Monday, May 14, 2007

May 18 in Gwangju

The article below was posted at the BBC News Webs site -
Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 01:08 GMT 02:08 UK. Searching about 2007 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights to verify how the news was spread I stumble upon Seoul Times and saw the article that says it came from BBC News.

This week is the big May Event here in Gwangju City, the bastion of democratization in Korea. May 18 is the highlight of the event especially for the May 18 Memorial Foundation that awards the yearly Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.

Linngering Legacy of Korean Massacre
By Becky Branford
BBC News

A quarter of a century on, Koreans are remembering one of the ugliest episodes in their history.

In May 1980, hundreds of civilians were massacred by soldiers in the south-western city of Kwangju after rising up against military rule.

Although it was brutally put down, the Kwangju Uprising is now seen by many as a pivotal moment in the South Korean struggle for democracy in the long period of dictatorship following the Korean war.

The Kwangju Uprising lit the fuse of the dynamite stick of democracy
Hwang Sok-yong
Korean novelist and former dissident

And some contend the uprising had important ramifications which are still being felt now, both inside Korea and beyond its borders.

There is a sombre monument and museum dedicated to the massacre in Kwangju, and the anniversary of the beginning of the siege on 18 May is now a public holiday in Korea.

Batons and bayonets

The protests in Kwangju in the spring of 1980 were not unusual.

The country was being swept by a tide of demonstrations, mainly by students, in the wake of the assassination of the dictator Park Chung Hee and the military coup which brought General Chun Doo-hwan to power in his place.

It was the sheer, open brutality of the response of Korean paratroops which proved decisive.

The paratroops charged crowds with batons and bayonets, stripped students and other citizens down to their underwear in the streets before beating them, and fired indiscriminately into crowds.

This brutality drew outraged ordinary citizens into the struggle, creating a mass movement of resistance which forced the military to retreat from the city for five days, leaving the city in full control of the residents.

The military retook the city on 27 May, crushing the citizens' resistance in an overwhelming show of force.

The final toll of those who lost their lives is still unknown, as it is believed the military dumped bodies in mass graves or lakes. Estimates today range from 500 to 2,000.

Read more by clicking or cut and paste the links:
BBC News -

Seoul Times -

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