[KS] KSR 2000-12: _The Kwangju Uprising: Eyewitness Press Accounts
Robert C. Provine
provine at wam.umd.edu
Wed Sep 27 11:17:54 EDT 2000
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Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2000 21:58:53 +1200
To: korean-studies at iic.edu
From: Stephen Epstein <Stephen.Epstein at vuw.ac.nz>
Subject: KSR 2000-12: _The Kwangju Uprising: Eyewitness Press Accounts
Korea's Tiananmen_, edited by Henry Scott-Stokes and Lee Jai Eui
_The Kwangju Uprising: Eyewitness Press Accounts of Korea's Tiananmen_,
edited by Henry Scott-Stokes and Lee Jai Eui. Armonk, New York: M.E.
Sharpe, 2000. 232 pages + Index. (ISBN 0-7656-0637-2).
Reviewed By Luc Walhain
Bowling Green State University
As a reflection of the democratisation of South Korean society and
the prevailing dtente between the two Koreas, South Koreans have been
venturing open criticism of their previous governments' wrongdoing. The
most outstanding example involves the Kwangju massacre orchestrated by
Chun Doo-hwan junta in May 1980. Several Korean works on this topic have
been for sale in bookstores, but Henry Scott-Stokes and Lee Jai Eui's
Kwangju Uprising_ is amongst the first contributions in the English
language. (See also recent books by the two highest-ranking U.S.
officials in South Korea at the time of the Kwangju uprising, Ambassador
William H. Gleysteen's _Massive Entanglement, Marginal Influence: Carter
Korea in Crisis_ and General John A. Wickham's _Korea on the Brink: From
'12/12' Incident to the Kwangju Uprising, 1979-1980_.) The Kwangju
consists of a collection of accounts by reporters who witnessed the
events of Kwangju. Half of the testimonies are from foreign
German, French and American, while the other half is from Korean
Besides these poignant accounts, the book contains a number of maps
of downtown Kwangju showing the progression of the conflict, and several
pages of rather explicit photographs. The editors, Scott-Stokes and Lee,
were both in Kwangju at the time of the events, the former as a New York
Times correspondent, and the latter as a spokesman of the Kwangju
militants. Lee was also a major contributor to the clandestine
of the notorious Kwangju Diary in 1985 (published in 1999 by the UCLA
Pacific Monograph Series). Like the other contributors of this book,
found themselves in the middle of the "Kwangju Rebellion," as it was
by the Chun government.
All that the Korean press could release during the events was the
state of chaos in Kwangju, the presence of "rioters" or "hooligans," and
the spectre of North Korea. As a result, most Koreans were unaware of
ordeal of the Kwangju people who held a rancour against the Korean
Only a handful of foreign reporters who were there could have their
published abroad, but all was over well before the foreign news could
any impact in Korea.
This book is thus important for various reasons: first, it gives
Korean reporters the opportunity to tell stories they did not or could
publish in May 1980 because of severe press censorship. Some of them
express remorse and guilt for risks they did not take, and for failing
their duties. They were so shocked by what they witnessed in Kwangju
they could not bring themselves to talk about it until now. This book
encourage other witnesses to come forward and testify.
Secondly, the accounts present such similar facts and sentiments,
though from different perspectives, that it leaves no doubt they draw an
accurate (if still incomplete) picture of events. All the reporters were
appalled by the random and blind brutality employed by the army (Kim
Keun calls it "human hunting," p. 9). They did not see "rioters" or
"hooligans," but civic consciousness and outraged citizens who defended
themselves against indiscriminate aggression.
Thirdly, exposing the events of what is now referred to as the
"Kwangju Democratisation Movement" may have a cathartic effect on the
Kwangju people who suffered the pains of repression, as well as the
concealment of facts. As Gebhard Hielscher suggests, "True
can come only after the whole truth has been revealed" (p. 61). One of
goals of this book is to soothe the wounds left by the Kwangju massacre.
According to the editors, it does not intend to bring people to the bar
Besides this humanitarian quality, this work invites further
exciting research on such figures as the two fascinating student
Yun Sang Won and Chun Ok Ju. Both displayed extraordinary resolve,
and intelligence. Interestingly, Yun, the students' main spokesman, was
mentioned by several foreign reporters but seemed to be unknown to the
Korean side, both press and military.
In the epilogue, the editors present theses to explain why the
Kwangju massacre happened, why Chun Doo-hwan came to power, and why the
paratroopers acted in such an outrageous manner. Although very
these theses are slightly disconnected from the press accounts.
Nevertheless, this in no way tarnishes the inspirational effort of this
book to heal wounds and provide information about the Kwangju events.
Scott-Stokes and Lee have assembled a collection of reports that
speak to one another despite their distinct viewpoints. The end result
solid, vivid, and informative portrayal of the Kwangju Democratisation
Walhain, Luc 2000
Review of Henry Scott-Stokes and Lee Jai Eui, eds., _The Kwangju
Eyewitness Press Accounts of Korea's Tiananmen_, (2000)
_Korean Studies Review_ 2000, no. 12
Electronic file: http://www.iic.edu/thelist/review/ksr00-12.htm
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