The May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising and Youth

On May 18, South Koreans have marked the 40th anniversary of the Gwangju Democratic Uprising of 1980, and it is one of the most traumatic incident in the history of contemporary Korea. The 10-days Democratic Uprising was triggered when young students started protesting against the military coup in Korea in 1980.

In the morning of May 18, at the main gate of the Chonnam National University, a student protest begins against martial law forces who were occupying their campus. The primary aim of the rally was to get entry inside of the Chonnam National University for their education. But a peaceful demonstration of around 100-600 students met a bloody encounter when soldiers made direct attacks to disperse the protesters. This incident triggered the Gwangju Democratic Uprising. Later, a series of assaults and abuses witnessed on that day. On the 3rd day of the demonstration, the small pockets of student activists were joined by the citizens, from market vendors to taxi drivers.

During the protest, young students show leadership skills and they established a foundation of social movement at Gwangju against the military coup in Korea. The leadership of students remained peaceful and organized torch rally against the new dictatorship in Korea, which was suppressing the fundamental rights of the nation. They went to their fellow citizen of Gwangju and shared their concerns and aspiration of democracy with them. These leadership skills of student impressed the citizen of Gwangju and they joined with their social movement. Besides, professors also provided the significant aid and they recorded their protest in front of the old provincial hall of Gwangju. However, the military dispatched highly trained troops to control the peaceful demonstrations at Gwangju. 

As we know that paratroopers who were highly trained combatants of any army and they were trained to fight behind the enemy lines and they mostly prepared to conduct special missions against enemies. Therefore, sending such troops to Gwangju was the first trigger to commit violence against the citizen. Paratroopers primarily were trained to fight with the enemy, but they were not known and were totally untrained to control the civil movements against their citizens. In result, the paratroopers used brutal force against students, innocent citizens, taxi drivers and labours. Further, Citizens of Gwangju along with youth remained peaceful, but military-controlled media called them riots and started malafide propaganda against them.

It was shocking for the youth and citizen when they noticed that the military began using live ammunition against their fellows and that makes them horrified. In response, the youth of Gwangju took outmoded arms against the army to protect themselves as well as their fellows. Even after such actions, the youth militia committee leaders went to the military command to negotiate with them, and they agreed to surrender their arms if the military promised fair legal trial against the offenders and if they make their fellow’s citizens free. 

The military never responded to their request and respect to their call of negotiations. We know youth are an emotional group of any society and country. Under the social contract; countries and leaders are bounded to behave like as caretaker to their nation, but the Korean dictator responded with fire and fury. Even the youth leadership of militia knows that they are not going to fight one hour against highly equipped and trained troops who were supported by the Tanks and reconnaissance helicopters. Only a few militia people occupied the old provincial hall of Gwangju. The occupation was aimed to leave a message for the public of Korea that they sacrificed their lives against dictatorship in Korea and they left their homes so they could protect freedom and liberty in Korea. 

Today, we know that even with colossal military, arms, tanks, and helicopters, those troops lost everything while they were killed few at old provincial hall Gwangju who were standing for liberty and human rights in Korea. The martyrs of 518 won the heart and mind of people of Gwangju. Presently, city of Gwangju now known as “Birth Place of Korean Democracy”. Further, sacrificing by the youth of Gwangju during the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Movement will never forget by the people of Korea as well as people of Asia. Let’s keep spreading the blaze of Gwangju Spirit forever and to all over the world. 

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