S. Korea court grants $1.3m over 1970s student crackdown

The former Seoul City Hall building in 1977.

SEOUL - A South Korean appeals court on Wednesday ordered the government to compensate more than two dozen people, including a one-time presidential candidate, who were detained in the 1970s on fabricated subversion charges.

The Seoul High court set a collective amount of 1.1 billion won (S$1.3 million) to be shared between the 29 plaintiffs who were among nearly 200 members of a student youth movement investigated in 1974 for working - under the guidance of North Korea - to overthrow the government.

The vast majority were tried by military courts and eight were executed, while others were given prison terms of between five and 20 years.

The 29 were never formally indicted but were held without trial for months, during which they were abused and tortured.

They include Chung Dong-Young, a presidential candidate in 2007, and now a senior adviser to the main opposition party.

Following the end of military rule and the introduction of democracy in 1987, the case was reviewed and in 2005 the National Intelligence Service (NIS) concluded that the crackdown on the student movement was politically motivated and engineered by former military strongman Park Chung-Hee.

Assassinated by his own security chief in 1979, Park was the father of current South Korean President Park Geun-Hye.

In 2009 and again in 2010, South Korean courts acquitted all those indicted of all charges and ruled that the presidential decree that led to their arrest was unconstitutional.

The 29 filed their suit in 2012 and it was originally rejected by a lower court which said they should have filed within three years of the NIS reporting the findings of its review.