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South Korean court upholds decision to dismiss Chun Doo-hwan lawsuit

Former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan is accused of ordering a massacre of civilians during the Gwangju Uprising, a pro-democracy movement, in 1980. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
Former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan is accused of ordering a massacre of civilians during the Gwangju Uprising, a pro-democracy movement, in 1980. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

May 18 (UPI) -- A South Korean court refused Tuesday to overturn a previous decision to dismiss a lawsuit filed by former President Chun Doo-hwan.

Seoul High Court's 13th civil affairs division ruled that Chun's suit against television network JTBC is invalid after Chun alleged the network defamed him, Hankook Ilbo and Newsis reported.

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The court's opinion delivered after the first trial stands, according to reports.

In 2019 JTBC had aired programs featuring the testimonies of eyewitnesses to the South Korean government-ordered shooting of civilians during the Gwangju Uprising. The pro-democracy movement marked its 41st anniversary Tuesday.

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The South Korean network included interviews with Kim Yong-chang, an agent for the United States' 501st military intelligence brigade, and Oh Won-gi, a driver for the Korean military's 706 security unit.

Both men said Chun directly ordered the killings after visiting Gwangju by helicopter on May 21, 1980, reports said.

Chun, 90, claimed in his lawsuit that his reputation has been shattered and that he sought to clear his name.

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The South Korean court said Tuesday that JTBC's reports revealed new testimony that "tracked the authenticity of the statement" through investigative journalism.

JTBC did not defame Chun, the court went on to say, because "viewers were able to clearly distinguish the opinions and evaluations" of Kim as his own, and that JTBC was "introducing testimony," and not asserting the statements as fact.

"It cannot be said that JTBC concluded that the statements made by Mr. Kim and others are true, or implied that they are true," the court said Tuesday.

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Last year, Chun denied armed helicopters were used to shoot down civilians during the bloody crackdown in 1980.

In a memoir published in 2017, Chun accused eyewitnesses, including a South Korean Catholic priest, of lying about helicopter attacks. Chun called the clergyman a "colorless, unscrupulous liar" in his autobiography.

Troops murdered as many as 200 people and wounded an additional 1,800, according to South Korean analysts.

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