South Korean President Moon Jae-In. AFP

South Korea’s defence ministry on Wednesday apologised for martial law troops for raping women including teenagers when they crushed a pro-democracy uprising in 1980.

Defence minister Jeong Kyeong-doo issued a public apology for the inflicting of “unspeakable, deep scars and pain” on “innocent women” who were raped and subjected to “sex torture” by soldiers cracking down on protests against a military coup by General Chun Doo-hwan.

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Chun’s troops were believed to have also carried out widespread sexual assaults against women but the issue has long been swept under the carpet as traumatised victims remained reluctant to come forward.

The mood changed following the election of liberal current President Moon Jae-in, who made uncovering the truth about Gwangju a campaign issue, and when one of the victims was emboldened by South Korea’s growing #MeToo movement.