Props to the South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, for attending an official ceremony at the Gwangju National Cemetery commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the Gwangju Uprising. Park’s conservative predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, never could bring himself to do so. The May 18 Uprising occurred during the tenure of her father’s successor, Chun Doo-hwan, and also involved another future president, Roh Tae-woo. Between 144 and 165 civilians – depending on conflicting accounts – lost their lives when South Korean troops committed a government-launched massacre in response to the demonstrations on May 18, 1980.
Conservatives still haven’t recanted, and conspiracy theories have taken hold on the far right.
Still, there was some churlishness displayed all around.
The ceremony, held at the May 18 National Cemetery where people killed by troops under Chun Doo-hwan are buried, started off with the laying of flowers, burning of incense and speeches marking the event followed by artistic performances.
Meanwhile, some groups who said they would boycott the proceedings because the government rejected plans for participants to sing the “March for Thee” song in unison gathered at the Gate of Democracy as a sign of protest.
The song is composed in memory of the protesters and the brutal suppression they endured, and its lyrics were viewed by conservatives as being provocative. The song is sung at almost all protest organized by progressive groups and labor unions.
Those that did not attend also include members from the progressive Unified Progressive Party including its leader Lee Jung-hee.
One step forward, two steps sideways.