|Risking My Life As a Member of the Red Cross|
|Date : 2008-11-17 Hit : 4083|
I Gwangyeong was a buddhist monk when the uprising broke out. He wrote slogans on cars and cloths on Buddha's Birthday. That afternoon, as a member of the Red Cross, he carried the wounded and collected medical supplies and blood. In the process, he was shot. Later, he attempted suicide, being extremely frustrated of being a hemiplegic. However, he eventually overcame the mental and the physical problems and endeavored to form May Association of the Injured, on his wheelchair.
The following is his testimony.
Ended Up Being a Buddhist Monk
I was born in Geumsa-li, Geundong-myeon, Gangjin-gun in Jeonnam province in 1953. My father was a typical farmer who owned about 9900 square meters of rice paddy and 13,200 square meters of the field for growing other crops. Although he was not well-educated, his expectations of his sons' success in their schools were much greater than the well-educated. Especially, he counted on me a lot. My brother's discontinued study might have made him invest in me. After graduating the junior highschool in Gangjin, I moved to Gwangju to go to highschool there. Meanwhile, when I was in the junior highschool, I was considered a troublemaker. Frequent conflicts between the students living in Gangjin and the students commuting from the outer areas made me a delinquent boy. I had no spare time to study, looking after cows as well as my brothers, while those kids living in the downtown area did not do the chores and focused only on studying. Thus, the dissatisfaction caused by the difference in the living environment made me rebellious.
One day, a group fighting finally broke out. As the result of the fighting, one kid of my opposite side got hurt and hospitalized. And that cost me dearly. I was suspended for a while from school. It was then that I became interested in Buddhism.
After the incident, I became a good student. I studied very hard and was recognized even by one of my teachers. I was able to enter Jeonnam High School in Gwangju with his help. In Gwangju, I lived alone and I was a bookworm. I looked very much normal superficially. However, I was unstable inside. The main cause was 'the feeling of isolation' (or 'the feeling of inferiority') that most students from small towns had. I often asked myself, Why in the world was I born in countryside?
Meantime, I graduated from the high school in 1972 and applied for a college of law in Seoul; I failed to get in. I packed and headed for the Tae-an Temple in Gogseong-gun to study. I chose a temple because I wanted to find the dept of the teaching of Buddhism while studying. As a result, I became more fascinated with the religion than before, staying there. I was considerably influenced especially by one of the young monks in the temple. At last, I stopped studying to become a monk. One of the motives of being a monk was the cozy atmosphere inside and outside the temple, and another was the desire to live a meaningful life. From my view point, living as a monk was more meaningful than living as a doctor.
After I finished my seven months of apprenticeship to be a monk, I was given a Buddhist name, 'Jingag' by a master monk, Dogwang in Hwa-eom Temple. I finally became a real Buddhist monk. Even though I belonged to Hwa-eom Temple, I moved around, studying and meeting monks. Meanwhile, I managed to attend the law school of Donggug University for three years as an auditor.
People would wonder why I continued to study law, even after I entered a monastery, but it was personally intended for the necessary moment in the future. If I Speak of my military days, I was in the infantry in Yanggu not as a military monk, but as an ordinary soldier. I endeavored to maintain an exemplary life during the time. Meanwhile, I was very close to the monk named Seong-yeon from Songgwang-sa Buddhist Temple and we often talked about the proper manners of monks, ascetic methods, and many others. It was also Seong-yeon who let me know of Gwangju Uprising; I went to Gwangju to see off the head monk of Jeungsim-sa Buddhist Temple, Hyeongwang who was Seong-yeon's master. At that time, I was studying law at Dabo-sa Buddhist Temple in Naju.
Hiding Inside the Gwangju East District Office
I arrived in Gwangju on May 14 to help people in Jeungsim-sa Buddhist Temple since they were very busy preparing for Buddha's Birthday on May 21. Seong-yeon and I were in charge of shopping and Daein-dong Market and Yang-dong Market were the places where we mainly stopped by. They were where we witnessed the odd atmosphere; I overheard on May 17 that soldiers would be placed in the city.
On May 18, out to shop, I again witnessed several scenes of demonstration; in front of the Office of Labor, in front of Jeonnam National University Hospital, on Geumnam Street, and in many other locations. I also saw that the police shot tear gas in a random manner, but not with soldiers on the scene yet. That day, the martial law was extended and the curfew was reset. In the downtown area, the sign of a coming storm was seen frequently. In those days, I was a bit insensitive to the social atmosphere. Nevertheless, I had the feeling of hatred toward the society, which was mainly affected by the arrest of some monks. About Gwangju Uprising, I only knew that it was against the abusive power of the military regime and that it was the resistance of the public to overturn the monopolistic regime.
On May 19, Seong-yeon and I went shopping again. When we were in a public bath in the downtown area around 9:30 in the morning, suddenly a shout was heard outside. I came out from the bath with the intention to join them this time. The number of the demonstrators on Geumnam Street seemed to be over tens of thousands. In order to fight the paratroopers at the Provincial Hall, they needed something to fight with. They started breaking the sidewalk to get something to throw at the paratroopers and I did likewise. A rock-throwing battle between the two parties began at last. Minutes later, the paratroopers started running toward the demonstrators at a quick pace and they did not seem to care about the rocks. Their spirits did not seem to be stopped by anything and moreover they were fully armed with clubs and M16s. It was the armed force which was intended to kill. I retreated to the Han-il Bank four-way-intersection with about 10,000 demonstrators. However, we realized that we totally ran out of luck after we encountered another group of paratroopers there. In the end, standing face to face with them at the dead end, we could not but fistfight with them. I managed to escape from the unimaginable mess with eight others to hide in the place called Jeonnam Sports Shop. It did not take long until the area became calm and right away the paratroopers, using a loudspeaker, started threatening us to turn ourselves in. At the same time, accompanied with screaming sounds, paratroopers' door-to-door search began.
A moment later, as I expected, the shutter of the shop in which we were hiding was finally kicked by numerous combat boots. As the shutter was broken down, about 10 paratroopers entered the place and began to search. I wasted no time to go upstairs and hid behind a curtain. Then, I heard the footsteps of combat boots which was coming toward me. Come out, you little shit! As I stood still there, the curtain was moved. My first reaction was to smile at them and so was his. The only difference was that he could do something else: beating and kicking. I had no idea how long I was hit, but I was still alive. The captured civilians were taken outside, with their hands on the heads.
The street was literally a mess. It was rather a horror movie, in which young people with their faces covered with blood were being taken somewhere. The paratroopers randomly kicked and smacked us, saying that we were walking too slow. Then, all of a sudden, a short shriek was heard from the back. It was that a young man's thigh was stabbed with a bayonet.
That was not all. Anyone who fell had to suffer from the random beating. To avoid it, I had to walk fast and stay at the front of the group. Meanwhile, the paratroopers kept on beating and stabbing. Their eyes were just like those of beasts staring at their preys.
You damn traitors, do you have any idea how many days we lived without food? Do you know who's responsible for that?
Soon we were joined by other arrested people and there I found a young guy all covered with blood. I hastily grabbed his arm. Helping him, another rare scene in front of Gwangju Tourist Hotel drew my attention. A large group of people were being loaded into military trucks, only with their underwears on. The thought instantly came into my head was that being in that truck meant dying. Meantime, as we passed Gwangju East District Office, out of many spectators, a policeman with his lieutenant badge on courageously said a word, How could you take these wounded people without proper medical treatment? If you leave them like this, they'll die soon.
The paratroopers first ignored his words, but as the demand became intense, they finally agreed on it. As I entered the Gwangju East District Office, holding one of the wounded, the policeman came up to me and whispered in my ear. At first, I did not understand what he said. When I paid more attention, I was then able to hear it. Run! Run fast! The moment I heard it, I instinctively reacted. However, the only place that I could go was the upstairs. Fortunately, some citizens blocked the soldiers to help me get away safely and I managed to find a hiding place on the second floor. It was an ordinary office with 30-40 workers. I immediately started explaining my situation to them and cried for help. Luckily, with their help, I was put on their uniform and sat on one of the empty chairs. After a little while, several soldiers came in the office to find me. As they threatened the workers, asking about me, the chief stood up and talked right back to them.
What do you think you're doing? We're handling some important governmental work here. Don't you think it's a bit rude to interrupt us like this?
As he yelled at them with a commanding voice, they left the scene. They must have felt small because of his big posture and stern voice. The chief and the workers saved my life.
Around lunchtime, Geumnam Street was recaptured by citizens and more people than in the morning congregated. The crowd literally filled the street. I joined the demonstrators again. Meanwhile, the afternoon issue was focused on the Catholic Center. The argument between the people in the center and the demonstrators was that about eight paratroopers were seen on the roof of the building. The citizens kept demanding them to give up the soldiers and the workers in the center went on convincing them that there was not any in the building. In the process, some radical youngsters lost their patience, set fire on several vehicles in the parking area, and broke in the building. After searching the inside, they captured the soldiers on the 7th floor. Then, they disarmed them and threw their weapons out of the window. It definitely made the crowd very excited.
It was an immense victory of the citizens, considering that they had been losing all the fights. Meantime, the youngsters attempted to dump them out of the window as well, losing their control. At that moment, the crowd outside persuaded them not to. We can't be irrational as they are. We have to pull ourselves together. In the end, they decided to burn only the center. However, as they took out office fixtures to burn, paratroopers again came out of nowhere to stop the action, shooting tear gas. The citizens were pushed away from the Catholic Center and the place was recaptured by the paratroopers. I suppose that at least 100 people would have been arrested on the scene and that many of them would have been killed. According to the statistics provided by some catholic organization later, seven dead bodies were found in the building.
In the late afternoon, I demonstrated near the Citizens' Hall. At around 3 PM, passing through the rear gate of the Express Bus Terminal, I went to the restroom inside the terminal. Normally, it was very crowded, but it was empty then. I could feel that something was definitely wrong there. Buses were not leaving the city. One other evidence supporting the fact was the scene viewed in the main building of the terminal; paratroopers were examining cars thoroughly. Anyhow, as I entered the restroom, there was blood everywhere and a dead body was laid on the floor. The head was crushed and the entire body was cut by a bayonet. I was in a total shock. I could not move an inch. It was the first dead body that I witnessed in Gwangju and in my entire life as well. After I calmed myself down a bit, I left the scene and told the story to others. At that time, people brought stories of their own and got all agitated.
An unconfirmed rumor was moving around. The tension in the downtown area increased. Gunshots were heard from time to time. More paratroopers were brought into the city and in the late afternoon, the demonstration came to a lull. Major roads and buildings were occupied by the paratroopers, and young people were considered as rioters and arrested. The city was again covered with fear. I thought about escaping from the horrifying mess, but it seemed impossible. Buses were controlled by paratroopers. Besides, my face had some scratches and my clothes were blood-stained, so once I was spotted, they would know that I was one of the demonstrators. While I was hesitating to make a decision, a chance visited me. A truck driver gave me a ride, hiding me in the back of the seat. I was able to sneak out from Gwangju to get to Naju. Getting medical treatment, on May 20, I spent the entire day in Dabo-sa Buddhist Temple. Staying there, I paid close attention to the radio to hear about Gwangju, but no truth seemed to be broadcasted. That day, I heard that the MBC Broadcasting Station and Internal Revenue Service were burnt down by citizens. Meanwhile, nothing special happened in Naju.
May 21 was a special day for me since it was Buddha's Birthday. I contacted Seong-yeon in Jeungsim-sa Buddhist Temple and made an arrangement to participate in the demonstration once again as buddhist monks. However, the situation became worse that day; the road to Gwangju was blocked and so were incoming and outgoing calls. Therefore, with several youngsters, I walked to the place called Seochang and from there I took a bus to Gwangju.
An Aged Man Wrote the Slogans for Us
The downtown area was filled with excitement. In many places, black smoke was rising and a considerable number of military vehicles seized from the Asia Motors factory were seen; the men in the vehicles sang the Korean national anthem, with their headbands around their heads and armed with clubs. Strangely, for some reason, I found myself assimilating to them. Citizens were also out to cheer for them. The scene was very similar to that of a fiesta. Then, I suddenly felt that something was missing in the 'party.' I tried hard to come up with a good answer. 'No order and no leadership' Yes, that was it. It seemed that there was neither a proper order in the 'ceremony' nor a leading power. Things were being handled in a spontaneous and impromptu manner. I strongly felt the need for the force to unite the scattered power. The first thought that came to my mind was printed materials. However, it was a bit complicated matter to put into action. Then, I thought of placards and decided to make them. I entered a signboard shop to get some help, and it did not take me long to find some people to give me a hand. But, still I needed to find a massive amount of cloths and a vehicle to move them around. The car problem was finally resolved after finding the man with a jeep on the street.
We drove to the quilt shop in Yang-dong Market. The ladies working there were very cooperative. We were also looking for some way to help you. They let us take as much cloths as we wanted. And then, we came out to the road in front of the market and started making placards. In the process, more people came to help us and later, the number of the team members reached up to 40; I was the leader of the group. While we were doing the work, what was seen was some students in a car driving around and appealing to join them at the Provincial Hall.
Even a 70-year-old man, the owner of a Chinese pharmacy came by to give us a hand. He was very good at calligraphy. Meanwhile, we were so absorbed in the work that we forgot to eat. Although there were boxes full of bread and soda sitting right beside us which citizens provided us, the work was the first priority. We kept working and working. We tried to hang the placards on as many cars as we could and sometimes we directly painted slogans on the cars. The idea was a successful one. Later, more than a hundred cars were waiting to hang placards. Meantime, the slogans were like these: Abolish the martial law!, Release Gim Daejung!, Guarantee the freedom of speech!, Until the last minute!, and Congregate at the Provincial Hall by 3 PM!.
It was around 2:00 in the afternoon when we finished the work. By that time, a gunfight was in progress at the Provincial Hall. Eating lunch with the last 10 men left there, I had a word with them about what to do next. We decided to drive around until we came up with an idea. Streets were jammed with cars. The traffic jam seemed to be caused by the gunfight in the downtown area.
We headed for Baeg-un-dong via Weolsan-dong. Then, all of a sudden, a helicopter appeared out of nowhere and shot a couple of rounds. At the same time, a female student under the roadside tree felt down helplessly like a falling leaf. I stopped the car right away, loaded her in, and headed for Red Cross Hospital. The hospital was a total mess. Not to mention the emergency room and the wards, even the corridors had already been filled with patients. A doctor was about to burst into tears.
What we need here is not patients, but medical supplies and blood. Please go get them for us.
There we found our next assignment and sat down with the doctors. First, we had them write down the items that they urgently needed. Next, we wore uniforms and Red Cross arm bands and loaded two stretchers into our car. In addition, we made an oath, hanging two national flags on the car; We will sacrifice our lives to serve for the people.; We will save lives.; We will never back off under any circumstances.; We will protect civilians.
All afternoon long, we had been busy (five men including the driver) supplying medicines and blood to hospitals, and carrying the wounded. The amount of work that we had to handle was truly enormous. Nevertheless, doing the work, we felt pride. Saving lives was definitely worth doing. Besides, the reactions of citizens were very positive. They even provided us food and drink. Pharmacies and hospitals were also very cooperative. Pharmacists handed us medicines for free. Hospitals also offered free treatments. Especially, in Gwangju Christian Hospital, all the employees worked 10 straight days without resting. Meanwhile, not every experience was a pleasant one. When we dropped by one small clinic to ask for some medicines, we were turned down. One of my men, in fact, well knew about the place and the lying doctor made him lose his temper. I know you have plenty in your basement. Go get'em. Still he did not seem to cooperate. The storage was finally opened as we fired a blank shot and threatened him. The room was full of medicines. This is just one of a few unpleasant memories about Gwangju citizens.
Blood Donation Killed an Angel
That day, around 3:30 PM, I saw the people in the vehicle from Hwasun handing over weapons to those who were on the sidewalk near the bus station in Jiweon-dong. They might have been to some armory in Hwasun.
In the meantime, after a fight at the Provincial Hall, our car went into the scene and took three wounded people out of there. Of the three, there was a kid named Bag Sangcheol. He was a middle school boy and shot in the spine. I wasted no time to take him to Jeonnam National University Hospital, but they would not check him in. Time was running out. He needed to get treated immediately. We were finally able to put him in Gwangju Christian Hospital. If we had been a minute late, he would have died. He is still under medical treatment, not being able to go back to school. I have even been to the base camps of paratroops located at Gwangju Penitentiary, at the Provincial Hall, and at the main gate of Joseon University to find out if they also had some wounded soldiers.
We can help take your patients to hospitals.
Mind your own business. We'll send them to Army Hospital.
Our generous offer was refused like that. While we were there, we saw some civilian bodies covered with cloths. The soldiers were loading them into trucks and helicopters. The number of dead bodies that I confirmed was over one hundred. I suppose that the actual number would be much higher than my calculation.
Around 6:00 in the afternoon, we were passing through Yangrim-dong to go to Gwangju Christian Hospital to drop the donated blood, though donation was made spontaneously, citizens were very cooperative. Then, a girl who seemed to be a middle school student stopped the car.
I wanna donate blood too.
We tried to convince her that we had enough volunteers, but she kept on insisting. In the end, we had to give her a ride to Gwangju Christian Hospital. And then, we helped moving some patients in the emergency room of Jeonnam National University Hospital to other hospitals to prevent it from being overcrowded.
As we got to Gwangju Christian Hospital with patients, people there were in grief. They were mourning for a dead girl who was shot in the head and dead on the scene. When I walked up to the body to see, I thought I was going to faint. She was the one that I just gave a ride. I heard that she got shot on the way home after donating blood. It has been eight years since the incident happened, but my heart is still aching. If I had not taken her to the hospital, she would have not died in vain.
The Provincial Hall was reoccupied by citizen army and the paratroops retreated to the outer areas of the city. Around sunset, all the team members were knocked out due to the hard labor. I too wished to get some rest. However, the situation did not allow us to. It was because the evacuation of the paratroops was not completed; some still remained in the major buildings in the downtown area.
Even Shooting at Red Cross Rescuers
As we were driving along Gwangju River to get to Gwangju Christian Hospital, several mid-aged ladies blocked our car and begged for help. It was about rescuing the possible survivors of the six men shot at the four-way intersection near the old City Hall. They said that only Red Cross rescuers could save them since the paratroops there fired at whoever tried to get near them. I instinctively sensed that if I had gone there, my life would have been in great danger. However, my Red Cross armband kept reminding me of my responsibilities and obligations as a rescuer. After all, despite an objection to the idea among the members, we decided to go there.
It was not long until we spotted some wounded men on the street. Then, at the same time, the roaring of a rifle was heard. It surprised us enough to make us hide in the alley nearby. As soon as the car was pulled over, I looked around to see if there was anyone hurt. Quite unfortunately, there was; one of my men was shot in the arm.
They are shooting at us, too.
Thinking about what just happened made me very enraged at them. Two opinions were brought up: that is, saving ourselves by hiding in the alley and sacrificing our lives to save the wounded.
I was at a loss before the life-and-death situation. It all came down to one word of the man holding the key, the driver. His mouth was finally opened.
Good! Let's do it.
He made a decision and it seemed that we had no other choices. We had to get out there again. We were very scared.
What we did that day, as I recall, was such a brave thing. It can be said that the decision was greatly affected by the overall atmosphere of Gwangju in those days (at the mercy of compulsion and mood), but the fact that we risked our lives to do it should be praised. Especially, the driver was something.
We approached the wounded to load them into our car. As I lifted the arm of one wounded man, a gunshot was heard and at the same time, I fell down with the unbearable pain in my spine.
'Bang! Bang! Bang!'
More gunshots and the screaming of my men rang my ears dimly. Our car was heading toward Gwangju Christian Hospital. The unimaginable pain made me scream on and on. I thought that I would die like that. The last thing that I saw before I went unconscious was the signboard, 'Emergency Room.' Two men were killed, two were injured in the incident, and only the driver was alive in one piece.
On the night of May 22, I went through a surgery. It was found that the bullet hit the spine and the central nerve system was broken. Moreover, the pain after the surgery was so unbearable that I screamed all day long. Meanwhile, the hospital lacked rooms to put all the patients. The unlucky ones had to be put in the corridors as well as in the lounge. What I was looking at was not an ordinary hospital, but a field hospital.
Overcoming Fear And Death
On May 27, around 4 AM, the morning was awaken by gunshots. It went on nearly for an hour. Along with it, a female voice was heard from the street speakers.
Gwangju citizens, Martial army are killing innocent people at random. I know we are bare-handed, but we can win this fight. Do not hesitate to come forward. We have children and families to protect.
The rumor that the paratroops would sweep away the hospital made the employees busy. They started hiding those who could walk first. I became very scared. The uneasiness did not allow me to go to bed.
Half a month later, the men from the Joint Investigation Headquarters came by to investigate, took whoever turned out to be active participants. We did nothing but sit there to be taken. As the result of the investigation, tens of people including Gim Haengju (18 at that time, enrolled in Gwangju Commercial High School) were taken somewhere. In addition, active participants were not even given so-called 'consolation money': 1,000,000 won for the slightly injured, 3,000,000 won for the severely injured, and 4,000,000 won for the dead. Meanwhile, I believed that I was dying slowly; the pain was gradually increasing and the lower half of my body became paralyzed. I started thinking about death. In fact, I attempted suicide several times. The first attempt was to hang myself, tying my neck to the bed frame. The second plan was to run away from the hospital and die peacefully in a buddhist temple. Since the hospital would not let me leave, the only way to get out of there was to sneak out. However, the plan resulted in a failure. The third attempt occurred as I took 70 painkillers at one time; about 100 pills are the fatal dose, but that was all I had. In the end, I failed again and woke up after three days.
The government raised money for helping Gwangju people and some of that money went into hospitals. However, it was not long until the financial aid stopped and patients had to leave. Even a petition was sent to extend the treatment period, but it did not do any good. A couple of days later, 3.5 billion won was put in to build Children's Park in Gwangju. What a nonsense! They could afford to build the park, while they could not afford to pay the medical bills.
After I got kicked out of the hospital, I rented a room with the leftover of my consolation money. Instead of going back to the temple or to my parents' house, I decided to stay alone. It was intended to start the fight with myself. Doing the laundry, cooking, and going to the bathroom were the hardest of all, living alone. Sometimes, unable to ride the wheelchair for myself, I rolled around in the room to work. Also, my body was far from being normal, taking a handful of painkillers at a time. Meanwhile, one day, a lady whom I knew before the Gwangju Uprising paid me a visit as she heard about me. Days later, she proposed to me and I had to let her down, for I thought that was all I could do for her. I stayed in Seoul for five months without contacting anyone, but she found me through my sister. In the end, she and I got married in 1982.
A Brand-new Start
On Aug. 18, 1982, May Association of the Injured was formed. The reasons why I founded it are as follows:
In 1981, I attended the one-year anniversary of the Gwangju Uprising held in YWCA. It was the first trip outside after the accident. Except for myself on a wheelchair, there were no other injured people. Moreover, most of the attendants looked very tensed. It seemed to reflect the overall social atmosphere in the 80's. Nevertheless, some pastors and intellectuals made brave comments though. It was then I heard about the gathering of bereaved families for the first time. They also asserted that the compensation problem should be resolved, that the truth should be revealed, and that the monopolistic regime should cease to exist.
However, no one brought up specifics. I then realized that the problems of the injured had to be resolved by the injured, and concluded that cooperating one another was the best solution. I started visiting them one by one and tried to convince them, but they were afraid of the revenge by the government. Meantime, the news was conveyed very fast to the government authorities. People from the Department of Intelligence in Gwangju West Metropolitan Police paid me a visit to force me to give it up. As a result, I could not help abandoning the plan, facing too many obstacles.
The same atmosphere was repeated at the second-year anniversary held in Namdong Catholic Church. I again felt strong need for the association of the injured and determined to make it happen for sure. Supported by Pastor Gang Sinseog of Mujin Church, I restarted the plan. Again, I was oppressed by the government, but I held on. Finally, with the participation of many courageous men including Jeong Jaehui, the association was founded after numerous preliminary meetings. Bag Seog-yeon was appointed the first president, Jeong Jaehui and Im Jeongha the vice presidents. I became the director of the general affairs. The injured were able to participate in various social activities in a more organized manner and gained more power, supported by the public. Accordingly, the pressure from the police increased. However, we did not submit to them, not even once. We have been fighting for the overthrow of the monopolistic regime, the revelation of the truth, and the resolution of the compensation problem with the same spirits as we had back in 1980. As the result of our persistent fight, the medical insurance cards were issued to us. But, the card allowed us to get only 1,740 won of free treatment a day. Although it was better than nothing, it was nearly useless. Considering the reality in those days, we had to be satisfied with it. In addition, Jeonnam Regional Development Committee gave out 10,000,000 won to each bereaved family, and 1,000,000 won to 10,000,000 won to the injured. However, the active participants were not given the money and moreover, there was a conspiracy hidden. The money to bereaved families was in exchange for moving their tombs out of Mang-weol Cemetery. It was clearly intended to disorganize the association. Thus, the monopolistic regime did not hesitate to oppress us, using various methods. Also, we had to suffer from surveillance or confinement whenever some key government figures visited Gwangju. I too experienced more than 10 times of confinements in temples in other regions.
The Government Is the Enemy
I once testified at National Reconciliation Committee which was organized by Democratic Justice Party in 1988, nominally to resolve Gwangju problems. The contents that I testified are as follows:
The reason why I testified there was not because I trusted the organization, but because I wished to be a messenger, someone who could send the message of Gwangju citizens. Therefore, my intention was to persuade those who would try to distort the truth and to object to them. Meanwhile, the committee was improperly composed. The judging committee was consisted of 12 members: two public officials, two lawyers, two professors, two medical doctors, and four from the Gwangju Uprising-related organizations. I doubted whether they could reveal the truth independently and autonomously. Even so, I doubted whether people would believe them.
Now, it is the time that we should let people know the truth and that the history book should be rewritten. To do so, some crucial points should be dealt and clarified such as the number of the dead and the injured, the person in charge of the massacre, and the role of America on the uprising.
As for the number of the deceased, the government announced that it was 191. This is a clear fabrication. Since I was involved in the medical service activities, I am very sure of it. The calculation merely includes the dead bodies in the morgues of hospitals and in Sangmu Hall. Where are the rest of the bodies that Martial Army took then? How would they explain about the bodies found in some mountain? This is not all. The death of a man named Gi Jongdo in a penitentiary indirectly proves that the figure was a concoction (he was deeply involved in the funerals in relation to the Gwangju Uprising and knew the place in Hwasun where a number of bodies were buried. The cause of his death are still unknown).
The number that we provided was an estimated 2,000. It was based on many objective truths and on the figure (2,627 deceased in June) recorded in The Statistical Yearbook of Gwangju. Considering that the average number of the deceased a month in Gwangju is 258, 2,000 is a very close calculation. Another fabrication of the government is revealed in the calculation of the injured. Adding up the number of the people treated in their houses and in personal hospitals, I get an estimated 2,500. However, the government announced that it was roughly 1,000. Besides, they asked for the proofs for missing people and the names and the ranks of the injurers for the injured, and if people couldn't provide those, they didn't put the number of the people on the record.
Conclusively, the revelation of the truth and the resolution of the problems must be done, and they must be done fairly and objectively through exercising the authority of investigation of the National Assembly. The victims have to be compensated financially and a special law has to be also made to treat them as equally as veterans. Additionally, all the problems related to the Gwangju Uprising should be completely resolved; the name, rioter should be renamed, every doubtful aspect should be clarified, and every complaint of the victims should be disappeared.
I am currently working as a supplier of subsidiary foods and I have two daughters. The first one is 'Uimi' ('meaning' in English). She is seven years old and going to a kindergarten. Her name bears two meanings. First, it implies that she is the 'meaningful' fruit of romance. Second, it mean to succeed the true 'meaning' of the Gwangju Uprising. The second one is 'Yeomi.' To me, my wife and my daughters are everything. Although I am paralyzed on one side, I am happily married. And, I would be much happier if all the problems regarding the Gwangju Uprising could be resolved, I am waiting for the true democracy to come.
(Inquired and edited by Choe Jeongsug)
Rights: The May 18 Institute/Prof. Shin
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