Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Park Geum-hui and Kwangju's Memory of 5.18

[May 19 2008 - There's an update in the center of this post, taken from this post. May 24, 2008 - two photos have been added]


In a recent column about the Kwangju Uprising, Michael Breen wrote:
For today’s young people, the event is ancient history, as far away as the Korean War was for Kwangju’s victims, most of whom were also students.
There are several things I could pick apart in his piece, but I'll just focus on the above sentence.

First, (and quickly), according to Linda Lewis, in Laying Claim to the Memory of May, students "comprised just 19.5 percent of the official victims, and were only a slight majority (fifteen of twenty-eight) of those killed on the last day (May 27) [...]"

Second, while the event may be 'ancient history' to young people in the rest of the country, for youth in Kwangju (at least during the month of May) it is not - or at least, when I visited the city during the 25th anniversary celebrations last year (as this person did) , it was clear that they've been taught never to forget it. Anyone interested in how the interpretations, perceptions, and memorialization of the uprising have changed over the past 26 years should read the aforementioned book by Linda Lewis, who was an eyewitness to the uprising.

When I arrived in Kwangju on May 21 last year, there was a large "Red Festa"('festival') in front of the Provincial Hall (which was the focal point of the uprising) where numerous displays, posters, and video, about the uprising could be seen. Numerous graffiti-covered buses with smashed windows stood in the street in front of the Provincial Hall, as they had on that day 25 years before, when the military had opened fire on the protesters. As I took in the displays I talked to a few high school students, and two of them told me proudly that their fathers had taken part in the uprising. Students also left post-it notes with messages on a board, one of which immediately caught my eye:


"The Grand National Party - Piss Off!"

No one's surprised to see this in Kwangju, of course, but in retrospect it's funny when I think of one of the students who my friend talked to who complained about the money-obsessed people in Seoul who he thought didn't have good priorities, as I can't think of many middle or high school students I've taught who've been aware enough of politics at all to bother criticising a political party - even if the political awareness of the student who wrote this was as sophisticated as "GNP = bad". There were other visual touchstones of the uprising, such as the students pulling a cart of jumeok-bap (rice balls) , which represent the solidarity of the community during the days of "Free Kwangju", when people shared their food with the citizen's army, and women made large amounts of rice balls for demonstrators, as can be seen here and here (the latter photo being a rather prominent photo promoted by the city to reinforce the peaceful, orderly nature of the days when the military was outside of the city).



After taking in the displays, I watched the high school students re-enact the shootings of May 21, 1980, (which is why the buses were parked on the street). The students portrayed both the demonstrators and the soldiers.




After the 'troops' were in place, the sound of (recorded) gunfire was heard, the students fell, and the soldiers beat them - though there were probably more camera-phones present than the flailing batons they were recording.



Of course, it didn't end with this - the citizen's army eventually came to save the day, and then the students taking part in the re-enactment, as well as the spectators, walked towards a stage set up in front of the Provincial Hall, where a concert was set to begin (and during which, while the kids listened to hip-hop and pop artists, photos of the uprising were displayed on a large screen). Before reaching the stage, however, a large banner showing what was unfolding on that spot 25 years earlier was blocking the view. The crowd proceeded to tear strips off of it as they passed, which removed the bottom half of the banner - where the soldiers could be seen. Whether this was a coincidence, or a symbolic removing of the soldiers from the picture, or neither of these, I have no idea.



This was definitely the day for the youth to come out and re-enact an experience which is apparently not memorialized by the youth in Kwangju as a "scar on Korea's history" but instead as something to take civic pride in ("no other city stood up to the dictatorship"). I'm sure many who actually lived through the uprising, especially those who were injured, would rather put it behind them. Lewis, in her book, talks about how the city of Kwangju, and the national government, have been recasting Kwangju as an essentially peaceful democratic protest by focusing on the days of Free Kwangju and placing less emphasis on the violence that bookended these days. Don Baker, referring to Lewis' book, spoke of "how events can assume a role in history independent of the memories of those who experienced them", which sums this all up perfectly. Those who were in Kwangju in May 1980, who have solemnly visited the graves of those they lost, might well be appalled at this kind of memorialization, a "violent" and "exciting" event which the kids recreate and video with their phones. But the latter narrative of resistance, of Kwangju's uniqueness and, in the idea of Kwangju contributing to democracy, of its eventual triumph, is likely much more appealing to a younger generation of Koreans who have been brought up in relative affluence and who have no memory of the dictatorships. The brutality faced by those who stood up to Korea's former rulers may be as distant and unreal as ... a cartoon character?

Nuxee, the mascot of the Kwangju Uprising

Perhaps that's one reason why we're seeing narratives of the uprising (produced in Kwangju) in cartoon form these days, from Nuxee, the 'mascot' of the Kwangju Uprising, to comic books obviously aimed at a young audience which tell the stories of both the heroes and victims of the uprising. Nuxee first appeared in 2000, the same year, Linda Lewis tells us, that the Kwangju Biennale (an art festival) was moved to the spring to coincide with the 5.18 anniversary celebrations. As Lewis relates,
Posters and T-shirts with the slogan "Millenium [sic] Long Glow - 5.18" and depictions of the new Kwangju Uprising 'Mascot' - Nuxee - appeared on the streets alongside banners proclaiming more traditional sentiments, such as "Let's keep the May spirit alive and drive out the American bastards!" This reimaging of Kwangju reflects, in part, the impact of new actors and groups in civic affairs.
She describes many of these new groups and their attempts to move away from the "unbiased" sources of those who lived through the uprising (one example of this being the publication of the journalists' accounts found here) to move the focus away from the annual student protests against the American military, and to concentrate on the days of "Free Kwangju."

While, as Don Baker points out in the essay "Victims and Heroes: Competing Visions of May 18", ideas of who was victimized during the uprising have broadened out, in some cases, to include the paratroopers who took part, a 200 page comic I found in Kwangju (기영이의 5·18여행), which includes photos of the uprising, along with a simplistically drawn recounting of the events, has none of this. The soldiers are depicted as the embodiment of pure evil, such as in the photos below, one of which depicts a soldier stripping a teenage girl (which was common practice for prisoners of either sex), and later, raping her.



This girl, whose name, Jo Hyeon-jeong, is clearly pointed out (on another page), isn't just meant to represent one of many victims; the comic depicts what happened to specific people, and is clearly playing a part in mythologizing these 'heroes and victims' in order to instill civic pride (and some measure of a feeling of victimization) amongst the younger generation. While there may be competing visions of what occurred in Kwangju even amongst the groups there, many of the narratives that continue to be produced in the city of Kwangju will view what happened in much more personal terms than those from other regions of the country.

I made my way out to the 5.18 National Cemetery the next day. In the comments to the Marmot's post about the 25th anniversary of the Uprising, Plunge provided a link to this page, which shows where each victim is buried. Those buried there include those who died during the uprising, as well as those injured (or tortured in prison afterward) who have died since.



Due to the time wasted touring Kwangju's suburbs (due to some rather faulty directions from the tourist office regarding buses), I didn't get a chance to see the Mangwol-dong cemetery, where the victims were originally interred. Most were buried there on May 29, 1980, when this picture was taken:


Looking into this photo led me to another way in which the uprising has been commemorated in Kwangju. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by this photo, which brings to mind something journalist Norman Thorpe wrote:
I was reminded how each family had had great hopes for whomever had died, especially for those who had been students. I had just met some of those students in hospitals--lucky ones whom the bullets had only wounded. But here was something I hadn't thought about. Some of the families were so poor that they could only bring a coffin by bicycle. And now in a wrenching upheaval, the focus of their hope was gone.
When I first saw this photo, couldn't help but think about how young the girl in the picture looked. Some time later, I found a Korean website with photos of various demonstrations that took place during the post-war years, and this photo was there. The caption underneath read "박금희의어머니" - Bak Geum-hui's mother. The name stuck in my mind, and I couldn't help but wonder about how old she was, and how she died. Later, I reread the article "Nightmare in Idyllic Pastures", by Gebhard Hielscher and found this passage:
Inside the small gymnasium opposite the provincial administration building, meanwhile, the dead already identified as victims of the bloody massacre of Kwangju are being mourned. Exactly 60 coffins have been lined up in orderly fashion--most are covered with white cloth, bound with ropes and decorated with the flag of South Korea. Photos of the dead, the frames wrapped in mourning crape, have been placed on some of the coffins. On a make-shift altar, incense is burned, a cardboard box is stuffed with donated bank-notes.

A young man desperately beats one of the wooden boxes yelling: "My younger brother is in here--how could Korean soldiers shoot on Koreans!" No one attends to the coffins numbered 56 to 58. They contain a whole family: a boy of only seven years, barely a first-grader in school, his mother and his father. Somebody placed a bunch of white chrysanthemums on the little boy's coffin.

In the next row a group of young girls has gathered. They are students of Shuntae Economic High School in Kwangju. They still cannot comprehend that one of their classmates is lying dead before them. Their voices choked in tears, the girls sing a farewell song. Then one of them turns around and, facing the people of the platform, makes a dramatic appeal: 17 year old Park Keun Hee shall not have died in vain. At the end everybody in the hall starts singing South Korea's national anthem. "Long live the Republic of Korea, long live democracy."
Park Geum-hui's photo and coffin are at far left.

Despite the misspelling, this seemed to describe the scene at her coffin. I now knew her age, but not how she had died. The book Memories of May 1980: A Documentary History of the Kwangju Uprising in Korea, has numerous descriptions of those who suffered death and injuries during the uprising, but she didn't appear - until I found this passage, under the heading "Examples of Casualties during the Evacuation of the 11th and 7th Brigades from Chosun University on May 21st":
Pak Chan-uk - Was driving by Chiwon-dong bus terminal that evening in blood donation vehicle towards Provincial Government Building to donate blood and transport patients. Suddenly, armored vehicles evacuating towards Hwasun began shooting randomly; was shot in the left shoulder and taken to Christian Hospital to receive surgery. One man and Pak Kum-hui, a student from a girls' high school returning home after donating blood, who were riding in the vehicle, were killed by the shooting.
Strangely enough, this brought to my memory something I'd quoted from Linda Lewis' book in the comments to the Marmot's Kwangju post last year, about the testimony of American missionary Martha Huntley, who worked at the Kwangju Christian Hospital.
In two hours our hospital alone received 99 wounded and 14 dead. Among the wounded was a 9 year old boy who was shot in the legs. Our first dead was a middle school girl; the second was a commercial high school girl who had donated blood at the hospital 15 minutes earlier and was shot by the troops when she was being returned home in a student vehicle. We received 5 patients with spinal cord injuries, many of whom will never walk again. One was 13 years old. We had patients who lost eyes, limbs, and their minds.[Emphasis added]
It was odd to realize that this person, whose death I had been so curious about, had, unbeknownst to me, been described in a passage I had recently quoted.

To interrupt, here is more information about her death from an August, 2007 Joongang Ilbo article: Haunted by the death of a high school girl.
On May 21, 1980, Ahn Sung-ryea, 43, a supervising nurse at the Christian Hospital here found herself amid a bloody pile of dead bodies and gunshot victims. She had been at the hospital for three days treating patients who filled almost every inch of space in the building.[...]

Ahn and her fellow nurses, doctors and janitors were forced to take turns drawing blood from their own arms to supply desperately needed transfusions. Ahn was especially glad when a group of citizens arrived at to the hospital to donate blood. Park Geum-hui, then a high school student with braided hair, was one of them.

“Geum-hui looked at me and said, ‘Ma’am, I couldn’t just sit at home and study. There’s no use going to college if I cannot do anything about what’s happening in my own town,’ ― then she was gone,” Ahn recalled. About an hour later Park returned to the hospital as a mangled corpse. “Her blouse was soaked in blood and she was covered with dust,” Ahn said, her voice growing hoarse. “I collapsed and burst into tears. I cried out ‘The soldiers are evil!’ over and over. My heart was broken.”
Park Geum-hui's picture appears in the Photographic Memorial Hall at the 5.18 National Cemetery...


...where her final resting place can also be found.



I later found this page (in Korean) about her death, but more importantly, I found a KBS documentary in which her death (and it's memorialization) were looked at. The documentary draws on accounts of the mass shootings, of the chaos in the hospitals, and the numerous people who donated blood (dramatized in the 1995 TV drama Sandglass (모래시계)), which led to her death. It even shows the hospital's documentation of her death (after being shot in the abdomen):



The school she attended has a sign commemorating her as a "Flower of May 1980":


The use of flower imagery is interesting; I don't know if Choi Yun's 1988 novella There a Petal Silently Falls (translated into English here: Part 1 ; Part 2), upon which Jang Sun-woo's 1996 film 'A Petal' was based, was the first to use this kind of imagery or not. At any rate, at the school pictured above, the documentary goes on to show teacher Bak Ok-hui directing students performing a play titled "Our sister, Bak Geum-hui" (우리 언니 박금희) (more about this play, including photos, can be found here (scroll down)). This portrayal of an innocent girl's death seems to highlight the mixture of victimization and heroic action which acts to kindle civil pride among the youth in Kwangju. While she may seem to be simply a tragic victim, it should be remembered that she was killed returning home after donating blood - an act that may have saved the life of another. In the scene pictured below, filmed during a rehearsal, a young actress depicts Bak Geum-hui's mother crying over her death.


Her pose is likely meant to invoke this image (once again).


Breen ended his piece with this statement: "The interpretations will change over time, but that loss is forever." It would make a nice companion statement to the photo above, and I could stop writing right here. I don't think this is true, however. However laudable it may be that the tragic story of a young girl's life cut short is being used to instill pride in a new generation, it is still being used; her story is the raw material out of which an interpretation of the uprising is being constructed. I think the loss will only genuinely be felt during the lifetimes of those who were injured or lost loved ones - whether that loss remains forever will depend on the shifting interpretations of those with the power to influence the coming generations.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Bitter End

The military has waited patiently ever since evacuating the city on May 21. We promised the citizens' representatives not to come back in, provided certain conditions were respected. They were not respected. Coming back into the city became inevitable, because the scum of society and criminal elements organized as so-called "citizens' army". They broke the law. The army has completed its mission successfully. Citizens, come forward. Order has been restored.
Statement by Martial Law Command, 5:25 am, May 27, 1980, marking the end of the Kwangju Uprising.













Thursday, May 25, 2006

How the mayor spent last weekend

Last week, numerous political leaders made their way down to Kwangju to commemorate the anniversary of the Kwangju Uprising. Two days after the anniversary of the beginning of the uprising, Lee Myung-bak, the mayor of Seoul and a possible presidential candidate, had other things to do - like get together with Chun Doo-hwan in the crystal ballroom of the Lotte Hotel (video and text (in Korean) can be found here).



I guess inviting Chun to the opening of Cheonggyecheon wasn't enough...



Chun: Being in power is great - I received millions in bribes!
Lee: Well, one of my underlings (nothing to do with me, of course) received a few bribes to change height restrictions around Cheonggyecheon!
Chun: .....
Lee: Oh - I played tennis for free for quite a while!
Chun: .....you have so much to learn.
Lee: Well... being president should teach me a lot...
Chun: And how!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bibliography of the Kwangju Uprising (in English)

Here are the books and other resources I know of that pertain the the Kwangju Uprising, beginning with the earliest books to be published. The first two are 'library only' items, as they're long out of print.


"The Kwangju Uprising: An Inside View", Tim Warnberg. Korean Studies, v.11, 1987.

An excellent account of the uprising by a Peace Corps Volunteer in the city at the time. It can be downloaded here (scroll down to bottom left and wait 24 seconds for the 'download' button to appear).


The Kwangju Uprising: Shadows Over the Regime in South Korea, Donald N. Clark, ed. (Westview Press, Inc.), 1988.

Long out of print. At the Association for Asian Studies meetings in 1986, according to contributor Mark Peterson, "Linda Lewis, Donald Clark, David McCann, and I decided to put Kwangju on the national agenda of American academics" by preparing a panel on Kwangju in April of 1987. This collection of essays grew out of that panel.

Peterson, who wrote "American Officials and the Kwangju Uprising", presented a paper titled "The Kwangju Resistance Movement, May, 1980: Some American Perspectives" at a 1997 conference in Kwangju. It's well worth a read (or two); Peterson was in Korea at the time of the uprising. (Hat tip to Plunge)



Kwangju in the Eyes of the World: The Personal Recollections of the Foreign Correspondents Covering the Kwangju Uprising (Pulbit Publishing Company), 1997.

This book collects the accounts of seven foreign journalists who were present in Kwangju during the uprising. The accounts can be found online here. An article about the book by contributor and editor Henry Scott-Stokes can be found here.



Kwangju Diary: Beyond Death, Beyond the Darkness Of The Age, Jae Eui Lee; Translated by Kap Su Seol and Nick Mamatas (Univ of California Los Angeles),1999.

The underground 'bestseller' after being banned when it was released in 1985 under the title "죽음 을 너머, 시대의 어둠을 너머", under the name of well known author Hwang Seok-yeong. It could be seen as being hyperbolic and emotional - but perhaps for that reason it captures the esssence of the uprising, at least from the point of view of a student. Additional essays by Bruce Cummings and Tim Shorrock come from a very clear point of view.


The Kwangju Uprising After Twenty Years: The Unhealed Wounds of the Victims. Juna Byun and Linda S. Lewis, eds. (Dahae Book Publisher), 2000

A look at those who quite literally still bear the scars and wounds of the uprising 20 years later.


Korea on the Brink: A Memoir of Political Intrigue & Military Crisis, John A. Wickham
(Potomac Books), 2000.

Wickham was the US General in charge of the United Nations command, and thus most of the Korean army. Details his dealings with Korean military leadership. An interesting look at the propaganda and point of view of the Chun clique, at least from the bits I've read so far. It also includes the 1989 White Paper.



Massive Entanglement, Marginal Influence: Carter and Korea in Crisis, William Gleysteen (Brookings Institution Press), 2000.

An account of the period between Park Chung-hee's assassination and the sparing of Kim Dae-jung's life, with a close look at US relations with Chun Doo-hwan and the build-up to the Kwangju Uprising, by the US ambassador at the time. Provides a good look at the political scene in Korea; several cables sent back and forth between the embassy and Washington are included.



The Kwangju Uprising: Eyewitness Press Accounts of Korea's Tiananmen (Pacific Basin Institute Book) by Henry Scott-Stokes and Jae Eui Lee (M.E. Sharpe), 2000.

This book is essentially an updated version of Kwangju in the Eyes of the World, which includes Korean journalists' accounts of the uprising. Again, the foreigners' accounts can also be found online here.



Laying Claim to the Memory of May: A Look Back at the 1980 Kwangju Uprising, Linda Sue Lewis (Hawaii Studies on Korea), 2002.

Lewis, an anthropologist who witnessed the uprising, reflects on her own memories and how Korean society has come to memorialize the event. A good review of the book by Don Baker, who was also a witness, and who contributed an article to Contentious Kwangju, can be found here. Excerpts can be found here (1 2 3 4)


Contentious Kwangju: The May 18 Uprising in Korea's Past and Present, Gi-Wook Shin and Kyung Moon Hwang eds.(Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc), 2003.

A collection of essays by various contributors looking at different aspects of the uprising. US missionaries present during the uprising, sociologists, medical specialists, historians, and others examine the event and its legacy.



Memories of May 1980: A Documentary History of the Kwangju Uprising in Korea, by Ryu Shimin, Jung Sangyong, Trans. by Park Hyejin (Kwangju Minjuhwa-undong Kinyeom-saeophoi), 2004.

Its point of view is clear, but it includes everything from victim, witness and military testimony, to injury reports and internal military documents. A very useful book.



The Gwangju Uprising: The Pivotal Democratic Movement Which Changed the History of Modern Korea, Choi Jung-woon, Translated by Yu Young-nan (Homa & Sekey Books), 2006

Originally published in Korean as "The Sociology of the Gwangju Uprising" (오월의 사회과학) in 1999. I just picked this up a week ago, but it looks to be rather interesting.



기영이의 5·18여행 ,도래미,이우진 (5.18 기념재단), 2005.

I picked this up in Kwangju last year. A comic (with photos as well) which depicts the uprising, and in which fictional characters interact with real victims of the uprising. An interesting study in how the city instills civic pride and creates a mythology of the uprising for the younger generation.


"Kwangju and Beyond: Coping with Past State Atrocities in South Korea", In Sup Han, Human Rights Quarterly 27, 2005



Internet Resources:


Hundreds of photos of the uprising can be found here (Antti has set up the links nicely).


For links to narratives of the Kwangju Uprising in different media (like short stories, poems, woodblock prints, etc), look here.


Peace Corps Volunteer David Dolinger's account of what he saw in Kwangju during the uprising can be found here. A comment from him talking about that time can be found here.


Jame's Fenton's "Kwangju and After", from Granta 24.
An American journalist's brief account of the uprising and the 1987 protests and election. It can be downloaded here (scroll down to the bottom and click 'free', then scroll down again and wait for the 20 second countdown to finish and download away - there are scans in a zip file).


Also to be found on the internet are Tim Shorrock's summary of the declassified Cherokee papers (which reveals some of the communication between the US embassy in Seoul and Washington at the time of the uprising). His original February 1996 article on Kwangju for the Journal of Commerce can be found here.


The United States and South Korean Democratization, James Fowler; from The New American Interventionism: Essays from Political Science Quarterly, Demetrios James Caraley, editor (Columbia University Press), 1999.

This essay, which can be found here, makes extensive use of the Cherokee papers, and provides many details about the political situation in Korea leading up to Kwangju (though I did find some small errors of fact, such as wrong dates).

United States Government Statement on the Events in Kwangju, Republic of Korea, in May 1980, also known as the 1989 "White Paper", can be found here.


A fictional account of the May 15, 1980 student demonstration in downtown Seoul which preceded the May 17 crackdown (and left a police officer dead), excerpted from the e-book The Seed of Joy, by William Amos (a peace corps volunteer in Kwangju at the time) can be found here.


Rewriting Rebellion and Mapping Memory in South Korea: The (Re)presentation of the 1980 Kwangju Uprising Through Mangwol-dong Cemetery, by Sallie Yea, can be found here [link is dead], while another essay by Yea, "Maps of Resistance and Geographies of Dissent in Cholla Region", can be found here.

Donald Sohn’s “Chun Doo Hwan’s Manipulation of the Kwangju Popular Uprising” can be found here.

"Comparing the Paris Commune and the Kwangju People’s Uprising: A Preliminary Assessment" by George Katsiaficas can be found here.

Interesting in that it provides a diagram showing the organization of the struggle committee, as well as not just comparing the two uprisings, but showing that the Kwangju student/intellectual leaders had studied the Paris Commune. Another essay by Katsiaficas, "Myth and Implications of the Kwangju People's Uprising" can be found here.


I should note that Linda Lewis wrote two pieces about Kwangju in the late 1980s (one was published in Shadows Over the Regime in South Korea), but that both are quoted from extensively in Laying Claim to the Memory of May. I haven't read this more recent essay, however:

Commemorating Kwangju: The 5.18 Movement and Civil Society at the Millennium, Linda W. Lewis, in Korean Society Civil Society, Democracy and the State, Charles K. Armstrong, ed. (Routledge) 2002


I'll update this as more comes to my attention.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

5.18 - Those who fell under the paratroopers' clubs


Today marks the 26th anniversary of the beginning of the Kwangju Uprising.

I've written about the uprising before, looking at the escalation of violence during the first three days of the uprising (which provides an overview of those days), at narratives of the uprising in several different media, and at the campaign to revoke medals given to soldiers who took part in suppressing the uprising, as well as how students in Kwangju view the uprising, a list of books and essays in English about the uprising, and a look at US media coverage of the uprising.

In The Kwangju Uprising, Kim Chung-keun, of the Donga Ilbo, describes what happened when the paratroopers of the 7th Brigade left the university campuses they had secured and arrived downtown to suppress the demonstration that their brutal behavior on and near those campuses had helped spark.
When the martial law army showed up in the heart of the city for the first time - I was there - they paraded in front of the Provincial Hall in a very official way. They formed up ranks, and when they marched, they marched in columns. [...] It was done in a very orderly way. The soldiers formed up in lines, spacing themselves as the drillbooks require. Then, off they went, marching towards the heart of the demonstration. Stones struck them, Molotov cocktails set their sleeves on fire. Paying no attention, they kept formation and marched ahead. The demonstrators stepped aside to let them pass, and the soldiers went on towards the core of the demo in the heart of Gumnam-ro. As the column passed through them, the demonstrators closed up behind them.


Then an order was shouted. The soldiers broke ranks, dashing into the demonstrators around them, beating them mercilessly with their heavy sticks. This was not a strategy for nudging a crowd or a demo off a street from one side - as in Pusan or Masan the previous year - to get the streets back to normal and open and functioning. It was a strategy of terror, a blitzkrieg. [...]

The boundary that had existed between the soldiers and the crowd was eliminated. It vanished in the midst of a melee, a free-for-all with no holds barred and no rules. The soldiers smashed out with their clubs at all and sundry, regardless of age, sex or anything else. [...]

Words fail me in seeking to describe what I saw. "Brutality." "Outrage." "Indiscriminate assault." The words fall short, way short, of the reality. I came up with this expression: "hunting humans", or "Human hunting."



From Memories of May 1980: A Documentary History of the Kwangju Uprising in Korea, come these "Examples of Casualties on May 18th" (who are all male, except for one):

Yi Chong-nam, 27
Assaulted by paratroopers next to Taehan Theatre near Bus Terminal at 4:50, received medical treatment for lacerations on scalp, contusion and abrasion on right hand and lower leg, and fracture of right hand, fifth finger bone.

Yi Chong-an, 25, Insurance company employee
Was making an insurance contract at a store near Tourist Hotel past 12 o'clock, when assaulted by batons, gun butts and military boots and arrested by three paratroopers. Released on May 25 while receiving treatment at Armed Forces Hospital.

Kim Myong-ho, 44
Paratroopers carrying M16s with fixed bayonets broke into home at 80-2 Nam-dong at 7:30 pm, struck and assaulted residents with gun butts. Destroyed house, smashing windows and doors, claiming to search for students in hiding.

Yi Kun-jae, 58
Assaulted on way back from provincial government building to rear entrance of Jungang elementary school while protesting against paratroopers stripping and beating several female students near wall of rear entrance.

Kim Yong-chol, 32, Carpenter
Assaulted by paratroopers near MBC on way home by foot at 8pm because there were no buses.

Kim Kyu-jin, 50, Teacher
Kicked in waist, struck with gun butts and assaulted in front of Catholic Center at 3 pm, lost four front teeth.

Kim Nam-il, 48, driver
Assaulted by paratroopers near Kwangju park at 3 pm, right forearm fractured, then taken to police. Sent to Armed Forces Hospital on May 20 (contusions on upper right limb, face, side, and left leg).

Kim Tae-ho, 28, agricultural worker
Was riding a bus to friends house because transportation to go home from visiting a flu clinic in Yu-dong was blocked, when paratroopers fired tear gas bombs, stopped the bus, got on, dragged him off, and assaulted him on charges of demonstrating, and dragged him to Chonnam National University after he lost consciousness. Transferred to prison on 21st, assaulted by troops of 20th division in jail. Released July 3.

Kim Pom-dong, 34, cook
When he was witnessing a woman getting her clothes ripped off, being kicked and collectively beaten by 3 paratroopers in front of Kwangju Cheil high school barbershop at 3 pm, during work as a cook at a Chinese restaurant near entrance to Chungjang 5-ga, 30-40 troops suddenly poured in from Kumnam 5-ga, approached and destroyed the restaurant window, and collectively beat him into unconsciousness.

Kim Tae-ran, 39, Standing Committee member of Tongildang (Democratic Unification Party)
Assaulted and taken by martial law troops during demonstration on Kumnam 5-ga at 5pm, handicap to spine and urinary organs due to indiscriminate torture after they discovered Tongildang membership pass. Died in June 1984 due to aftereffects of torture.

Kim Chong-sop, 35, civil servant
Attended colleagues wedding at 2pm, then was riding a bus to Bus terminal at 3:30 to go home when paratroopers forced everybody off the bus and moved them on foot to Tongyang Steel on Kumnamno. There he was assaulted with riot baton on back of head, lost consciousness, and collapsed.

Kim Kwi-sik, 21, University student
Upon hearing news of extended curfew on way home to Kwangju from a trip to Yosu with five friends, got off at South Kwangju station and walked along railroad track till arrival in front of Chosun University at 9-10 pm. Caught by paratroopers stationed there. 10 paratroopers took turns punishing the six for about two hours, threatening them with fixed bayonet M16s against their foreheads and beating them with gun butts.

Park Chong-hwa, 20
Had come to Kwangju on motorcycle to pick up his brother (high school student) and was passing in front of Mudang stadium when paratroopers assaulted and took him to police. Released from Sangmudae (base) three months later. Suffered mental disorder thereafter and died.

Paek Hong-nam, 35, Housewife
Struck on right side of the head by five paratroopers in front of Catholic center. Required 13 stitches.

Yang Sam-gun, 29, Printer
Was riding by bicycle for personal business during work at Honam printing shop in Taein-dong when he witnessed dozens of armed soldiers suddenly appear from Kumnamno area and assault all young people who came into sight. Escaped to a nearby restaurant but paratroopers chased him and beat him mercilessly.


Yang Il-jun, 29, technician
Assaulted and taken by paratroopers in Sinan-dong at 2 pm. Taken to Armed forces hospital and received medical treatment for more than one month.

Yun Yong-chol, 25, driver
Was in Chilsong Billiards hall in Puk-dong at 4pm when 10 paratroopers armed with bayonets ran in and beat him in the head, face and sides with batons and kicked him with military boots. He passed out on the spot. The paratroopers stole his watch.

Yi Sung-min, 49, commercial worker
Assaulted by paratroopers who intruded into a store next to Kwangju fire station and 2 pm and lost consciousness.

Chang Han-won, 27, driver
Was driving truck back to house in Sansu-dong and was about to step back into truck after a check at Kyerim police box when paratroopers beat him with riot baton from behind. Protested, but paratroopers continued assault until he lost consciousness and was taken away, then sent to Armed forces hospital.

Chang Song-am, 23
Assaulted by seven paratroopers with batons, military boots, and gun butts, between Soochang elementary school and bus terminal at 2 pm, then passed out.

Chong Yong-uk, 21, student
Was innocently entering school with friends through front gate of Chosun University at 12-1 pm after visiting a friends house, when he was caught, kicked, and assaulted by paratroopers.

Cho Kap-tae, 16, employee at restaurant
Went outside at 5 pm to check source of noise, but was collectively assaulted by two paratroopers on Kumnamno.

Kim Mak-tong, 25, architect
Was waiting for bus to Changhung to depart from bus terminal at 3 pm to receive reserve forces training, when paratroopers suddenly stepped inside the bus, dragged him off the bus and assaulted him on head with riot batons.

Yu Byong-yang, 25, driver
Picked up 5 students in Kwangchon-dong in taxi and was going towards Chonnam National University when a paratrooper who had been beating 20 male and female students lying face down on the street in front of Johan hospital in Im-dong saw taxi and stopped it for inspection. Protested they were passengers, but paratrooper ruthlessly hit back of head with gun butt; escaped by driving away in nearly senseless condition.

Ha Hon-nam, 29
Was stabbed by bayonets wielded by paratrooper, and fell unconscious in front of main office of Kwangju bank on Kumnamno around 8 pm while returning home. Transferred to Kim orthopedic clinic thereafter.