Legal Alien: A Scotsman in Montreal

Complete Ignorance

When I was staying in Kwangju in South Korea, I was very close to a memorial for a protest that happened on May 18 1980. In this picture, every single metal pole represents one casualty!!! There are a LOT of poles - I was shocked by the number and more so that I'd never heard about this. After all, EVERYONE knows about Tiananmen Square, so I did a little digging...

President Park was assassinated on 26 October 1979, and DEFCON 3 was declared later that day. A powerful American naval task force moved into the Korean strait to counter any possible North Korean plans to exploit the death of President Park, with the Kitty Hawk CVBG ordered to a position south of Korea.

In 1980 a growing storm of protest calling for democratic reforms led to the declaration of martial law in South Korea and the massacre of several hundred people in the town of Kwangju. Massive demonstrations by the students continued until May 16, paralyzing the nation. Kwangju, a city of 600,000 people located 170 miles south of Seoul, in South Cholla Province, was the scene of an uprising and bloodbath between May 18 and 27.

So I did some more investigating as the US involvement was a little controversial...

On May 18, after five hours of eyewitness and expert testimony and the presentation of documented evidence, the Kwangju People's Tribunal found the U.S. government guilty of crimes against the people of Korea. The guilty verdict was related to U.S. involvement in the murderous suppression of a people's uprising here 22 years ago.

On May 18, 1980, the people of Kwangju rebelled against a violent assault on students who were protesting the former military regime's declaration of martial law.

Students and workers joined together. With massive street demonstrations and a quickly formed people's militia, they battled police and Korean Special Forces troops, managing to seize control of the city for several days. At least 2,000 people were killed in these battles and when the military brutally retook control of the city on May 27.

The Tribunal found 10 U.S. government officials at the time guilty of complicity in this suppression. They include President Jimmy Carter, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea William Gleysteen, and U.S.-Korean Combined Forces Commander in South Korea John Wickham.

The most damaging evidence of U.S. criminal involvement was Wickham's decision to release four divisions of south Korean army special forces troops for deployment in Kwangju. This approval was required because the south Korean army is under direct U.S. command.

Recently declassified documents showed that U.S. officials said the decision to release the troops should be kept quiet because it would fuel anti-U.S. sentiment if it became known.

2000 people!!! Y'know, I don't know why I'm surprised anymore at things like this...