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Former President Chun Directed Oppression of Buddhist Monks in 1980

By Jung Sung-ki, The Korea Times, Oct 25, 2007

Seoul, South Korea -- Former President Chun Doo-hwan ordered a brutal crackdown on Buddhist monks in the early 1980s to remove the administrative head of the Korean Buddhist Jogye Order, who the Chun government considered a dissident, a government fact-finding panel reported Thursday.

<< Members of the fact-finding panel of the Ministry of National Defense announce the results of its investigation into the “10.27 incident” regarding a former authoritarian government’s crackdown on Buddhist monks and the media in the 1980s at the ministry in Seoul, Thursday. / Korea Times Photo by Choi Hung-soo

Chun has denied he was involved in the case, dubbed the ``Oct. 27 incident.''

The committee at the Ministry of National Defense also revealed Chun's authoritarian government set the professional qualifications for journalists as part of efforts to take control of the country's media in the 1980s.

On Oct. 27, 1980, the Chun administration mobilized more than 3,200 police and soldiers to search 5,731 temples nationwide and arrested more than 150 monks, according to the report.

The panel said the Chun government had made a secret report on Ven. Wolju's ``corrupt activities'' before the massive crackdown. Head monks of large temples in the country were referred to in the classified report as ``gangs.''

Many of the arrested monks were tortured and forced to resign from their posts, the panel said. Wolju also was forced to step down.

Torture methods included beatings, water torture, electric shock and sleep deprivation, it said.

``It is a typical power abuse case aimed at oppressing a specific religious order,'' the panel said, adding the Korean government should apologize for the wrongdoings and compensate the Jogye Order for damages.

In 1988, Prime Minister Kang Young-hoon apologized for the incident, but it was made without a proper investigation into the case, the panel said.

Meanwhile, the report reconfirmed the Chun regime's considerable control and surveillance over the media.

News agencies were absorbed into a single agency, while numerous provincial newspapers were closed and newspapers in Seoul were forbidden to station correspondents in provincial cities, it said.

Two broadcasting companies were forced to be absorbed into the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS).

The Defense Security Command, and the Ministry of Culture and Information ordered hundreds of ``dissident journalists'' fired and banned from reporting or editing, the panel said.

The dismissed journalists were then categorized into several classes, and limitations were placed on their reinstatement in accordance with their ``wrongdoings,'' such as ``pro-North Korean activities, articles against government policies, irregularities, incompetence and negligence of duty,'' according to the committee.

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