Not News? New Info Reveals That Pope John Paul's 1980 Appeal Saved Life of Future South Korean President

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As you can see from the 94 results returned in this Google News archive search on "Reagan declassified" (not entered in quotes) for 2008 and 2009, there is no shortage of establishment media interest in previously undisclosed historical information that is made public for the first time.

That makes it odd, to say the least, that only a couple of Catholic publications have picked up on a remarkable disclosure contained in information released early last week that in late 1980, Pope John Paul II personally intervened to save the life of a South Korean political dissident sentenced to death by a government military tribunal.

The person spared, Thomas More Kim Dae-Jung, became that country's president almost two decades later. He credits the late pontiff with saving his life.

Here is a portion of the report from Catholic News Agency (CNA):

John Paul II's appeal saved future Korean president from death sentence

A letter from Pope John Paul II asking for clemency helped save the life of a future South Korean president who was sentenced to death by a military tribunal in 1980, new information reveals.

Then-President Chun Doo-hwan had accused Thomas More Kim Dae-jung of inciting the pro-democracy Gwangju People’s Uprising on May 18, 1980, UCA News reports. The uprising was crushed by the military, resulting in an official toll of 191 dead and 852 injured. However, more than 1,000 may have actually died in the clashes. When Kim was sentenced to death on December 4, 1980, Pope John Paul II wrote to President Chun a week later seeking clemency.

Chun replied to the Pope on January 5, 1981, claiming that Kim had not been charged because of political issues but had committed “an anti-national crime including subversion.”

However, President Chun acknowledged the Pope’s appeal for clemency was “based on humanitarian consideration and compassion.”

Kim’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment on January 23, 1981. In response, Pope John Paul II sent a February 1981 letter to President Chun saying “you courteously acknowledged the appeal I made on purely humanitarian grounds for an act of clemency in favor of Kim whose death sentence has recently been commuted."

..... President Kim visited the Vatican in 2000. According to UCA News, he told Pope John Paul II “You saved my life, I am grateful.”

..... The letters from Pope John Paul II and President Chun were revealed by the National Archives of Korea on May 18, 2009 at the request of the local daily newspaper of Gwangju, Kwangju Ilbo.

Kim was South Korea's president from 1998-2003. His inauguration marked the first peaceful transition of power from one party to another in that country's history. Though the award has been tarnished by its many undeserving recipients, it should be noted that Kim also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000.

A regular Google News search on "Korea Pope 1980" (not in quotes) returns only two relevant results: the CNA report and another at CathNews.com

The same search at the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times came back with nothing relevant, nothing relevant, and nothing relevant, respectively.

Like so many have said, the decisions establishment media outlets make to ignore stories -- or to be perhaps unduly charitable, the ones they don't try very hard to find -- are sometimes as important as the ones they decide to overemphasize.

A related item is at Bizzyblog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.