defamation trial, his lawyer said Monday.

Chun has so far been absent from his trial, which began in August last year, on whether he defamed a Catholic priest who was present at the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement in 1980.

“Former President Chun is sick in bed with flu and high fever,” said Jung Joo-gyo, Chun’s lawyer, in a meeting with reporters on Monday. “He couldn’t attend the hearing because of that.”

On Monday, the Gwangju District Court issued a warrant to force him to appear at the hearing, which was rescheduled for March 11.

“He will attend it for sure,” Jung said. “He should feel better by then.”

Chun was indicted in May last year for defaming the late priest Cho Chul-hyun, who is also known by his baptismal name Cho Bi-oh, in the first volume of his three-volume memoir “Chun Doo Hwan Memoirs” (2017).

“There was no gunfire from a helicopter during the Gwangju incident, which Cho insists he saw,” Chun wrote. “Cho is making a malicious argument. He is a despicable liar who should be ashamed to call himself a clergyman.”

Cho, who witnessed the Gwangju Democratization Movement, said he saw helicopters firing on protesters during the crackdown on the movement by the Chun government. Cho died of pancreatic cancer at 78 on Sept. 21, 2016.

The May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement is the official term for the 10-day civilian uprising against the Chun leadership that started on May 18, 1980, when students from Chonnam National University staged a protest calling for democracy. The following day, the Chun leadership dispatched soldiers from the special forces to Gwangju. They opened fire on protesters and deployed brutal tactics such as beatings to crush the demonstration. According to the May 18 Memorial Foundation, 154 people were killed during the 10-day uprising or from injuries they sustained during it.

Relatives of Cho and a civic group sued Chun for defamation in April 2017. After the prosecution confirmed that helicopters opened fire during the crackdown, they indicted Chun in May of last year. The latest hearing in Chun’s trial was on Monday. The Gwangju District Court issued a warrant on Monday to force Chun’s appearance in court for his next hearing.

“But warrants tend to be ineffective if the authorities cannot locate the accused or if the accused cannot make an appearance due to an illness,” said a court official.

After seizing power in a 1979 coup, Chun stayed in office until early 1988.

BY PARK KWANG-SOO and ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]