‘Historical Distortions’ Test South Korea’s Commitment to Free Speech

‘Historical Distortions’ Test South Korea’s Commitment to Free Speech

SEOUL — In the background of South Korea’s battle for democracy, the 1980 uprising in Gwangju stands out as a single of the proudest moments. Countless numbers of common citizens took to the streets to protest a navy dictatorship, and hundreds were shot down by stability forces. The bloody incident has been sanctified in textbooks as the “Gwangju Democratization Motion.”

Ideal-wing extremists, nonetheless, have presented an option, very inflammatory see of what took place: Gwangju, they say, was not a heroic sacrifice for democracy, but a “riot” instigated by North Korean communists who had infiltrated the protest motion.

Such conspiracy theories, which few historians take critically, have been spreading immediately in South Korea, the place a political divide — rooted in the country’s torturous and frequently violent contemporary background — is staying amplified on the web.

President Moon Jae-in’s governing celebration has rolled out a slate of laws, some of which has by now develop into legislation, aimed at stamping out wrong narratives about selected sensitive historic subjects, which includes Gwangju. His supporters say he is safeguarding the fact. No cost speech advocates, and Mr. Moon’s conservative enemies, have accused the president of working with censorship and heritage as political weapons.

Arguments in excess of which messages to allow for and which to suppress are normally about countrywide historical past and identity. In the United States, debates rage about the impact of racism and slavery in the nation’s previous and present, and about how to instruct people subjects in college. Supporters of the new regulations say they do what Germany has carried out in attacking the lie of Holocaust denial.

Current surveys have uncovered that the biggest conflict dividing Korean modern society is in between progressives and conservatives, both of whom are keen to form and censor historical past and textbooks to their edge.

Significantly of this discussion is remaining carried out on the web, where by some very partisan podcasters and YouTubers have as lots of viewers as nationwide tv systems do.

But Mr. Jee said his practical experience voicing nonconformist historical sights should be a warning to South Koreans. In 2002, he positioned a newspaper advertisement proclaiming that Gwangju was a solution North Korean operation.

He was subsequently hauled to Gwangju in handcuffs and jailed for 100 times on defamation expenses, until his prison term was inevitably suspended.

He has considering the fact that printed 10 textbooks on Gwangju and fought far more defamation prosecutions. Though critics accused him of peddling wild conspiracy theories, his see has drawn a next.

“If they did not address me the way they did in 2002, I would not have appear this significantly,” he explained.

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