• Updated : 2022.6.20 월 11:59
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CNU Democracy Trail: Commemorating May 18 Democratization MovementWhile Taking a Walk on Campus
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승인 2022.05.20  14:17:34
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▲ International students are looking at Yongbong Martyrs Memorial Wall as part of the Chonnam National University Democracy Trail on May 13

    This year marks the 42nd anniversary of the May 18 Democratization Movement that has exercised influence on democratization movements in countries including Hong-Kong and Myanmar. Becoming a model for the democratization movement, foreigners, as well as Korean people, know about May 18, which has been valued as the most important movement for democracy in Korea’s contemporary history. In commemorating the May 18 democratization movement, whenever May comes around, many people from different regions in the country visit Gwangju so as to inherit and develop the spirit of May 18. In 2020, Chonnam National University (CNU) built a walking trail called “CNU Democracy Road” on Yongbong campus by connecting memorial places and monuments related to the movement and patriotic martyrs for democracy. With the concept of a cultural park, the trail is composed of three roads; the road of justice, the road of human rights, and the road of peace. Right before the beginning of May, the Chonnam Tribune reporters walked the Justice Road with two international students and introduced them to the background and history of the pro-democracy movements related to each site.

▲ International students listening to the explanation of the CNU Main Gate when the May 18 Uprising started in 1980

CNU’s Main Gate and Park Kwan-hyun’s Hill
The international students and Tribune reporters started the tour in front of CNU’s Main Gate to remember the start of the May 18 Uprising. On May 17, 1980, when a martial law expanded nationwide and soldiers took control of the university, its students gathered in front of the main gate at 10 a.m. on the 18. At the main gate, the students collided with martial law forces that prevented them from entering the school, the troop suppressed the students by violent force, cruelly beating them on campus. A Tribune reporter showed the international students a picture of the first protest at CNU’s main gate when the May 18 had just started. Maciej Golaszewski (Exchange Student, Dept. of Business Administration) from Poland said, “Comparing the old picture of the main gate to the peaceful scene of the gate today, I can feel how the situation was cruel and heavy at that moment. Also their braveness and blood helped make the peace we are having now.”

▲ International students listening to the explanation of Park Kwan-hyun on the Park Kwan-hyun’s Hill

    Then we moved to Park Kwan-hyun’s Hill. He was a martyr who sacrificed his life for democracy. At that time, he was the first president of the General Student Council attending the department of law and also fighting against the government’s policies as a lecturer of “Wild Fire Night School.” On the hill, there is a sculpture with the shape of the Korean Peninsula, with natural stones and rectangular stones. Feride Seyidova (Junior, Dept. of Business Administration) said, “Listening to the story about ending his short life of 30 years during his hunger-strike, though I am curious about what the night school was, I can feel his strong urge for democracy. Add to that, it’s hard to imagine how shocked and mad the students would have been towards the country at that time for letting him die.”

▲ International students listening to an explanation of Yun Sang-won in Yun Sang-won’s Forest

Yoon Sang-won’s and Kim Nam-ju’s Gardens
Our next destination was Yoon Sang-won’s Garden. There is a sculpture of Martyr Yoon Sang-won on the grass with stone steps, and the central axis of the garden was selected as the direction of the gaze of his sculpture. He graduated from the department of political science and international relations and quit his stable job working at a bank to immerse himself into the democracy movement. He was a lecturer at the Wild Fire Night School and he published many newspapers speaking about the inhumane policies of the government. The International students said that whenever they went to a lecture in the College of Social Science building, they were curious about what this statue meant. Feride said, “Being old enough to look for a job, I know how important and attractive it is to have a stable occupation. I can feel his firm urge for Korea’s political and social reform by quitting the bank.” In the garden, there is a headstone carved with the lyrics of the song “March for the Beloved”. The song was co-written in 1981 by 15 singers from Gwangju to be dedicated to the soul wedding of Labor Activist Park Ki-soon with Yoon Sang-won. While the reporter was reading the English translation of the song to the international students, they looked somehow sad about the meaning of this song.
    We walked toward Kim Nam-ju’s Garden. He was a national poet who resisted the dictatorship with his whole body and fought for democracy. While attending the department of English language and literature, he was arrested in 1973 for producing and distributing newspapers. He wrote several poems such as “A Requiem,” “My Sword My Blood,” “My Country Is One,” and essays including “Poetry and Revolution,” and “A Seed of Fire Will Burn Down the Fields.” Maciej said, “Remembering how most of his poems were written in prison, it is impressive how the prison could never break his spirit towards fighting for the democratization of the county. It would be great if CNU students can also succeed with that spirit.”

Our Education Manifesto
While we were heading to the next site, Our Education Manifesto, the sculpture of a stack of five books with 11 leaves were greeting us. In 1978, 11 CNU professors made and declared the “Our Education Manifesto,” a statement pointing out the problems with the undemocratic education policies and the National Charter of Education. Symbolized by the 11 leaves, the professors suffered the hardships of arrest and dismissal from their jobs. As soon as the professors were taken to a police station, CNU students rallied in front of the Main Library and began a protest supporting the professors who had made the declaration. Then, when the university was closed on June 30, students went to a downtown area and staged a protest until July 1. The students who participated in the protest suffered disciplinary punishment and imprisonment. Maciej said, “The Sculpture’s 11 leaves and a stack of five books, symbolizing the dedicated professors and the movement for democracy in education, are placed near the digital library and Humanities College buildings where many students pass by. It seems to give students a great time to think about the professors’ contribution. Also, how students got along together and rallied against the government that arrested the professors showed a strong desire for the reformation of education. And that showed how all the CNU members, as one, fought together. As an international student, this spirit ‘as one’ articulates CNU’s spirit well today too.”

Next, we moved to the Painting of Gwangju Democratic Uprising. The mural was made to commemorate the 10th anniversary of May 18 in 1990. It depicts the scenes during the uprising and the community spirit of Gwangju at that time, and expresses the desire for the reunification of Korea by featuring four young people who cross their arms standing at the back of the Cheonji Pond of Baekdusan Mountain. It was restored in 2017 by CNU students and graduates, and also Gwangju citizens. Feride said, “With this huge scale of mural, I feel a lot of emotion as if I were one of the Gwangju citizens. Also, depictions of Cheonji Pond at Mount Baekdu signifying the movement for Korean reunification makes me feel a special bond even though I am a foreigner in Gwangju.”

May 18 Square, a Crystal of CNU’s History

Going to the last destination of the tour, May 18 Square, we saw a lot of students enjoying their picnics with colleagues. This place has always been a joyful place for the university members. However, the moments of anger and blood in spring 1980 were also hidden behind the students’ smiles. In those days, students shouted for democratization and were beat by soldiers on the square, and for a long time after that, rallies longing for the preservation of May 18 had taken place on the same square. Maciej said, “I only thought that this square has always been full of joy and smiles. But behind it, there were many bruises. This peaceful moment of the May 18 Square was not made in one moment, but it was made with their tears and blood.”

When building the trail two years ago, CNU renovated the 5·18 Square and moved a commemorative sculpture which was originally inside Bongji pond to the outside of the pond. The international students were curious what that sculpture in the middle of the square meant. This reporter answered that it contained the meaning of “March for the Beloved,” the song we just listened to in Yun Sang-won Garden. Feride said, “Last time, I saw one man shouting at night while drunk, climbing up on this sculpture and friends around him were taking a photo of him. He would not have displayed that kind of behavior, if he had known what that sculpture meant. I think CNU students can enjoy their campus in a historically pleasant way if they know what the things around their campus mean. I never knew that in the 5·18 Square, there were so many valuable historical moments in the past.”

Sharing the Significance of May 18

After the whole tour, both of the international students said they knew what those sites on the Road of Peace, part of the CNU Democracy Trail meant, and they also realized how priceless the historical value of the university is. This year marks the 70th anniversary of CNU that cannot be explained without the May 18 Democratization Movement. CNU’s spirit is ingrained in this movement and the trail was built to commemorate this spirit. Still, not many students are actually aware that this trail is composed of three roads and they do not know exactly what the three sections are about. If CNU students were more aware of their graduates’ martyrs who sacrificed their lives, such as Park Kwan-hyun, Yoon Sang-won and Park Seung-hee, they would be prouder of the school than they are now. Even more important, we may get a reference of what kind of democratic attitude we should have and succeed with the same spirit as our seniors.

It seems desirable for university students to listen to the historical stories of the campus. We should remember the martyrs who sacrificed their valuable lives for the democracy in the country, and we should be reminded that the peace we are enjoying right now was not achieved easily. We have to share the significance and spirit of the movement with many people around us and promote it as widely as possible: Wouldn’t it be what our seniors who fought for democratization would have wanted for us? We should keep our history global and make this movement known to many other foreigners. Let’s take a walk on one of the roads on the democracy trail with our foreign and Korean friends in the month of May.

By Hong Ji-u, Student Editor
Photo by Hong Ji-u, Student Editor / Lee Eun-ji, Student Editor

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