|Kim Yong-chang, left, a former agent of the U.S. 501st military intelligence brigade, testifies during a civic gathering at the May 18 Memorial Culture Center in Gwangju, Tuesday, on the facts of the Gwangju Democratization Movement which started May 18, 1980. Seated to his right is another witness Heo Jang-hwan, a former investigator with the 505 security unit from that time. Yonhap|
Former intelligence agent for US military testifies on massacre
By Jung Da-min
A former intelligence agent for the U.S. military has testified to the National Assembly and civic groups on what he saw and heard during the Gwangju Democratization Movement in 1980.
Kim Yong-chang, 75, who worked for the U.S. 501st military intelligence brigade, said he decided to break his silence because attempts are still being made to distort the truth about the movement.
Based on the intelligence he gathered at the time, he alleged that Chun Doo-hwan, a military general who had seized power in a military coup, ordered troops to shoot protesters, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people. Chun was inaugurated as president months later.
Kim testified to the National Assembly on Monday, and met with Gwangju citizens and civic organizations, Tuesday, at the May 18 Memorial Culture Center in Gwangju.
In 1980, Kim was in charge of reporting facts and information he received from his informants in the South Korean government and military to the U.S. military. He worked with the U.S. for 25 years before retiring in 1999 and later moving to Fiji.
Kim's testimony came almost four decades after the tragic death of hundreds of pro-democracy activists by the military forces. His meeting with Gwangju citizens followed his press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul the day before.
At the testimonies on Monday and Friday, Kim reiterated that Chun secretly came to Gwangju on May 21, 1980, by helicopter to meet four military leaders including Chung Ho-yong, then-commander of special operations, and Lee Jae-woo, then-colonel of the Gwangju 505 security unit, reaffirming his earlier testimony during an interview with broadcaster JTBC in March.
"Chun Doo-hwan, then head of the Defense Security Command, came to the K57 Gwangju Airport and held a meeting," Kim said, emphasizing this was an "unmovable" fact, as there would be Air Force documents of flight plans from then.
"I could not know what the military officials talked about at the time, but given the fact that the shooting happened at around 1 p.m. May 21, it is highly likely that Chun had ordered the shooting during the meeting that day."
Heo Jang-hwan, a former investigator with the 505 security unit from that time, was also present at the testimonies in Seoul and Gwangju to back Kim's argument.
"I witnessed the army shooting myself," Heo said, adding he was sure that Chun had ordered the "shooting" as an attack, not "firing" for defensive purposes.
As for a rumor that North Korean military forces were behind the pro-democracy movement, he flatly dismissed such claims, saying made up by Chun.
"It was impossible that about 600 North Korean soldiers could have invaded Gwangju, evading the high-tech surveillance network of the U.S. military," Kim said, adding there were two U.S. military satellites closely watching Gwangju and North Korea that time.
Kim also said there were undercover soldiers among the Gwangju citizens acting as agents provocateurs to discredit the movement.
"The undercover soldiers were in their 20s and 30s with short hair, some wearing wigs. Their faces were burnt and some wore worn-out clothes," Kim said describing their appearances in detail.
The Ministry of National Defense said regarding Kim's testimony it would be reviewing the relevant documents once the government launches a truth commission.