Gwangju democracy uprising 30 years on

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Gwangju democracy uprising 30 years on


People gather last night in a plaza in Geumnamro, Gwangju, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the democracy uprising against the Chun Doo Hwan military dictatorship, which was brutally repressed. By Oh Jong-chan

Marking the 30th anniversary of the Gwangju democracy movement, a series of events to honor the May 18 popular uprising against military dictatorship were planned for yesterday and today, but commemorative groups complained that the Lee Myung-bak administration is cold-shouldering the occasion.

An anniversary eve celebration of the May 18 Gwangju democratization movement was held yesterday evening in front of the old South Jeolla provincial government building in Gwangju. About 3,000 people participated in the event, which included a street parade, music and dance performances.

A memorial event hosted by families with loved ones killed during the May 18 uprising also took place this morning at the May 18 National Cemetery in Gwangju. Throughout yesterday, about 70,000 people visited to pay respects to those who died.

The Gwangju democracy movement began on May 18, 1980, when residents staged an uprising against the military regime of Chun Doo Hwan, who seized control of the country by military coup on Dec. 12, 1979, shortly after President Park Chung Hee’s assassination. For nine days, the citizens of Gwangju confronted the military but were ultimately crushed.

During Chun’s regime, the uprising was called a rebellion of communist sympathizers, but the event was later recognized as a democracy movement. Chun, along with his successor Roh Tae-woo, was eventually convicted for their brutal suppression of the Gwangju movement, but later pardoned.

The government will also hold a commemoration at the cemetery today and Prime Minister Chung Un-chan was scheduled to attend along with key government officials, political party leaders and heads of civic groups. The Ministry of Public Administration and Security, however, banned rank-and-file public servants from attending.

President Lee Myung-bak will not attend the anniversary ceremony, prompting complaints from the commemorative groups. The May 18 groups issued a joint statement, urging the president to reconsider his decision.

Blue House spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye said yesterday that Lee won’t be able to attend the ceremony in Gwangju because he is scheduled to have a summit with the visiting Bangladeshi president, dismissing speculation that the president was skipping the event because of political and ideological reasons.

The commemorative groups also expressed displeasure that a popular song, “March for Lovers,” will not be included in the official ceremony. The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs said the song would be played, but not during the main ceremony, and that it would not change the current program at this point.

The May 18 groups also complained about the Seoul city government’s rejection of its plan to establish a memorial altar on the outdoor plaza in front of City Hall. The city government turned down the plan, saying the organizers had not applied for a permit in advance.

The opposition Democratic Party also criticized the Lee administration’s “cold treatment” of the May 18 anniversary.

“When he was a presidential candidate, President Lee had spoke carelessly about the May 18 democracy movement,” said Democratic Party Chairman Chung Sye-kyun. “For the second year in a row, he is skipping the anniversary ceremony. The May 18 anniversary is designated as a national observation day, but concerns grow that Lee is treating it coldly.”

Chung also complained that rank-and-file civil servants were banned from the event, although it is hosted by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs.

By Ser Myo-ja []

학계가 보는 5월 광주정신

‘광주 항쟁 30주년 기념 심포지엄’이 열린 13일 오후 서울 안암동 고려대 교정. 캠퍼스엔 5월의 따스한 햇살이 제공하는 평온함이 퍼져 있었다. 심포지엄 장소인 국제관 국제회의실엔 몇몇 학생이 듬성듬성 앉아 있었다. 캠퍼스 한쪽에선 5·18 사진전도 열렸지만, 1980년 당시의 참혹한 실상을 증언하는 사진에 관심을 보이는 이는 드물었다.

그나마 이 심포지엄마저 없었다면 ‘5·18 30돌’은 쓸쓸할 뻔했다. 한국정치사회학회(회장 임현진)와 한국정치연구회(회장 김용복)가 부랴부랴 마련한 자리다. 5·18 관련 본격 학술 행사가 거의 없기 때문이다. ‘국가의 폭력’에 저항했던 ‘5·18 광주’는 87년 6·10항쟁 이후 점차 국가가 주도하는 기념행사의 하나로 정착됐다.

◆‘실패한 성공’…민주화의 원천=한국 민주화의 분수령인 87년 6·10항쟁의 결정적 밑거름은 5·18인 것으로 평가받는다. 그래서 5·18 운동에는 ‘실패한 성공’이란 역설적 표현이 따라붙는다.

손호철 서강대 교수는 고려대 심포지엄 기조강연을 통해 “5·18은 처절하게 짓밟히고 패배했지만 한국의 민주화운동을 성장시켰다”고 정의했다. 5·18이 87년 6월 항쟁을 통해 부활함으로써 한국의 민주주의가 꽃필 수 있게 했다는 것이다. 그뿐만 아니다. 민주화운동 출신의 정권이 두 차례 들어서는 바탕이 됐고, 우리 사회가 보수 일변도의 시각을 벗어나는 계기가 됐다.
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