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The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"Kwangju was the army's chosen battleground"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 17 May, 2000, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Koreans mourn Kwangju massacre
Massacre victim
Hundreds were killed
By Caroline Gluck in Kwangju

Hundreds of families in South Korea have joined ceremonies in the city of Kwangju, in memory of relatives gunned down by government troops during a pro-democracy rally in 1980.

The government says more than 200 people were killed in what became known as the Kwangju uprising, which began on 18 May 1980.

The families say the figure was far higher as scores of people went missing and today their fate is still unknown.
Kwangju massacre
Residents rose up against the army

The Kwangju uprising was a pivotal moment in South Korea's struggle for democracy.

Protests against military rule were held across the country but Kwangju, in the south-west, was the army's chosen battleground.

It was the home province of the prominent dissident, Kim Dae-Jung, today South Korea's president.

Protests

What started off as a largely student-led protest eventually became city-wide as residents rose up against the army's brutality, many arming themselves.
mourner at graveside
A woman mourns for the dead

The uprising was eventually crushed by troops, among them members of the elite special forces.

The military-led government justified its action by calling the protesters mob rioters and North Korean Communist sympathisers.

Jailed

More than a decade later, under a civilian government, those leaders, including two former presidents, were handed lengthy jail terms for their role in the massacre. They were later given special pardon.
President Kim Dae-Jung
President Kim Dae-Jung was once a prominent dissident

Today the protesters are recognised for their role in fighting for justice but in Kwangju many feel there are still questions which need to be answered, including the exact death toll and who gave the orders for the killings.

Others believe the only way to uncover the truth is to hold a South African-style truth and reconciliation commission which would allow those involved to give testimony without the threat of prosecution.

That, they say, would help heal the psychological scars from the event still present in Korean society.

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17 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Flashback: The Kwangju massacre
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