The Kwangju Uprising: Eyewitness Press Accounts of Korea's Tiananmen

The Kwangju Uprising: Eyewitness Press Accounts of Korea's Tiananmen

The Kwangju Uprising: Eyewitness Press Accounts of Korea's Tiananmen

The Kwangju Uprising: Eyewitness Press Accounts of Korea's Tiananmen

Synopsis

The Kwangju Uprising that occurred in May 1980 is burned into the minds of South Koreans in much the same way that Tiananmen is burned into the minds of contemporary Chinese. As the world watched in horror following the assassination of President Park Chung Hee, student protesters were brutally suppressed by the military and police led by strongman Chun Doo Hwan. Kim Dae Jung, the current president of South Korea, was imprisoned and sentenced to death during this period.

This book recreates those earth-shaking events through eyewitness reports of leading Western correspondents on the scene as well as Korean participants and observers. Photographs, detailed street maps, and dramatic woodblock prints further illuminate the day-to-day drama to keep this atrocity alive in the conscience of the world.

Excerpt

The events that took place in Kwangju in May 1980 still trouble me. Yes, I feel guilt over the deaths of those young people who were killed by troops in broad daylight on the city's main thoroughfares -- Chungjang-to and Gumnam-to -- and at the Provincial Hall. There was nothing I could do to save them.

How shall I put it? The city was invaded by ghouls on the morning of May 18, twenty years ago. On the previous day, Saturday, May 17, 1980, 1 was dragged from my home in Seoul by armed soldiers. I was held and interrogated at the headquarters of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA). My ordeal lasted for forty days. Finally, I received a visitor. This person held ultimate power in the nation, which was under martial law at the time. The man in question -- a Martial Law Command officer -- made me an offer: "Cooperate with us, and we will give you anything you ask." He added: "Should you decline, we will have to mete out capital punishment." Seeing me grope for an answer, that man departed. He left a pile of newspapers for me to read. He also left a note requesting a positive response to his proposal.

I read the newspapers. This was how I learned, for the first time, that a series of demonstrations had broken out in Kwangju on May 18. The demonstrators had demanded my release and called for an end to martial law. A ten-day struggle that followed had finally been crushed by the army. Many were killed (there were 200 or more victims, I heard . . .

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