Other Impressions About Gwangju

Roselys Travieso (Open Lecture participant)On May 22, I was invited by my good friends from the International Strategy Center to get to know a city located in the Southeast of Korea, Gwangju. The trip was long, but it was worth it to share and get to meet new Korean friends that taught me the truth about the “massacre of Gwangju” 36 years later. It was an enlightening experience.

While listening to the stories and looking at the images of what happened, I was reminded of my own country’s (Venezuela’s) 1989 Caracazo. The people had risen up against the repressive policies of the then President Carlos Andrez Perez. For a moment, I felt sadness in my heart in seeing the images of so many Korean brothers dying in the struggle, but then I was reminded of the words of my compatriot Ali Primera, “Those that die for life do not deserve to be called dead.” My sadness disappeared and became the realization that this moment paved the path for democracy in Korea. I am grateful to the ISC for taking me on this trip and teaching me the history of this tragedy that became a symbol for the organized community: the “birthplace of the Revolution.”

Ana Traynin (Open Lecture participant) On May 22, 2016, I joined an International Strategy Center/Together Seoul tour of major Gwangju sites related to the May 18th Democratic Uprising. As a 3-year resident of Gwangju, I was already familiar with Geumnam-ro, the old Provincial Hall, the 5.18 Archives and the 5.18 Cemetery, but joining the tour was an important part of a yearly reminder of the events of May 1980. I could also see the different reactions of people travelling from Seoul, some of who were visiting Gwangju for the first time. While the month of May is still very prevalent in this city, it may be very different in other parts of the country and it is interesting to see people coming from far away to see that. Two years ago, “March of the Beloved” was sung at the Mangwol Cemetery People’s Ceremony in protest of the song being banned from the National Cemetery. I didn’t know the words yet. This year, we sang in our small group in the sunny late afternoon and by now, I know the song by heart. It was a memorable experience.