Thursday, May 17, 2012

Remembering May 18

Not many have the idea that the Republic of Korea has had a long history of authoritarian rule. May 18, this day will remain as a unique day for long time ,although many young people even in Korea might not be that much aware of the significance of the day. For the people who are aware of the period in the Korean history where there were fierce resistance by the people to defend their rights,they will be very proud. Thousands of people gave away their life fighting for the restoration of democracy.

May 18 movement or 518 ,is basically referred to the popular uprising in the city of Gwangju, South Korea from May 18 to May 27, 1980.18th of May is taken to commemorate the event although the uprising took place for several days. Citizens of Gwangju rose up against Chun Doo-hwan's military dictatorship and took control of the city. In the course of the uprising, citizens took up arms to defend themselves, but were ultimately crushed by the army. General Chun Doo-hwan took power through a coup after the assassination of President Park Chung-hee. Already there were severe repression during the period of President Park but the new administration made the lives of people more stringent and democratic protest movement were crushed down. Nation wide demonstrations took place against martial laws which also saw the participation of thousands of citizens. One of the fiercest resistance movements took place in the city of Gwangju in South Jeolla province. The protesters began to arms to defend the city as the soldiers began to brutalize the people. Several protesters were gunned downed,beaten up and tortured. The whole city was seize during the period. But the irony was that the news of the incident was not reported or heard in other parts of the country as the Government had prevented to do so.

Everyear the Gwangju city organizes memorial ceremonies. May 18 Foundation constitutes an award ceremony for the people working for democracy.I got the knowledge about May 18 after a lady from my hometown was given the Gwangju Human rights Award 2007 for her fight against the a law which gives special power to the security forces. Irom Sharmila Chanu,the Iron Lady has been on hunger fast since 2000. She is under arrest at a hospital where she is forcefully fed through the nose. On November 1, 2000, in Malom, a small town in Imphal, ten people waiting for their buses at a bus station were allegedly gunned down by soldiers operating in the state. The lack of government response convinced Irom Sharmila , then 28, to act. She launched her hunger strike against the wider problems of a draconian Act called the Armed Forces special Power's Act or AFSPA.

In recognition for her fight against the human rights abuse and exploitation of people the May 18 Foundation awarded her the Gwangju Human Rights Award and that particular recognition gave her the courage to continue on her struggle.

The people who laid their lives for the betterment of their fellow countrymen will always be remembered for their courage and patriotism. The uprising and protest that occurred in May in Gwangju and other parts of Korea is a good lesson for people all over the world who cherish democracy and freedom.It gives a hope for the people yearning for democary.

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