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Monday, October 17, 2005

Samil movement and the Gwangju massacre

In Korean il means one and sam means three. The Samil (literally three one) movement took its name from the Korean independence protests of 1st March 1919. On that day at two in the afternoon thirty three campaigners met in Tapgol park in Seoul to read a declaration of independence. The crowds who gathered around them formed into a procession which was then crushed by Japanese police. The figures provided by wikipedia suggest that over seven and half thousand demonstrators were killed and more than sixteen thousand wounded. (source) If such a high mortality figure seems extraordinary it helps to remember the large numbers who took part in the protests over President Noh's impeachment in 2004. You can read more about that here and see a photo if you scroll down.

A large number of people were also killed in the Gwangju massacre. Following a coup on 12th December 1979 martial law was declared on 17th May to suppress student demonstrations. In Gwangju a demonstration by students escalated out of control when armed forces responded with violence.
By May 21, some 300,000 people had joined the protest against the General's power; weapons depots and police stations were looted of their weapons and the civil militias, the Citizen Army, beat back the armed forces. With all routes leading in and out of the city blocked by armed forces, the city effectively became a commune, and
a civilian body was formed to maintain order and conduct negotiations with the
government. Although order was well maintained, a number of negotiations to
resolve the situation made no results. On May 27, airborne and army troops
from five divisions were inserted and defeated the civil militias in the downtown area in only 90 minutes. Up to this day, a total of 20,000 soldiers were located to
Gwangju, where the population was approximately 740,000. Source
To this day the death toll is disputed and it has been suggested that between two hundred to two thousand people were killed. You can read a little bit more on this socialist website.

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