SEOUL, Dec. 26 (Korea Bizwire) — An anti-communist investigation office used by police in the heart of Seoul in the 1970s and 80s to torture anti-government and pro-democracy activists will be turned into a memorial hall of democracy and human rights.
The government on Wednesday held a ceremony at the former anti-communism investigation division office of the police’s National Security Bureau in Namyeong-dong, central Seoul, to celebrate the transfer of its operating rights from the police to the Korea Democracy Foundation, a public organization under the Ministry of the Interior and Safety.
The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, Minister of the Interior and Safety Kim Boo-kyum, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, National Police Commissioner Min Gap-ryong, and torture victims and their families.
Established in 1976, the Namyeong-dong office was a notorious detention facility used to carry out systematic torture of anti-government activists during the presidencies of Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan in the 1970s and 1980s.
A total of 391 activists were confirmed to have been tortured at the office over about 30 years. On Jan. 14, 1987, a pro-democracy activists and Seoul National University student Park Jong-chul was tortured to death there, triggering a wave of anti-government demonstrations in the summer of that year.
In the face of critical opinions, the National Police Agency closed the Namyeong-dong office and turned it into a police human rights center in 2005. Civic activists have since demanded the police no longer have any involvement in the facility.
The official transfer of the office’s operating rights came after President Moon Jae-in promised to turn the facility into a memorial of democracy and human rights in June this year.
The ceremony began with a performance to open the door of the Namyeong-dong office to the public.
Prime Minister Lee said in an address that the Namyeong-dong office will be permanently remembered in history and among the public as a memorial hall to prevent the abuse of state powers.