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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Thu, 22 May 97 11:19:06 CDT
From: Workers World <ww@wwpublish.com>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: Workers Around the World: 5/29/97
Article: 11400

Protests mark Kwangju anniversary

By Andy McInerney, Workers World, 29 May 1997

Troops surround demonstrating students and workers. The order comes: The Carter administration has given the OK. Hours later, after the tear gas clears, over 2,000 people are dead.

That was May 18, 1980, in Kwangju, south Korea. Today, two of the generals who ordered the attack, Chun Doo- hwan and Roh Tae-woo, are in prison. For the first time, the south Korean government was forced to acknowledge the national day of mourning.

The movement that gave rise to the Kwangju martyrs is still alive and well. On May 17, some 3,000 people marked the anniversary with funeral rites for a student killed in the most recent round of demonstrations in March. Hundreds fought with police, who tried to stop the demonstrators from taking to the streets. The riot police faced a rain of fire, bombarded by students’ molotov cocktails.

The running battles escalated May 18. The students’ numbers swelled into the thousands. Tear gas covered the Chosun University campus in Kwangju again.

On May 18, some 5,000 Kwangju residents attended ceremonies at the newly dedicated May 18 Cemetery. There, 124 victims of the massacre were recently buried. Prime Minister Koh Kun spoke at the event, giving the first government acknowledgment that the students and workers were in a fight to protect democracy.

Koh’s government may feel compelled to give some recognition to the powerful people’s movement. After all, the country faced several weeks of national strikes in December and January against new anti-labor codes and national security laws.

Despite the February 1996 Journal of Commerce expos, of the Carter administration’s prior approval of the Kwangju massacre, no U.S. official has ever faced trial for the deaths. Yet nearly 40,000 U.S. troops occupy south Korea to this day.