Gwangju

March for the Beloved

By Dae-Han Song

Leaving behind neither love, glory, nor one’s name,

We vow to march together in our lifetimes.

Comrades can’t be found, but our banner still flutters.

Let us not falter ‘till the new day comes.

 Time passes, but the mountains and streams remember

The ardent cry of those awakened

‘I will march ahead, so follow me, you that live’

‘I will march ahead, so follow me, you that live’”


Photo Essay- Gwangju 2013

On May 17th and 18th, the ISCs Media Team joined in the commemoration ceremonies at Gwangju in the southern province of Jeonnam. After the assassination of dictator Park Chung Hee and a brief period of political liberalization, citizens in Gwangju and around South Korea rose up against General Chun Doo Hwan’s attempts at a coup d’etat. Troops were sent in to squash the rebellion, yet a civilian-formed army held back the troops for nine days. During this time, civilians took over the city and peacefully co-managed it without any traces of crime. The uprising was finally put down on May 27th. While unsuccessful at the time, the May Uprising became a rallying call for democratization during the 1980s, culminating in the June 11th Democratic Uprising of 1987 that brought direct presidential elections.


Gwangju Day 1: Duck & Democracy!

 


A Quick History of the Democratization of South Korea

 


Gwangju

Our weekend away didn't start as smoothly as I'd hoped. As I was packing my bag I decided to check the tickets one last time and realised that I'd got the bus times mixed up. Meaning we had an hour less than we thought we had, and 20 minutes until the bus left from a bus station that's half an hour away on the metro. Not good. The roads were gridlocked and I had a horrible feeling that our adventure had ended before it had even started. We got to the bus station though and the lovely girl there told us that we could get a percentage of our ticket refunded, and the next bus had 2 free spots. Disaster averted!

Following the initial problems, the ride there was smooth and took just over three and a half hours, which was pretty good considering the roads were really busy as everyone was escaping because of Chuseok. From the bus station in Gwangju we picked up a couple of maps, decided where we would most likely find a motel to stay in and jumped in a taxi.

House of Sharing 나눔의 집

 

This past Sunday I had the humbling and amazing opportunity to visit the House of Sharing in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do province, about 45 minutes from Seoul. The House of Sharing is both a museum and home to former “Comfort Women” – survivors of sexual slavery at the hands of the Japanese military during the Asia-Pacific War (1932-1945). It is the world’s first human rights museum centered on the theme of sexual slavery. 

Eight of these women live in the house today. They are called the halmonis (할머니), or grandmothers. During World War Two, they were what many called wee-an-bu (위안부) or “comfort women”,  200,000 of the girls and young women from all across Asia who were taken by the Japanese to work as sex slaves.

The term “comfort women” is obviously a euphemism used by the perpetrators in order to lessen the horrific reality of the situation.  The official name for these women is  ”Women drafted for military sexual slavery by Japan” or Cheong Sin Dae 정신대.

A bronze statue that represents what these women would have wanted from their life at the time – she wears a traditional marriage crown, on her right is a suitor and on her left is a family. The waves symbolize prosperity in childbirth.

7 Things About Korea: Comforts from Home

The door closes behind my new boss and I'm left standing alone inside a sparsely furnished apartment. I clutch a bottle of water in one hand and a loaf of bread in the other, and the only sounds to keep me company are the humming of an empty fridge and the sounds of traffic that I will learn to accept as a permanent background drone.


Commemorating The Fight for Freedom: The Gwangju Massacre (May 18th)

Today marks the 31st anniversary of the Gwangju Massacre (also commonly referred to as the Gwangju Democratization Movement, 광주민주화운동, Gwanju Uprising, 광주민중항쟁 or 518). On May 18, 1980 several thousands of protesters gathered in the city of Gwangju to protest the dictatorial rule of president Chun Doo Hwan.

7 Things About Korea: Drinking Culture

Much like the neighboring Japanese, the Koreans have a rich drinking culture to go along with their near suicidal work ethic. But hey, if I worked as hard as the average Korean did - I'd be driven to drink copious amounts of alcohol too. I barely work half as much and I'm already borderline.

 

If you like a good drink, Korea is going to feel like a welcome homecoming to you. Not only is the stuff both cheap and readily available, but a large part of being a part of the foreigner crowd is getting out and socializing at the many bars, clubs, and... well... anywhere. Korea has no open bottle law, so you can roam the street with a 1.5 liter pitcher of Hite (Korean beer) and nobody will say boo. I wouldn't advise it though. We foreigners already have a bad enough reputation in this country.

 


Destination: Gwangju scavenger hunt / Kunsthalle Gwangju

The 1st anniversary of the Gwangju blog was celebrated with a scavenger hunt – one of my favorite activities – and was enjoyed with 100 or so other enthusiasts. Most had already formed teams, so I was placed with a team of other people that came on their own.

The Kunsthalle in Gwangju played host, and as people got registered, there was plenty of excitement and conversation. Things got started about half an hour late – hopefully next time getting registered will be a little streamlined :)


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