South Korea marked the anniversary of a pro-democracy uprising today
“March for the Beloved” has been a call to arms in protest movements since the early 1980s and an anthem for the country's often deadly struggle for democracy.
The song was played officially for the first time since 2008 at a national cemetery in the southwestern city of Gwangju, where hundreds and possibly thousands were believed to have been killed when local citizens rose up against the military dictator Chun Doo-hwan on May 18, 1980 and were crushed by police, paratroopers and tanks.
An official death toll has never been disclosed.
President Moon Jae-in leads the crowd in singing protest song ‘March for the Beloved’
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South Chungcheong governor An Hee-jung kisses South Korea's president-elect Moon Jae-in at Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul
“'March for the Beloved' isn't just a song,” President Moon said at the commemoration event in Gwangju. “It is the spirit of the May 18 democracy movement itself.”
'March for the Beloved' isn't just a song. It is the spirit of the May 18 democracy movement itself
President Moon Jae-in
More than 10,000 people attended, media said, the largest ever at the annual event.
President Moon’s decision to have the song be part of the official programme was among the moves the former human rights lawyer has made since taking office last week to reaffirm his liberal convictions and reverse the conservative legacy of his predecessor, the disgraced leader Park Geun-hye.
President Moon has picked a former student activist, Im Jong-seok, once accused of being a pro-North Korea sympathiser, as his chief of staff.
More than 10,000 people attended, media said, the largest ever at the annual event
President Moon also ordered the project of drafting a state-issued history textbook be scrapped immediately. It was a signature initiative of Park, who said a standard textbook was needed to correct the bias in how history is taught at schools.
Critics have said the project was an attempt to whitewash the oppressive rule of military dictators, including that of her father, Park Chung-hee, who is credited with building a modern industrial country at the expense of democracy during his 18 years in power.