South Korea: Former Dictator's Cadet Review Sparks Public Anger

In South Korea, a former president notorious for directing a massacre and oppressing democratic activists during his term (1980-88), has been criticized for participating in a cadet review at the Korea Military Academy (KMA) and enjoying perks as a former head of the state, despite his criminal record.

Former President Chun Doo-hwan is mostly remembered as a military dictator who rose to power through a military coup, arrested and persecuted activists, suppressed free press, and clamped down the Gwangju Democratization movement (also known as the ‘Gwangju Massacre’) with an army, killing several hundred civilians. Chun was initially sentenced to death for this tragic event but was later pardoned and instead received a jail term and fine.

Chun made the national headlines again with his cadet review at the KMA on June 8, 2012. In the following week, more news reports revealed further facts about Chun; one claimed that when playing golf at the Academy's golf course, Chun was escorted by eight armed guards [ko] provided by the police.

Image of parade of the Korea Military Academy pupils in South Korea, by Flickr User Morning Calm News (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Image of parade of the Korea Military Academy pupils in South Korea, by Flickr User Morning Calm News (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Twitter user @ssyoon66 wrote [ko]:

내란죄로 형이 확정된 범죄자이자 국가 추징금 미납자를 국민 세금으로 경호?

So this means this criminal — who was sentenced [to a jail term] for committing high treason but even hasn't paid the fine yet — was being escorted around [paid by] the tax payer's money?

@mettayoon tweeted [ko]:

살인마 전두환이 상왕 대접 받는 세상이군요. ‘육사생도사열’ 논란의 와중에 군 골프장에서 ‘VIP 골프'를 즐겨 국민적 분노를 사고 있는데, 한술 더 떠 전두환의 안전을 위해 무장경찰이 경호를 펼친 사실까지 드러났네요.[…]

This world has become a place where murderer Chun Doo-hwan is treated like an emperor. While a heated debate is still going on around him getting saluted by the Korea Military Academy's cadets, Chun further aggravated public anger by playing luxury golf on the army property's golf course. One step further, there were even armed guards protecting the safety of Chun Doo-hwan.

Accusations were also thrown at the Korea Military Academy, a prestigious institution for the undergraduate education and military training of officer cadets and also the former school of Chun Doo-hwan and other military leaders. @jjang24025 tweeted [ko]:

육사 포함 사관학교 차라리 폐교합시다! 쿠데다주역, 반역자, 살인자 전두환에게 충성하는 육사. 그들이 과연 나라를 지킬 지휘관이 되겠습니까. 너도나도 야전은 기피하고 좋은 보직만 찾는다는데, 썩은 정치꾼들만 더 양산하지 않는다는 보장이 어딨습니까.

It would be better just to shut down the Korea Military Academy and other military academies, since they are [not loyal to our country but] showing loyalty to the leader of the coup, to the traitor and murder Chun Doo-hwan. Can they still be qualified to train military leaders who will later protect the nation? I've heard quite a few of them are eager to get good [and easy] positions, instead of going on detachment. There is no guarantee that they will continue to produce more corrupted politicians.

@roysoo tweeted [ko]:

육사생도들 이등병 전두환할배가 존경스러운가? 한번 육사선배는 영원한가? […] 허갸 90년대출생인 네들이 뭘알겠냐!!

You, pupils of the Korea Military Academy, do you really feel proud of your old man, Chun Doo-hwan? Is it because he is once your alumni, he is forever a Military Academy alumni? [A parody of ‘Once a Marine, forever a Marine.’] Whew…What do I expect from you guys who are mostly born after 1990s.

User @shinfran doubted the academy is teaching [ko] history from right, democratic angle:

육사에서 5.16이나 12.12 등의 군사 반란에 대해 어떻게 가르치는지 정말 궁금하네요. 교수들이나 훈육관들이 제대로 가르쳤다면 애국심으로 똘똘 뭉쳤다는 생도들이 그런 반응을 보였다는게 절대 이해가 될 수없으니 말입니다.

I am curious how the Korea Military Academy teaches about the military rebellions in the past, such as the May 16 coup or December 12 Coup d'etat. If the professors and guidance teachers have taught the pupils right, how those so-called ‘patriotic-to-the-core KMA pupils’ acted that way ? [Referring to the fact they participated in the event without questioning it.]

@shinfran later updated his timeline with tweets linked to news articles quoting KMA pupils who later complained [ko] that they had not been made aware of whom they were saluting. Reports claim that although it is customary that the academy notifies pupils on who will be attending the cadet review, especially when well-known figures pay visits, no announcement was made about Chun's appearance this time.

Twitter user @myungsup emphasized [ko] the importance of correct history education:

[…] (육사에서) 전두환을 반란으로 민주주의 유린한 실패한 군인으로 가르칠 수 있을 때 육사는 명예회복을 할 수 있을 겁니다.

Only by teaching Chun doo-hwan as a failed soldier who assaulted democracy with rebellion, will the Korea Military Academy be able to restore its tarnished reputation.

@ksk88kig lashed out [ko] at the principal of the academy who directed the cadet review, suggesting a close tie between the old military power and the current one:

육사 교장 **가 전두환이를 불러더가 생도들을 사열시킨 거는, 지 스스로 조폭 깡패 중간 보쓰 짓이나 하고 있다는 거를 실토한기지. “야들아, 너그 큰 행님 오싰다. 큰 인사 올리라” “안녕하십니까, 행님””

By directing the cadet review in front of Chun Doo-hwan, the KMA's f**king principal revealed himself as a middle boss in a mobster group. It was like he said to the kids “Hey, your big boss [referring to Chun Doo-hwan] is here. Pay respect to your boss!” and the kids responded “Hail boss!”

What really concerned people was not the cadet review itself, but it as evidence that the old military power still has a firm grip on power. Earlier this month, one of Chun's closest inner circle member was nominated as chairman [ko] of the National Assembly and debate is still going on around the daughter of another military dictator who will be running for president in the coming election.

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