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May 18 Gwangju democratic movement should be honored

Posted May. 21, 2013 05:33,   


Around the 33rd anniversary of May 18 Gwangju democratic uprising this year, some TV programs and Internet sites aroused disputes by arguing that North Korean soldiers intervened the uprising.

A North Korean defector appeared on a TV program last week and said, "May 18 movement was an uprising that was led by a North Korean battalion (600 soldiers) penetrating to Gwangju to kill the people." On the other program, another North Korean defector identified himself as an North Korean soldier who came to Gwangju, adding, "Long-haired people at the May 18 uprising were all North Korean combatants."

Posts depreciating the victims of the May 18 uprising and parodies are also abundant at some Internet sites. Against this backdrop, families of the victims, commemorative groups, the main opposition Democratic Party and Gwangju City said this is an "absolute distortion of history" and announced they would take countermeasures by establishing a tentative "May 18 History Distortion Response Committee."

The North Korea intervention in May 18 democratic movement was already proven to be groundless years ago. Immediately after the incident, the Martial Law Enforcement Headquarters issued a warning statement, saying, "The riot is being manipulated by espionage agents, impure elements and gangsters," which aroused rumors that North Korea intervened. However, Lee Hui-seong, who was then chief of the headquarters, took a step back while being investigated in 1995 by saying that "there was some exaggeration."

In Yo-han, head of international medical treatment at Severance Hospital who worked as an interpreter during the incident between Gwangju citizen militia and foreign reporters, recently appeared at the Dong-A Ilbo`s Channel A, and said, "The citizen soldiers shouted anti-communism slogans and began strikes." According to In, he heard stories that citizen militia caught a strange person who was suspected as a spy and held a white flag to hand him over to soldiers. A leaflet made by citizen militia read "Kim Il Sung should not misjudge pure intention of the Gwangju movement."

Data and testimonies proving the falsity of North Korean intervention are also coming from North Korea. Kang Myeong-do, a North Korean defector who is son-in-law of North Korean State Council head Kang Song San, wrote on his book "Pyongyang Dreams of Exile," "As the suppression against the May 18 movement was made earlier than the North had expected, North Korean espionages could not be sent." Appearing at Channel A on Monday, Kang said, "Kim Il Sung tried to intervene at the May 18 democratic movement for a chance for unification under communism, but he regretted later after missing an opportunity."

If 600 North Korean soldiers were included in the Gwangju citizen militia, they must have been exposed, and the Martial Law Enforcement Headquarters must have immediately injected troops in response. UNESCO listed the archives for the May 18 democratic movement on its Memory of the World Register, which means that it recognized the value of the incident as a democratic movement. It is irresponsible to air groundless claims by some North Korean defectors without filtering.

It is a shame that historical awareness is absent and narrow thinking prevails. Maligning the true democratization spirit of May 18 uprising should stop. It is wrong to hurt again people who will have lifelong sorrow including the bereaved families of victims. Democratization movement is one of the proud history of Korea that everyone in the country should show respect.