Statement on Donald Gregg’s Participation in the 5.18 International Conference in New York
by George Katsiaficas-Jun 15, 2017
( June 15, 2016. Seoul, Sri Lanka Guardian) As reported in the Hankyoreh article entitled, “The spirit of Gwangju Democratization Movement comes to UN headquarters in New York,” on May 26, 2017, former CIA Seoul station chief and US ambassador to Korea Donald Gregg was the honored guest of the May 18 Memorial Foundation at a conference in New York at the United Nations.
Fifteen years earlier, on May 18, 2002, a Gwangju Citizens’ Tribunal involving hundreds of people found Gregg and seven other US officials (including former President Jimmy Carter) guilty of “crimes against humanity” for their role in the suppression of the 1980 uprising. Gregg has repeatedly asserted, contrary to mountains of evidence, that he has no reason to apologize to Gwangju citizens and that the US did not know what was happening there in 1980. The May 18 Memorial Foundation’s decision to invite Donald Gregg is therefore quite regrettable.
Gregg participated in the May 22, 1980 White House meeting that came to “general agreement that the first priority was the restoration of order in Gwangju by the Korean authorities” (quoted from US government documents by then-US Ambassador William Gleysteen)—a clear signal to Chun Doo-hwan for him to suppress the uprising. Nine days before May 18, 1980, in a meeting in the very same safe house where Park Chung-hee had been assassinated, Gleysteen had instructed Chun the US would not oppose the use of the army against demonstrators, another indication of US knowledge and intent.
So great was public disapproval of Gregg when he was U.S. ambassador to South Korea from 1989 to 1993, he never made a publicized address at any Korean university because of expected protests (according to his own admission). In an article in 2005, he described the results of a 2003 South Korean poll as “shocking” because of the anti-American feelings expressed by so many people.
For the May 18 Memorial Foundation simply to ignore this history and invite Donald Gregg as an honored guest ignores years of Gwangju citizens’ heartfelt grievances—and their righteous condemnation of Donald Gregg and other American officials as the hand behinds behind Chun.
Recent attacks on 518 include false claims that the uprising involved North Korea. It is important to set the record straight, but in doing so, it at least as significant to clarify decades of US government and CIA lies about US involvement. Rather than doing so, the May 18 Foundation routinely uses CIA sources of information to “prove” no North Korean involvement, thereby implicitly endorsing the CIA as a reliable source of information and disrespecting the spirit of Gwangju.
Only If Gregg would apologize sincerely and truthfully reveal his and the US role in encouraging Chun to use force against Gwangju citizens should such an invitation have been made.