1985 Protest at US Cultural Center Confirmed as Pro-Democracy Action

Article excerpt

The 1985 sit-in protest by university activists at the U.S. Cultural Center in Seoul has been lauded as an act in support of democracy.

A government committee affiliated with the Prime Minister's Office said yesterday that it has decided to label the protest as part of the democratization movement.

Thus, participants in the protest will be entitled to government compensation, in accordance with related laws.

``We've decided to make such a recognition because the incident was an expression of the popular struggle against the military dictatorship of general-turned-president Chun Doo-hwan at the time,'' said a committee member.

He said that the sit-in protesters contributed to the democratic development of Korean society and the advent of a civilian government based on the people's mandate.

The student activists staged the sit-in to protest the alleged collaboration by the United States with the military dictatorship and its role in suppressing the May 18 Kwangju Democratic Movement in 1980.

The military mobilized airborne troops to break up the pro-democracy movement in the southwestern city, killing about 200 citizens who were protesting a plot by army generals to take power right after the assassination of president Park Chung-hee in October 1979.

However, the committee made it clear that the decision does not glorify the anti-American aspect of the protest.

The committee is in charge of assessing the democratization movements of the past in order to honor pro-democracy activists and compensate them for their fight against autocratic military rule.

Seventy-three student activists, most of them from Seoul National University and Korea University, held the protest for 72 hours inside the library of the U.S. Cultural Center, then located in Chung-gu, downtown Seoul. …