• Foreign Witnesses Of May 18 Movement Shed Light On Gwangju Uprising

Gwangju residents pay respects to patriotic martyrs of the May 18 Democratization Movement.
Gwangju residents pay respects to patriotic martyrs of the May 18 Democratization Movement.

News of the May 18 Democratization Movement in Gwangju wasn't readily available at the time of the uprising due to censorship of South Korean media by the government.

A group of foreign nationals, including correspondents, who made their way to Gwangju during the uprising in 1980, recounted their firsthand experience of the movement to TBS.

Ron Chang reports.


Yoon Sang-won, the spokesman for the Gwangju movement, is remembered to this day for standing up for democracy.

In an interview with TBS, Bradley K. Martin, formerly of the Baltimore Sun, said Yoon's courage moved him, noting he was one of the last people to speak with Yoon on May 26.

[Clip: Martin: 00:21]
"Yoon Sang-won held a press conference. It was the first and last for the foreign press. I told him that the military has the city surrounded, what are you going to do, are you going to surrender and he said no. He said he will fight to the last man and that was his main message to me."

A day later, Yoon was killed when the military reentered Gwangju.

[Clip: Martin: 00:18]
"So, I heard that the spokesman had been killed. This set me off on a terrible rage. I was deeply upset about it, I still am. I was screaming, my hatred of Chun Do-hwan. It was quite a day, probably the most memorable time of my whole career."

This ill feeling towards Chun Doo-hwan was also expressed by Professor Donald Baker of the University of British Columbia, who witnessed the aftermath of the uprising.

[Clip: Baker: 00:15]
"I would like to see him in prison for the rest of his life. I assure you, helicopters did fire on an unarmed crowd. I didn’t see that myself because I got there so late but whenever I saw helicopters fly overhead, the people in Gwangju automatically kind of cringed."

Paul Courtright, who was with the U.S. Peace Corps at the time, also said he is positive helicopters shot at civilians.

Finding the truth about the uprising has been the mission of the foreign journalists that were there and historians during the past 40 years.

It's their findings that will ultimately shed light on what really happened during the movement, which marked the beginning of the country's long march towards democracy.

<Photo: Yonhap News>
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