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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class: Holidays in South Korea Series on KoreanClass101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Korean holidays and observances. I’m Brandon, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 16: 518 Revolution Day or ‘오일팔 광주민주화운동 기념일’ (oilpal gwang-ju minjuhwa ginyeomil.)
Under the dictatorship of former president 전두환 (Chun Doo-hwan) in the 1980s, people in South Korea faced ever-intensifying crackdowns, and they finally demanded democratization. The day commemorating this is 518 Revolution Day on May 18th. In this lesson, we’ll learn about what happened in South Korea on May 18th, 1980, and what kind of events are held to commemorate this day.
Now, before we go into more detail, do you know the answer to this question: there's an international human rights event held annually on 518 Revolution Day in the 광주(Gwangju) city. Do you know what it's called?
If you don’t already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
After the 1960s, when former president Seungman Ri or 이승만(Yi seungman) resigned, South Korea remained under a dictatorship for a long time. Not long after the president 박정희(Park jeonghui) was assassinated in October 1979, the military took control of the government on December 12th, 1979, and General 전두환 (Chun Doo-hwan) became president through indirect elections.
The junta began oppressing people by controlling the press and imprisoning democratic leaders. People were extremely upset by these activities and formed resistance movements across the country against the military powers.
At that time, Gwangju citizens held demonstrations in support of democracy. On May 18th, 1980, five months after the military coup, students and citizens gathered to protest in Gwangju. During the protest, students of 전남(Jeongnnam) National University and martial law troops clashed. Many protesters were taken away forcefully and the military dispatched soldiers, led by a tank, to control the protest.
Many civilians sacrificed their lives during that demonstration, an event known as the Gwangju Massacre. Between May 18th and May 27th, protests continued and around one hundred sixty people died and about three thousand people were injured. It’s said to be the most deaths and injuries since the Korean War.
In the end, the democratization movement failed to oust the military government, but it became the trigger for various democratization movements later.
Here's our fun fact for the day! Did you know that even now, on May 18th, people still visit the National 518 Cemetery in Gwangju? They do this to honor the citizens who fought against the military dictatorship. People give thanks to those who fought for freedom and democracy in Korea.
Now it’s time to answer our quiz question: what international human rights event is held in Korea on May 18th? It’s called the “Asian Forum,” and it’s held in Gwangju city. During this event, scholars and others gather to discuss how to protect human rights and peace in Asia, and hold workshops and forums related to human rights.
How was this lesson? Did you learn something new?
Does your country have a day to celebrate democracy?
Please leave us a comment at KoreanClass101.com.
And we'll see you next time!