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)

[Links updated on February 1, 2022.]

Here are the books, articles, and other resources I know of (mostly in English) that pertain to the Kwangju Uprising, beginning with the earliest books to be published.


Donald N. Clark, ed, The Kwangju Uprising: Shadows Over the Regime in South Korea, Westview Press, Inc., 1988.
  • At the Association for Asian Studies conference 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.

Arnold A Peterson, 5.18: The Kwangju Incident, 1990, in 아놀드 A. 피터슨, 5.18 광주사태, 풀빛, 1995.
  • Arnold Peterson was one of several American missionaries in Kwangju at the time of the uprising.

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.

Jae Eui Lee, Kwangju Diary: Beyond Death, Beyond the Darkness Of The Age, translated by Kap Su Seol and Nick Mamatas, Univ of California Los Angeles,1999. New edition available as a pdf here (clicking begins download).

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.

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

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

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

Wickham was the US General in charge of the Combined Forces 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.

William Gleysteen,Massive Entanglement, Marginal Influence: Carter and Korea in Crisis, 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 Park Chung-hee  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.

Henry Scott-Stokes and Jae Eui Lee, eds, The Kwangju Uprising: Eyewitness Press Accounts of Korea's Tiananmen, 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.

Linda Sue Lewis, Laying Claim to the Memory of May: A Look Back at the 1980 Kwangju Uprising, 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. Excerpts can be found here (1 2 3 4)

Lewis also wrote the chapter "Commemorating Kwangju: The 5.18 Movement and Civil Society at the Millennium," in Korean Society Civil Society, Democracy and the State, Charles K. Armstrong, ed., Routledge, 2002.

Gi-Wook Shin and Kyung Moon Hwang, eds, Contentious Kwangju: The May 18 Uprising in Korea's Past and Present, 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.

James V. Young, Eye on Korea: An Insider Account of Korean-American Relations,Texas A&M University Press, 2003.

Young was one of the first to be trained as an area specialist in the US military and spent 14 years in Korea. A fluent Korean speaker,Young served as a military attache at the US Embassy in Seoul in 1979, acting as a liason between the ROK Army and the Embassy. He offers criticism on all sides of the events surrounding Chun Doo-hwan's rise to power.

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

Includes everything from statistics and victim, witness and military testimony, to injury reports and internal military documents. A very useful book. It is available as a pdf here (clicking begins download).

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

Originally published in Korean as "The Sociology of the Gwangju Uprising" (오월의 사회과학) in 1999.

Donald Kirk and Choe Sang-hun, eds, Korea Witness: 135 Years of War, Crisis and News in the Land of the Morning Calm, Eunhaeng Namu, 2006.

Over 40 pages of this book are dedicated to journalists' accounts of 5.18.

Georgy Katsiaficas and Na Kahn-chae, eds, South Korean Democracy: Legacy of the Gwangju Uprising, Routledge, 2006.

Paul Courtright, Witnessing Kwangju, Hollym, 2020.

Paul Courtright was a Peace Corps Volunteer who witnessed the uprising and helped interpret for foreign journalists, including Time magazine's Robin Moyer, who contributed a number of his unpublished photos to the book.

David Lee Dolinger and Matt VanVolkenburg, Called by Another Name: A Memoir of the Gwangju Uprising, Goggas, 2022.

David Dolinger was a Peace Corps Volunteer who witnessed the uprising and befriended the student leaders, helped smuggle dissident materials in and out of Korea after he was forced to resign from the Peace Corps, and later took part in US-based efforts to promote human rights in Korea during the 1980s. The book includes a chapter memorializing fellow PCV Tim Warnberg, who wrote the first academic article about the uprising, which is also republished here.

Hwang Sok-yong, Lee Jae-Eui, and Jeon Yong-Ho, Gwangju Uprising: The Rebellion for Democracy in South Korea, Verso, 2022.

A substantially-expanded version of 죽음을 넘어 시대의 어둠을 넘어 (Beyond Death, Beyond the Darkness of the Age, published in English as Kwangju Diary in 1999) was published in Korean in 2017, and this is a translation of that book. For some reason, in both the Korean and English versions, novelist Hwang Sok-yong is given top billing despite only writing an introduction and titling the book back in 1985.
Kim Yeon-min, Robert Grotjohn, eds, Selected Oral Histories of the May 18 Gwangju Uprising: Vol. 1. Testimonies from Various Locations, Chonnam National University Press, 2023.

This is the first of at least four planned volumes of oral accounts of the uprising (and is available from online Korean booksellers like Kyobo and Aladin).

Articles and Internet Resources

Missionary John Underwood's unpublished account of the uprising, June 5-6, 1980.
  • This account was sent to the US Embassy, and cabled to Washington June 10. The cable can be read here. Ambassador Gleysteen referred to it as "the most balanced record and analysis of [the] incident we have seen so far." (The cable is actually missing a page or two; the full account is here.)
Another account of the uprising by American missionary Charles Betts Huntley, "When It Wasn’t Fun (The Kwangju Incident Of May, 1980)," was likely written in 2005.

"Korea May 1980 People's Uprising in Kwangju," Ampo, Japan-Asia Quarterly Review Vol. 12 No. 2, 1980.
  • This magazine was likely the first in English to compile as much information as possible on what happened in Kwangju, and contains things such as newspaper articles, poems, and photos. It was published perhaps in June or July 1980, and can be downloaded here.

Martha Huntley, "Should we tell you about this?" Presbyterian Survey, March 1982.
  • Huntley was one of several missionaries in Kwangju during 5.18. This article has only a little about 5.18 but she apparently also wrote an account of the uprising which is quoted in Warnberg's article.

Tim Shorrock, “Korea: Stirrings of Resistance,” The Progressive, February 1986.
  • Shorrock interviews Kim Dae-jung, who declares the US to be responsible for ordering troops to Kwangju. It can be found here.

William H. Gleysteen, Jr., “Korea: A Special Target of American Concern,” in The Diplomacy of Human Rights, David D. Newsom, ed., University Press of America, 1986.
  • Former Ambassador Gleysteen first wrote about the challenges he faced regarding Park's Assassination, the 12.12 coup, and 5.18 in this chapter.

Tim Warnberg, "The Kwangju Uprising: An Inside View," Korean Studies, v.11, 1987.
  • An excellent account of the uprising by a Peace Corps Volunteer in the city at the time, it's the first scholarly article on the uprising. It can be downloaded here.

Jame's Fenton's "Kwangju and After", from Granta 24 as well as an extended version in All the Wrong Places: Adrift in the Politics of the Pacific Rim, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1988.
  • A British journalist's brief account of the uprising in 1980 and the 1987 protests and election. The Granta article can be downloaded here.

After the June 1987 democracy protests, in 1988 the National Assembly held an inquiry into the Kwangju Uprising. In response to questions by the National Assembly, the US State Department released a ‘White Paper’ in June 1989 titled “United States Government Statement on the Events in Kwangju, Republic of Korea, in May 1980.”

American diplomatic cables from late 1979 to mid 1980 (the Cherokee Papers) were obtained and written about by journalist Tim Shorrock in a February 27, 1996 Journal of Commerce article titled "Ex-Leaders Go On Trial In Seoul." An even longer version was posted at Kimsoft in 1997 (judging by the Wayback Machine) titled “The U.S. Role in Korea in 1979 and 1980.”

In 1997 the Gwangju May 18 Historical Materials Compilation Committee released volumes 6 to 10 of the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement Materials which contain this entire collection of unclassified cables sent between the US Embassy in Seoul and the State Department in Washington DC, which total around 3,700 pages. They can be found online (pages can be downloaded to be read at full size):

Volume 6:  Jan – July 1979
Volume 7:  Aug – Nov 1979
Volume 8:  Dec 1979 – April 1980
Volume 9:  May – July 1980
Volume 10:  August – Dec 1980

The US government in 2020 released fully-uncensored versions of 43 these cables; they can be downloaded from the 5.18 Archives here. 문서 목록.pdf  is the table of contents, while 미측 기록물(43건).pdf contains the cables.

The US Embassy website is also hosting over 100 cables, 33 of which it posted in spring 2020; 36 more followed in 2021. The most recent additions are from the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. The majority of this material is available above the cables at the US Embassy's website in six large pdfs under the names "Carter Presidential Library Documents." Another set of documents from this collection can be found here at the May 18 Archives website; they're contained in a zip file (look for "파일: 카터 기록관 신규 공개자료.zip") with various folders of material, including one folder of cables related to the immediate aftermath of Park Chung-hee's assassination and another of cables related to Kim Dae-jung's trial. 

May 18 Archives site has uploaded what appears to be all of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) reports Tim Shorrock obtained through FOIA requests in the 1990s. They, and other documents, can be found here. Among them are this April 1980 DIA report on Chun Doo-hwan's means of maintaining loyalty.

The National Security Archive has made available 18 internal US government documents related to Korea from the Carter Presidency.

I have posted a number of CIA reports, including "North Korean Reactions to Instability in the South" and "The South Korean Political Scene" (Dec. 1979 and Feb. 1980) and "Political Reconstruction In South Korea" and "Prospects for Takeover by Military Strongman Chon Doo Hwan" (May 1980). More CIA reports can be found by searching its FOIA Reading Room.

Seven documents about 5.18 coming from the US and North Korea, including Donald Gregg’s May 21, 1980 Memorandum for Zbigniew Brzezinski, can be found at the Wilson Center here (or here). As well, a key document not in that document collection is the May 22 Action Memorandum From Richard Holbrooke And Anthony Lake To The US Secretary Of State, ‘PRC Meeting On Korea’, an excellent companion piece to the Platt Memo.

The May 22, 1980 PRC Platt Memo - a memo by Nicholas Platt, then a senior aide to Defense Secretary Brown, recording the conversation at the Periodic Review Committee meeting at the White House that day - can be found in English at the bottom of this page or as a Word file here.

Interviews with diplomats who worked at US Embassy or State Department in 1979-80 can be found here.

Mark Peterson, who interviewed General Wickham and former Ambassador Gleysteen in 1987's The Kwangju Uprising: Shadows Over the Regime in South Korea, presented a paper titled "The Kwangju Resistance Movement, May, 1980: Some American Perspectives" at a 1997 conference in Kwangju. Peterson was the Fullbright director in Seoul at the time of the uprising. (Hat tip to Plunge)

Donald Sohn's 1998 MA Thesis Chun Doo Hwan’s Manipulation of the Kwangju Popular Uprising, which is based in part on the Cherokee Papers, can be found here.

James Fowler’s “The United States and South Korean Democratization,” published in 1999 in Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 114, No. 2, pp. 265-288.
  • This article, 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 incorrect dates).

Sallie Yea, "Maps of Resistance and Geographies of Dissent in Cholla Region, South Korea," Asian Studies Institute Working Paper No. 7, Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington, 1999

Sally Yea, "Rewriting Rebellion and Mapping Memory in South Korea: The (Re)presentation of the 1980 Kwangju Uprising Through Mangwol-dong Cemetery," 2002.

George Katsiaficas, "Comparing the Paris Commune and the Kwangju People’s Uprising: A Preliminary Assessment."
  • This article 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.

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

George Katsiaficas, “Neoliberalism and the Gwangju Uprising,” 2006
  • An article based on the Cherokee Papers which highlights the US's economic interests in Korea and tries (but fails) to link early 1980s economic restructuring to the suppression of the Kwangju Uprising. It can be read here.

Peace Corps Volunteer David Dolinger's account of what he saw in Kwangju during the uprising can be found here, while additional comments by him can be found here.

Andrew David Jackson, "Jürgen Hinzpeter and Foreign Correspondents in the 1980 Kwangju Uprising," Cambridge University Press, 27 April 2020. (Behind a pay wall here.)

Matt VanVolkenburg, "'Tell the World what is Happening': The Americans who Witnessed the Kwangju Uprising,"Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch (Vol. 94, 2019): 129-144.  This is based on published accounts by, and interviews with, missionaries and Peace Corps Volunteers present in Gwangju in May 1980, as well as US embassy cables. It can be read here (or on this page; scroll down).

David Shim, "Cinematic Representations of the Gwangju Uprising: Visualising the “New” South Korea in A Taxi Driver," Asian Studies Review, 26 October, 2020.

Popular Arts

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

William Amos,The Seed of Joy
  • A fictional account of the Kwangju Uprising by William Amos (a peace corps volunteer in Jeollanam-do at the time). An interview with Amos can be found here.

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

I picked this up in Kwangju in 2005. 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.

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