Yoon Suk-yeol Administration Boycotts the June Struggle Memorial

Yoon became the first South Korean president to refuse to honor the country's transition to democracy.

Yoon Suk-yeol Administration Boycotts the June Struggle Memorial

Image: Advertisement for the June 10 memorial event sponsored by Korea Democracy Foundation, calling for Yoon Suk-yeol's resignation.  Credit: Hankyoreh.

Yoon Suk-yeol Administration Boycotts the June Struggle Memorial.  On May 18, 1987, the National League for Catholic Priests for Justice 천주교정의구현사제단  Myeongdong Cathedral 명동대성당 of Seoul held a memorial service for the Gwangju Democracy Movement 광주 민주화운동 - a dangerous move under the Chun Doo-hwan 전두환 dictatorship, which massacred hundreds to suppress the 1980 uprising in Gwangju. But the 1987 service was made even more dangerous by a shocking announcement by the Catholic Priests League: Park Jong-cheol 박종철, a Seoul National University 국립서울대학교 student who was arrested while protesting the dictatorship, had been tortured to death.

The Chun dictatorship had been claiming Park’s death was accidental, and only imprisoned two minor police officers. Thanks to an informant in prison where the policemen were jailed, Father Kim Seung-hun Mathia 김승훈 마티아 신부 learned that three higher-ranking officers were involved in Park’s death by torture. The expose sparked a nationwide protest movement that began on June 10. In what came to be known as the June Struggle 6월 항쟁, the Chun regime was overthrown and South Korea transitioned to liberal democracy. 2007, June 10 has been designated as a national day of remembrance since 2007, with a memorial ceremony hosted by the Ministry of Interior and Safety 행정안전부 and Korea Democracy Foundation 민주화운동 기념사업회.

On June 10, the Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열 administration became the first government to boycott the memorial, with no member of the government or the ruling party attending the 36th anniversary memorial ceremony. The Yoon administration said it would not attend the memorial because KDF sponsored an event by a civic group which held a banner that read: “The Yoon Suk-yeol Regime Must Resign 윤석열 정권 퇴진.” Separately, the Catholic Priests League also has been holding a weekly Prayer Mass for Current Affairs, calling for Yoon’s resignation. The Yoon administration announced that it would conduct a special audit of KDF.

Democratic Party chairman Lee Jae-myung 이재명 민주당 당대표 criticized the Yoon administration strongly: “Without the June Struggle, there would be no President Yoon, nor would there be the current government. I do not understand this administration’s pettiness.” Democratic Party spokesman Han Min-su 한민수 민주당 대변인 said the boycott “really shows that the Yoon administration’s understanding of the June Struggle and democracy is shallow and vulgar.”

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