Los Angeles, CA: Gwangju People's Uprising freedom fighter Myung Sook Cha met with 67 Korean American, Asian American and Latinx community members at KRC on May 24 for a special Uprising 39th anniversary talk on the theme of "Gwangju People's Uprising: Women's Stories".
Back in 1980, during the uprising in the city of Gwangju, Cha led street announcements atop another activist's vehicle from May 19th to 21st, exposing crimes against humanity perpetrated by South Korean government soldiers. Cha said "someone had to tell the citizens that people were being killed by the soldiers. Whenever we got our hands on speakers and a microphone, we organized street announcements." Since the phased restoration of democracy in Korea during the early 90's, the Gwangju People's Uprising is today officially recognized as the historic watershed moment in the fight for democracy, with millions paying respects to those killed and those survived during the fight every year on May 18. KRC was founded by Yoon Han Bong, a community organizer and political refugee who escaped the South Korean government's death penalty warrant in the aftermath of the uprising.
She was arrested on May 23 and was tortured by the authorities, who tried to falsely frame her and thousands of other activists as "North Korean spies sent south to agitate the population for communism". After being released from jail two years later, she has remained in the field of social justice activism, but did not tell anyone about her experience at Gwangju. There have however been recenly a series of attacks from the Right in Korea denying both the the uprising and the fact that the Korean government mobilized the military to kill civilians. This encouraged Cha to speak out and share her own story in 2018. Cha said "ever since I came out, people who were fighting for democracy, as citizen soldiers, supporters, organizers, and many women have been getting in touch. Their stories have not been made public yet. Remembering those times is painful and traumatic. But their courage renews my committment to uplifting these stories."
On this event, commemorating the 39th anniversary of the uprising, and also the 36th anniversary of KRC's founding, four students - Kwangseong Park (Jungbong Puri Award), Ji Woo Choi (Jungbon Hongik Award), Subin Han (Dream Award), Yeseul Cho (Durae Award) were awarded with a $1,500 scholarship. KRC has been at the forefront of carrying the core values of the People's Uprising - human rights, community empowerment, and social justice - throught its work in the United States, through immigrant rights organizing and civic engagement.
Cha will be awarded by the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance as the their third Gil Won-Ok Women's Peace Awardee through the 1,390th Wednesday rally emanding the settlement of the Japanese Military Sexual Slavery, to take place in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on June 5th. The Council emphasized that "true truth and reconciliation will only be possible when we have fully uncovered the human rights violations perpetrated against women during the government repression of the Gwangju People's Uprising".
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Photo: Cha is speaking up at the May 18th Event at KRC. To the lef is Jinkyung Park, Legal Service Manager at KRC, who is moderating the event. View other photos of the event.
Reporter Inquiries: Youngran Kim 323-937-3718 youngran [at] krcla.org