Funerals for innocent man take place 30 years after death
Mourners attended a funeral service for Mun Yeong-su, who allegedly died after being assaulted by police at the age of 28 three decades ago, which was held in Gwangju, Tuesday.
Organized by a committee composed of members of three civic organizations, the service took place at Chonnam National University Medical College. Mun’s remains were enshrined in his family’s cemetery plot in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, after a street ritual in front of the Seobu Police Station in Gwangju, where Mun was killed.
The committee said the police station, the medical college and the Buk-gu District Office apologized for leaving his remains untouched for 30 years. “We decided to hold a service for Mun to posthumously pay homage to him,” a spokesman said.
According to the spokesman, Mun was sacked from a bus company in August 1982. He went to Gwangju to find a job. After arriving there, he happened to be involved in a quarrel with someone.
Mun fell into a coma because of assaults during questioning at the police station. He was moved to a hospital, but died two days later, the spokesman said.
After his death, the police changed his identity into that of a charity patient, and donated his remains to the medical college for anatomy practice. The medical college cremated his remains in January 1984. The ashes have since been preserved in the medical college’s memorial hall.
The bereaved family, meanwhile, searched for Mun’s whereabouts, and confirmed his death in May 1987 via a campaign for a reunion of separated families. Urging the police to clarify his death, the bereaved family filed a petition with the authorities.
In August the same year, the Gwangju District Prosecutors’ Office arrested a police officer surnamed Choe on charges of covering up the tragedy.
In 2009, the Truth and Reconciliation Committee defined the late Mun as a victim of illegal exercise of governmental power. The bereaved family filed a lawsuit with the authorities calling for state compensation for the incident. The Seoul High Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in 2011.
Civic organizations called on the provincial offices to work out measures to prevent the recurrence of similar tragedies.