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Friday, November 25, 2005

Kwangju 1980 and the case of An Byeong-ha


Former Southern Jeolla chief of police An Byeong-ha arrested
-Martial law authorities
I picked up several photographs from the archives of Kwangju Minjung Hangjaeng Sigak ônô Kongjang to illustrate my class on the Kwangju events of 1980 and its effects, among them screenshots from KBS news (see archive page) on May 27 which conveys the info from the martial law command (Kyeômsa). One screenshot was about the arrest of the former Southern Jeolla police chief An Byeong-ha. I didn't give a further thought (read: considered that I had already used enough time to prepare the lecture) to it, but accidentally Ohmynews carried the very same day a piece of news that the named An, who had been arrested at the time of the final suppression of the uprising for having refused orders to suppress the demonstration by very harsh means. According to another article, An had for example ordered the police not to carry arms when the paratroopers were on the rampage in Kwangju. Soldiers arrested An and took him for questioning; he died in 1988 never recovering physically from the torture. As part of the restoration of his honor, he will be reburied to the National cemetary (Hyônch'unwôn).

Update, Nov 26, 2005

Matt adds in the comments:
In this book journalist Kim Yang-woo writes about An's arrest. After public servants and police returned to the do cheong after it was retaken by the army, a general arrived who gave An a dressing down, and then let him leave. Immediately after letting him walk away, he ordered some MPs to go arrest him. Funny guy, that general. (Kim also saw a number of citizen army soldiers bound on the ground, "strung together like fish", who he thought were dead. When one of the 'dead' people started shouting that soldiers were killing bound prisoners, the soldiers proceeded to stomp him (presumably) to death.)

A chapter by Lee Jae-eui (writer of Beyond Death, Beyond the Darkness of the Age) mentions that one reason why student demonstrations in Kwangju before the crackdown on the 17th were not violent (unlike the demos in Seoul) was because of cooperation between An and student leaders.

"[The] torch-lit parade on the night of May 16th was made possible by Park Gwan Hyun, the president of the Chonnam University student union, having a chat with Ahn Byung Ha." He goes on to note that both of these people were arrested, and Park died in prison in 1982. He also quotes An's widow:

"My husband died in 1988. Before his death he used to say that he decided to protect the citizens of Kwangju from the brutal martial law army. He declined to obey an order from the army to suppress demonstrations in Kwangju. His actions embarrassed Martial Law Command. That was why they immediately arrested him. He was ferociously tortured and quit his career. He was sick in bed for years."

The book Matt quotes is The Kwangju Uprising: Eyewitness Press Accounts of Korea's Tiananmen (ed. Henry Scott-Stokes and Jai Eui Lee). I've never found the designation "Korea's Tiananmen" really satisfying; not that the both were not large-scale atrocities perpetrated by the government, but to define the events of Kwangju by a place of similar violence which took place nine years later doesn't go the right way. It should perhaps be other way around, except that at least at the moment I'm not aware of any democracy movement in the name of "Tiananment spirit". Tiananmen of 1989 hasn't been China's Kwangju this far.

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Comments to note "Kwangju 1980 and the case of An Byeong-ha" (Comments to posts older than 14 days are moderated)

<Blogger matt> said on 25.11.05 : 

In this book journalist Kim Yang-woo writes about An's arrest. After public servants and police returned to the do cheong after it was retaken by the army, a general arrived who gave An a dressing down, and then let him leave. Immediately after letting him walk away, he ordered some MPs to go arrest him. Funny guy, that general. (Kim also saw a number of citizen army soldiers bound on the ground, "strung together like fish", who he thought were dead. When one of the 'dead' people started shouting that soldiers were killing bound prisoners, the soldiers proceeded to stomp him (presumably) to death.)

A chapter by Lee Jae-eui (writer of Beyond Death, Beyond the Darkness of the Age) mentions that one reason why student demonstrations in Kwangju before the crackdown on the 17th were not violent (unlike the demos in Seoul) was because of cooperation between An and student leaders.

"[The] torch-lit parade on the night of May 16th was made possible by Park Gwan Hyun, the president of the Chonnam University student union, having a chat with Ahn Byung Ha." He goes on to note that both of these people were arrested, and Park died in prison in 1982. He also quotes An's widow:

"My husband died in 1988. Before his death he used to say that he decided to protect the citizens of Kwangju from the brutal martial law army. He declined to obey an order from the army to suppress demonstrations in Kwangju. His actions embarrassed Martial Law Command. That was why they immediately arrested him. He was ferociously tortured and quit his career. He was sick in bed for years."


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