GWANGJU, South Korea, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- South Korean Catholic priests who say they were falsely accused of ties to North Korea are suing the conservative South Korean politician they say spread rumors of their alleged pro-Pyongyang activities.
The priests affiliated with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Gwangju and its Justice and Peace Commission told reporters Monday they are suing 73-year-old South Korean politician Jee Man-won for defamation and distorting the history of the May 18 Gwangju Uprising, Yonhap reported.
The event was a pro-democracy movement that was violently suppressed 25 years ago by then-President Chun Doo-hwan, and civic groups in South Korea continue to seek restitution for protesters who were wrongfully imprisoned or detained.
The activists who spoke to the media Monday said that in 1987 Jee created a "source book of photos" titled "May That Day Come Again" in order to claim the document he created actually was evidence of "secret communication" between the priests who were in Gwangju at the time of the protests, and North Korea contacts in Pyongyang. The politician wanted to frame the priests as communists so that they may be found in violation of South Korean law.
"Jee Man-won has engaged in an act of anti-social terrorism against those who have committed their lives defending democratic values," the priests said in statement, JoongAng Ilbo reported. "His deeds must be met with justice."
The evidence was first mentioned in a past essay Jee wrote titled "18 Signs From The Smoking Gun," in which Jee said photographic documentation that the priests had exchanges with North Korea was available, and as partners of Pyongyang the priests had spread "groundless rumors" and were North Korea's "rebellious minions" in Gwangju.
The priests implicated in Jee's statement said the claims are false, as are claims that 600 North Korean soldiers had infiltrated Gwangju during the pro-democracy uprising in 1980.
The activists said members of a civilian militia who cracked down on protesters in Gwangju had been spreading groundless rumors North Korean soldiers were involved in the uprising.