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Citizens of Gwangju remember 1980; city shows mixed perception of Yoon's visit Updated: 2022-05-19 07:14:50 KST

70-year-old Kim Sa-ik and 65-year-old Yang Joong-gan both lost younger brothers during the May 18 Pro-Democracy Movement military crackdowns.
On this 42nd anniversary they're here at Gwangju May 18 National Cemetery where their brothers were laid to rest.

"I was scared, so I was kind of in the back. Now, my brother is dead, and I'm forever ashamed. I've been ashamed to be alive for the past 42 years.

Until now, conservative politicians had been accused of showing less compassion for the deceased and their relatives.
That's why, President Yoon Suk-yeol's decision to sing along to the "Marching for Our Beloved", while also calling on his party's lawmakers to come down with him, is all the more significant.

"However the conservatives were before, the fact that he said Gwangju laid the foundation for the whole country's democracy was good. I didn't support Yoon, in fact, I opposed him. But what he did today has a lot of meaning."

Yang is not the only one that opposed President Yoon.
The city as a whole has never voted for a conservative president in the history of South Korea's direct elections since 1987.
In fact, Yoon just had 12 percent of the votes in Gwangju during the last election and that was a record high for a conservative candidate.
Hence some remain skeptical.

"The conservatives have to repent. They didn't have to come to Gwangju today."

On the other hand his speech certainly underscored the importance of the historical event but the citizens of Gwangju and relatives of the victims want more tangible action.

"Maybe soon, the May 18 Pro-Democracy Movement can be added to the country's constitution. That would lift a lot of weight off of the deceased's relatives."

This, hopefully can be a constant reminder to South Koreans about the dark history.
But for the citizens of Gwangju, it's never forgotten.
At the city center where civilians held their ground until their deaths the memories are preserved.
From bullet holes to daily alarms at 5 18 PM that plays the 'Marching for Our Beloved' melody.

"Behind me are nearly 250 bullet holes from the last days of the military crackdown on the May 18 Pro-Democracy Movement.
The country spent decades just to reach a consensus that these holes are caused by helicopter gunshots.
The sooner more of the truth comes out, the sooner families of the victims can find peace.
Kim Do-yeon, Arirang News, Gwangju."
Reporter : tkim@arirang.com
KOGL : Korea Open Government License
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