• Tim Shorrock Sheds Light On US Overlooking May 18 Gwangju Movement

Screenshot of “Cherokee Files” obtained by Tim Shorrock
Screenshot of “Cherokee Files” obtained by Tim Shorrock

The May 18 Democratization Movement in Gwangju is marking its 40th anniversary.

But many bereaved families of the people who were killed during the uprising have yet to find closure as crucial questions still remain unanswered and no one has taken responsibility.

Tim Shorrock, an American investigative journalist, told TBS in an exclusive interview how the U.S. turned a blind eye to the bloodshed on civilians fighting for Korea's democracy in order to protect its own interests.

Ron Chang takes a closer look.


Using the Freedom of Information Act, a U.S. government record request service, Tim Shorrock uncovered the Cherokee Files, which were at odds with what official statements had been about days leading up to the movement and the uprising itself.

[Clip: Shorrock: 00:21]
"It had showed the U.S. had basically told Chun Doo-hwan before Gwangju before martial law that they would understand if he would use military troops to put down the big student demonstrations. They kind of gave him the green light to use military. They coordinated with the South Korean military the takeover of Gwangju city on May 27, 1980."

He said Gwangju residents at the time felt like they were stabbed in the back and betrayed by the U.S., and he feels ashamed as an American.

[Clip: Shorrock: 00:17]
"There's a terrible trauma that was inflicted on the people and I think that trauma is something that, that's where an American apology needs to come in because they should not have been subjected to that and they should not have been subjected to that kind of trauma.”

As for what exactly happened during several incidents during the uprising, including who ordered helicopters to fire on innocent, unarmed civilians, still remains a mystery.

Shorrock said it's crucial for South Korea to request more information about these incidents from the U.S. to find out what really happened but that task is difficult as Seoul and Washington have always had a closely-integrated military alliance.

[Clip: Shorrock: 00:13]
"Even today, there’s still been no proof of a firing order and I'm assuming at some level, U.S. intelligence looked into that and may have some answers about that issue."

While noting that this task could be challenging, he said South Korea's handling of the coronavirus outbreak and its recognition around the world could help.

[Clip: Shorrock: 00:14]
"South Korea has shown that it could operate internationally in a very positive way, in a very moral way and I think that gives Moon Jae-in and the South Korean government a kind of standing to with the United States to ask for a deeper inquiry."
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