South Korea apologises for rapes during 1980 Gwangju protest crackdown

South Korea has apologised for the rape of women by troops sent to crush an anti-government protest 38 years ago.

The defence minister bowed as he described how soldiers inflicted “unspeakable pain” on innocent women in the city of Gwangju in 1980.

A recent government investigation confirmed 17 cases of sexual assault, including against teenagers and a pregnant woman.

But some victims said an apology was not enough.

Kim Sun-ok, who was raped, said “a million apologies” were worthless without the guilty troops being “duly punished”.

The south-western city of Gwangju was the centre of an uprising against martial law in South Korea, imposed after a military coup in 1979 led by General Chun Doo-hwan.

A brutal military crackdown left more than 200 people dead or missing, according to official figures. Although widespread sexual assault has long been suspected, the issue has been kept out of the spotlight.

But South Korea’s liberal President Moon Jae-in, who came to power in 2017, pledged to re-open a probe into the massacre in Gwangju.

After Ms Kim came forward in May alleging rape, a specific investigation into sexual assaults was ordered.

Image caption Protesters rounded up in Gwangju in 1980 …

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