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Former U.S. Officials Asked To Testify On Kwangju Uprising

December 1, 1988

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ The National Assembly has asked Washington to send two former officials to Seoul to testify on charges the United States aided the bloody suppression of a 1980 uprising, officials said today.

The Foreign Ministery said the request was sent to the State Department Nov. 24 to have former U.S. Ambassador William Gleysteen and former U.S. Army Gen. John Wickham appear before a National Assembly committee investigating the Kwangju uprising.

Jack Sears, the U.S. Embassy spokesman, said the United States intends to cooperate with the investigation, but he could not comment further until the request was evaluated in Washington.

About 200 people were killed in the southern city of Kwangju when South Korean soldiers put down an uprising by students and citizens. The assembly is investigating the incident as part of a probe into abuses under the authoritarian rule of former President Chun Doo-hwan.

Some opposition leaders claim U.S. involvement in the Kwangju uprising because most South Korean forces are under the command of the local U.S. military commander. They contend the U.S. command gave South Korean generals permission to move units to suppress the uprising.

Lawmakers say they want to determine if the United States played any role in Kwangju or condoned the action by not trying to block deployment of South Korean forces under U.S. command.

American officials have said that South Korean commanders moved troops independently and U.S. commanders were not consulted. The assembly wants to question Wickham and Gleysteen - the top U.S. representatives in South Korea in 1980.

Chun, a former general who took power with military backing after the Kwangju incident, went into internal exile last week after apologizing to the nation for abuses under his rule. Special parliamentary committees are investigating the Kwangju incident, corruption and human rights abuses.

President Roh Tae-woo and Chun were senior generals in command of the South Korean military during the 1980 uprising. Roh took office in February after winning December 1987 presidential elections.

Wickham commanded U.S. forces based in South Korea under a mutual defense pact and also was chief of the Combined Forces Command that oversees U.S. and South Korean forces.

The United States keeps 42,000 troops in South Korea under a mutual defense pact against communist North Korea.

Roh is planning a major shuffle of the government to remove officials linked to the Chun government. He has promised to release political prisoners as part of a plan to try and defuse the nationwide furor over Chun.

Opposition parties are demanding Chun appear before the National Assembly probe. The former president has denied any personal wrongdoing, but some relatives and aides have been convicted or charged with corruption.

The Cabinet decided today to accept a plan to remove the powerful Agency for National Security Planning from any domestic political role. The agency, once known as the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, has been used to suppress domestic opposition in the past.

The Cabinet said it would accept the recommendations of an advisory group studying ways to reform the agency, except for a proposal to subject the agency to government auditing and parliamentary oversight.

Opposition parties want the intelligence agency’s budget made public and parliamentary power to inquire into its activities.

Update hourly