Feb. 8 (UPI) -- A group of lawmakers from South Korea's main conservative opposition invited a controversial politician to speak at a public hearing on the Gwangju Uprising -- a decision that angered activists who defend the pro-democracy movement.
The public hearing on Friday took place as a left-wing lawyers group called for the repatriation of the 12 North Korean waitresses and their manager brought to the South in 2016.
South Korean television network MBC reported a group of far-right lawmakers affiliated with the Liberty Korea Party hosted the "Public Hearing on the Investigation into the Truth of May 18," where politician Jee Man-won was the guest speaker.
Jee has been the target of lawsuits from activists, who allege he created falsified documents to connect the Gwangju Uprising with the North Korean regime in Pyongyang. Jee has claimed the uprising of May 18, 1980, included the participation of North Korean military personnel.
Right-wing politicians condemned the pro-democracy movement on Friday, including Kim Soon-rye of the Liberty Korea Party.
"Right now the pro-North Korea leftists are dominating, and creating an abominable group called the May 18 Figures of Merit that is draining taxpayer money," Kim said, referring to civic groups in South Korea that seek restitution for protesters wrongfully imprisoned or detained.
Other politicians said the pro-democracy protesters were rioters, and Jee praised former President Chun Doo-hwan as a hero; Chun was president when the government ordered a military crackdown against protesters.
Gwangju activists disrupted the hearing and voiced their indignation during the event, according to MBC.
The dispute comes at a time of increased polarization in South Korea, where engagement with North Korea has been followed by debate on issues ranging from defectors to political allegiances.
Seoul Pyongyang News reported Friday the progressive Lawyers for a Democratic Society, or Minbyun, held a rally outside the presidential Blue House, calling on the government to repatriate a group of North Korean waitresses, and other defectors, including Kim Ryen-hi.
Kim is a North Korean woman in the South who has claimed she was abducted to the South.