Different isn’t wrongAll universities were ordered to close on May 18, 1980. On the previous night, most of the senior members of the student associations were arrested and the few who escaped went off the grid. Even before that, a round robin message was circulated among students about the location, date and time to gather when the schools were ordered shut. At noon, in front of the Yeongdeungpo Station in Seoul, university students gathered and held a demonstration. But it only lasted a moment. The protesters were dispersed even before they formed a scrimmage. Soldiers armed with guns behaved differently from riot police.
It took just a day for the resistance of the university students in Seoul to disappear. Newspapers censored by martial law were printed with blank spaces here and there. Disturbing rumors spread among the students. Some talked about a situation in Gwangju that they heard about over the phone, but it was hard to say what was true and what was false. It was a story too horrible and cruel to believe.
In Gwangju, the beginning was not much different than in Seoul. The only difference was that the students in Gwangju did not stand down when faced with the guns and bayonets of the new military authority. It was unclear who started the rumor, but some talked about North Korea’s military intervening to instigate the students. But that rumor disappeared when the shackles of military rule were removed from the nation. After the National Assembly’s hearings on the Gwangju massacre and the trials of the former president, what actually happened was laid bare for all to see and hear, once and for all.
Why are some people suddenly reviving the rumor about the North Korean involvement in Gwangju today? They obviously don’t hesitate to insult and offend a certain region. It would be totally unacceptable behavior if they were people who could remember the fear, despair and tears from those days. If they are conservatives who understand the efforts of President Park Geun-hye to unite the nation, they surely cannot act this way.
Some thought it strange for the JoongAng Ilbo to report the undeniable facts of the historical record and publish a commentary. The memorial foundation of the Gwangju democratization movement expressed its appreciation, while some stubborn conservatives called the newspaper a traitor. Debates took place in Cyberspace. They must have mistaken an upright newspaper for being some kind of strange goblin, or the pet of a particular political faction.
T he media itself has responsibility for factionalism and bias because they have lost the people’s trust. The press recently agreed that its industry is facing a crisis. Research reports were published by the Kwanhun Club and the Korea Press Foundation. They all pointed to the arrival of “new media” as the problem. And they concluded that the biggest reason for the new media’s emergence was the lack of trust in traditional media - and restoring it would solve the problem.