Former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan, who led a military junta as dictator in the 1980s, has been given a suspended prison sentence of eight months for defaming a now deceased Catholic priest, Cho Cheol-hyun.
In his 2017 memoir, Chun denied claims by Cho that during the Gwangju Pro-Democracy Movement he saw soldiers in helicopters shooting at civilians, and he called the priest a “shameless liar.”
Chun has continued to deny the libel charge since he was first indicted in 2018.
Prosecutors had called for a stronger sentence of 18 months.
In South Korea, a person can be convicted of criminal defamation even for statements that are true, but if someone is accused of defaming the dead, prosecutors have to prove that the statement is false.
So, the main issue of the trial was to prove whether or not troops actually were shooting at people from helicopters and that Chun, while defaming the victim, knew that the incident had in fact happened.
The court said that the testimony of eight out of 16 witnesses was backed up by sufficient evidence.
Over the past two years, the ex-president frequently skipped hearings at the Gwangju District Court and rejected several court summons, claiming he has dementia.
According to official data, the military junta led by Chun killed more than 200 people in Gwangju and wounded 1,800 others.
Kim Sung-min, Arirang News