<# 281 Into the Campus>
By Park Sue-hye, Guest Reporter
Every May, the one thing which springs up in the minds of residents of Gwangju is the memory of the May 18 Uprising. It is not much to say that we never think about Korea’s political situation and human rights without considering the May 18 Uprising. Even though 27 years have passed since that day, the spirit of the May 18 Uprising is still alive in the name of the Center for Democracy Human Rights and Peace (CDHP) at Chonnam National University (CNU). Some CNU-ians may have heard about this Center and visited. Here, we can see the history of the May 18 Uprising through invaluable materials kept on record by the CDHP. Let’s walk into the history of the May 18 Uprising with Chonnam Tribune.
The Purpose of the Center
The CDHP is located on the first floor of the Yong-bong building and was established on December 10th, 1997 with the name of the May 18 Institute. Its name was changed to the CDHP in 2007 for the purpose of improving human rights and developing democracy, and this includes researching the reasons, history and fallout of the May 18 Uprising. The reason why CNU changed its name is that even though human rights are recognized as the most important value in the history of humankind, education and research about human rights are still not fully developed. Choe Suck-man, Director of CDHP, said, "Our Center has aimed at researching the May 18 Uprising and has gone one step further by studying democracy, human rights and peace which are the universal values of all societies. We will also try to take the plight of other countries' democracy, human rights and peace by the horns and to research them together, not only paying attention to our country." The CDHP consists of four teams, which are dedicated to studying about human rights, peace research, an international culture center and an NGO international graduate school. With these four teams, the CDHP makes a strong effort not only to keep the peninsula peaceful, but also to improve human rights as well as some programs for immigrants.
Visit Inside the Center
At the entrance of the CDHP, we can have a bird's eye view of the surrounding scenes of the May 18 Uprising. The CDHP consists of six rooms based on specific themes. The first room is named ‘Democractic History’ and introduces the record of this pro-democracy movement in which Gwangju citizens, along with professors and students participated. We could also ponder the historical meaning of the May 18 Uprising with photographs and other vivid materials in the ‘Second May’ room. If we enter the third place, the ‘Democratic Patriotism’ room, we can commemorate and be aware of the CNU's patriots who devoted their lives to the pro-democracy movement. There is also a small screen room where we can watch videos, movies, and recorded pictures of the movement. In the ‘Exhibition Room’, some relevant materials and works of the pro-democracy movement are displayed. In the ‘Archive Room’, the CDHP has kept some monuments and achievement records of pro-democracy research. By looking around the CDHP, we notice that it can be a place where future generations can connect themselves with the May 18 Uprising.
The Main Courses
Lest we should never forget the real meaning of the May 18 Democratic Uprising, not only for Gwangju, but also for many other foundations and institutions that have made a great effort to further commemorate these events. The CDHP has continuously held international symposiums with the respective theme each May since 1997. In addition, the Korea Research Foundation (KRF) has selected the CDHP as a priority institution since 2005. Thus, the Center has carried out tasks under the name of “Democracy and Human Rights in Asia” last September. By changing its name, the CDHP focuses on human rights, peace and democracy in a number of other Asian Countries including the Philippines, China, Japan and Vietnam. “The May 18 Uprising, Human Rights and Democracy”, which is an elective course at CNU, has let students know the real meaning and spirit of the May 18 Uprising, making it possible to instruct democracy and human rights in Korea. The CDHP has issued a variety of research papers about the May 18 Uprising every year, as well as making it possible for CNU-ians to participate in some programs like the May 18 Supporters. Through this program, volunteers can share the spirit and meaning of the May 18 Uprising and participate in many educational and cultural events. The CDHP makes a steady and persistent effort to broaden solidarity between civic organizations and ordinary people. If you visit the Center, you could experience those programs and feel the fever of those days of the very year, 1980.
Interview with Choe Suck-man, Director of the CDHP
Prof. Choe: In spite of twenty seven long years, the bloody massacre is still vividly alive in all people’s mind that lost their dear families and friends those days. Moreover, no matter how we think about the May 18 Uprising and pay homage to the victims, May 18 in itself could be a severe scar on the bereaved families. The CDHP has endeavored to play a pivotal role in the realization of democracy, human rights and peace, not only in Korea but also all over the world. Since last year, many people may have watched the movie “May 18” which disclosed the real history of the May 18 Uprising. Whenever I see those kinds of programs I think our country has become a more hospitable society unlike before. What I really want to say to CNU-ians is that they should be interested in the May 18 Uprising. Also, please be bright and positive since our society is getting better, your good future will stretch out ahead of you as the history of the May 18 Uprising has been fully realized. If you do your best in your circumstances until the end, everything will come true.