The news that Roh Tae-woo (89) died at Seoul National University Hospital in Jongno-gu, Seoul on the 26th was reported on the front page of the daily newspaper on the 27th. Most of the Gwangju and Jeonnam media also reported the news on the front page, and they all said, “I am against the burial of the National Cemetery.”
Regarding the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement in ‘Roh Tae-woo’s Memoirs’ published in 2011, Roh Tae-woo said, “The 5.18 movement is the true culprit of false rumors. Citizens attacked the arsenal after hearing rumors that ‘Gyeongsang-do soldiers came to dry the seeds of Gwangju citizens’.” Lee Yong-seop (current mayor of Gwangju), then spokesman for the Democratic Party, commented and said, “The person responsible for the massacre of many Gwangju citizens with guns and knives is not hesitant to distort history even if it is not cool to apologize in front of the people and Gwangju citizens for past crimes.” he criticized
[관련 기사 : 한겨레·경향은 노태우 ‘사망’, 조중동은 ‘별세’]
Afterwards, the May 18 groups urged the revision of the memoir, but Noh’s side did not respond. On February 25, 1988, his wife Ok-suk Kim visited the May 18th Cemetery in Mangwol-dong, Gwangju and paid a visit to the tomb of Martyr Lee Han-yeol. Afterwards, Roh’s eldest son, Roh Jae-heon, visited the May 18 cemetery in August 2019 and apologized on behalf of Roh. However, Noh has never apologized directly to the citizens of Gwangju.
The following is the headline of the front page article of the Gwangju and Jeonnam media on the 27th.
“Ex-President Roh Tae-woo died” (Gwangju Maeil Daily)
“The truth of ‘5.18’ ended up shutting down… Roh Tae-woo died” (Gwangju Daily)
“Roh Tae-woo left Gwangju in May without reconciliation or testimony” (Mudeung Ilbo)
“Ex-President Roh Tae-woo passed away… at the age of 89” (Jeonnam Maeil)
“Without an apology after the Gwangju Massacre… ‘Sinner of History’ Roh Tae-woo” (Jeonnam Ilbo)
The Gwangju and Jeonnam media both criticized Noh’s memoirs and pointed out that he did not directly apologize to the citizens of Gwangju and said, “I am opposed to the burial of the National Cemetery.”
The Jeonnam Ilbo said in an article on the front page, “There was no apology for May Young-ryeong until the last time he closed his eyes.” “He never apologized to the citizens of Gwangju. Again, in ‘Roh Tae-woo’s memoir’ published in 2011, he wrote about the May 18th incident as ‘the cause of the incident was that the citizens of Gwangju were deceived by rumors’. He also criticized 5/18 as a ‘Gwangju Incident’ and distortedly denigrated 5/18, saying, ‘Unlike Seoul, the situation worsened rapidly in Gwangju, with citizens looting military arsenals and bloody clashes’.
The Jeonnam Ilbo wrote an article containing the voices of local people who oppose Roh Tae-woo, the head of state. On page 3 of the Jeonnam Ilbo, the Chonnam Ilbo said, “It was an insult to the people of Gwangju and Jeollanam-do, who knew that ‘Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo were deprived of honors for burial at the national cemetery due to the ruling of the 12/12 military rebellion’. It was because they knew that the deprivation of the national cemetery was the same as not paying the national funeral. However, it is different. Because there is no legal provision for amnesty, he may be buried in a national cemetery depending on political judgment.”
The Jeonnam Ilbo said, “The reaction of the local people was very intense.” Jeong Jin-hyeong (46), who lives in Geumho-dong, Seo-gu, told the Jeonnam Ilbo, “I don’t know if it is right to hold the funeral of a person who massacred the people as a national head of state. That’s nonsense. If so, it means that Chun Doo-hwan’s funeral will also be held as a national funeral. Is the present era an era of political judgment that excludes the people?” Kim Yeon-seo (57), who lives in Gwangsan-gu, told the Jeonnam Ilbo, “I am not the head of state for the unorthodox coup d’etat.”
The Jeonnam Ilbo strongly argued in its editorial that it opposes the burial of the national cemetery. The Jeonnam Ilbo said, “Ex-President Roh was convicted of massacre of Gwangju citizens who opposed the new military regime’s usurpation, but he passed away without revealing the truth or a sincere apology to the citizens of Gwangju, leaving him as a sinner in history.” President Jeon opposes his burial at the national cemetery because he is responsible for suppressing the May 18 hard-line crackdown, the greatest tragedy in our modern history.”
The Mudeung Ilbo said in an editorial, “Mr. Even like Chun Doo-hwan, he claimed himself to be controversial for his “Memoirs of Roh Tae-woo,” which distorted and denigrated May 18th. In a memoir published in 2011, Mr. Noh argued for content such as disparageing the citizens of Gwangju, who were inevitably forced to take up arms, as ‘arsenal looting,’ and justifying the bloody suppression. Despite numerous requests for revision, Roh Tae-woo, the eldest son of the East Asian Culture Center, and Roh Jae-heon visited Gwangju one after another and made a gesture of seeking reconciliation.
The Mudeung Ilbo continued, “Mr. It is a minimal courtesy to the countless victims of the 1980s who have been searching for the truth for 41 years.”
In an article on page 2 of the Gwangju Maeil Shimbun, “The death of an individual is regrettable in the civil society of Gwangju, including those involved in May 18, but they strictly pointed out the responsibility of the deceased who failed to properly clean up the history.” The wishes of the 5/18 officials who requested to revise the memoir and to cooperate in finding the truth did not come true.”
Kim Hyung-mi, secretary general of Mother’s House in May, told the Gwangju Maeil Shimbun, “It was meaningful to define the May 18th as a democratization movement during the Roh Tae-woo administration. However, from the perspective of finding the truth or punishing those responsible, it cannot be tolerated because they are the main culprits of the massacre.” He continued, “If Mr. Roh has a sincere heart to apologize, we told him that we would like to visit him and meet him, but it did not come true. It would have been nice if the crime was committed before he died, but unless it is otherwise, I am absolutely against the burial of a national cemetery.”
In the article on page 6 of the Gwangju Ilbo, the May organization (May 18 survivors’ association, the wounded association, the detained wounded association) and the May 18 Memorial Foundation issued a statement on the same day, urging ‘the survivors to cooperate with the investigation into the truth’. He also expressed his opposition to the burial of Mr. Local lawmakers such as Jo Oh-seop and Yoon Young-deok are also speaking the same,” the report said.
The article on page 2 of the Gwangnam Ilbo also said, “As the 13th president, Roh Tae-woo, who was pardoned after serving a sentence of rebellion, died on the 26th, attention is focused on whether he will be treated like a head of state or a funeral home.” It is decided by the government’s judgment as to whether the funeral will be held as a national funeral, whether he has left a remarkable achievement, and whether he is revered by the people. It is highly probable that former President Roh will not be buried in the cemetery.”