Monday, April 20, 2009

419, 49 years later

Today (well, okay, yesterday) was the 49th anniversary of the 1960 student revolution (known as 419 (사일구) in Korean, after the date). On this day in 1960 students rose up against the government of Syngman Rhee for election fraud after the discovery of the body of 16 year-old Kim Ju-yeol - who had been killed by police in an earlier protest - in Masan harbor. Upon attempting to march on the presidential mansion, police fired on students, killing 130 and wounding hundreds, removing any lingering legitimacy the Rhee regime might have had. I've looked at the events of the uprising here and here, and at its aftermath, when Syngman Rhee was forced to step down, here. Photos of the uprising can be seen in this video. This photo from the Korea Times reminds us that the events of this day 49 years ago are not as distant as we might think.

Kim Byeong-ji, 96 years-old, weeps in front of the tomb of her son, Choi Dong-sup, who was among those killed during the Students Uprising on April 19, 1960, at a national cemetery in Suyuri, Seoul, Sunday.
This article adds that "Her son was killed by gunshot while taking to a hospital student activists [who were] injured..."

Some beautiful photos of the cemetery can be found here.

Photos of the ceremony commemorating the 49th anniversary can be found here and here, while this article has photos of the president visiting the cemetery early in the morning; in the first he's standing in front of Kim Ju-yeol's grave. His speech, which was read at the ceremony (which he didn't attend) spoke out against corruption. While I can't disagree with the sentiment, the anniversary of the 419 uprising seems an odd time to bring up such a topic, other than to gloat over the fact former president Roh is being investigated for corruption. Call me cynical, but I have a hard time believing Lee Myung-bak will be the first president to break out of the very established pattern of presidential corruption.

[Update: Michael Breen writes about the Roh investigation here.]

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