Controversial South Korea pundit receives suspended prison sentence

Feb. 13 (UPI) — A conservative South Korean commentator charged with creating falsified documents that framed pro-democracy activists as North Korean spies has been given a two-year suspended prison sentence.

Jee Man-won, who has alleged participants in the South’s May 18, 1980 Gwangju Uprising were members of the North Korean military’s special forces, was also fined about $1,000 at a Seoul central district court, Yonhap reported Thursday.

Jee has been charged with defamation, including labeling South Korean Catholic priests as “communists,” alleging photos taken during the uprising show North Korean soldiers, and accusing Kim Sa-bok, a South Korean taxi driver who became the subject of a 2017 hit movie about the events in Gwangju, of being a communist, according to Newsis.

According to a verdict from Justice Kim Tae-ho on Thursday, Jee framed citizens taking part in a pro-democracy movement. Jee is also charged with slandering a North Korean defector who runs an Internet enterprise.

Kim also said Jee failed to make “credible claims” in court regarding his assertions of North Korean military involvement in a South Korean pro-democracy movement.

South Korean priests affiliated with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Gwangju have previously sued Jee for defamation and for distorting history.

The event was a pro-democracy campaign that was violently suppressed 25 years ago by then-President Chun Doo-hwan.

South Korean family members of those who died during the movement say a total of 600 individuals were labeled communist or North Korean spies.

During the nine-day uprising, South Korea’s military junta beat and sometimes killed citizens, murdering 200 people and wounding another 1,800, according to South Korean analysts.

Following his court appearance on Thursday, Jee’s opponents confronted him. A scuffle ensued between Jee’s supporters and the opposition, Newsis reported.

One person collapsed following the fight outside the court and was taken away in an ambulance. Jee exchanged handshakes with his conservative supporters before leaving the courthouse, according to the report.

Jee has been on trial and has made court appearances since 2016.