Gwangju Uprising

Gwangju Uprising:The Rebellion for Democracy in South Korea

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The essential account of the South Korean 1980 pro-democracy rebellion.

On 18th May 1980, student activists gathered in the South Korean city of Gwangju to protest the coup d’état and martial law government of General Chun Doo-hwan. The security forces responded with unmitigated violence, and over the next ten days hundreds of students, activists and citizens were arrested, tortured and murdered. The events of the uprising shaped over a decade of resistance to the repressive South Korean regime, and paved the way for the country’s democratisation in the 1990s.

The subject of right-wing conspiracy and controversy in South Korea, the texts of Gwangju Uprising survived in underground circulation and were recently republished. This fresh translation by Slin Jung of the original text, compiled from eye-witness testimonies, forms a gripping and full account of both the events of the uprising and the political situation which preceded and followed the violence of those days.

The edition contains a preface by Hwang Sok-yong, material which situates the uprising in its longer-term local and international context. The resulting volume is an unrivalled account of the movement for democracy and freedom in South Korea in the tumultuous period of the 1980s dictatorship. A vital collection for those interested in East Asian contemporary history and the global struggle for democracy.


  • This publication not only provides the reader with an incredible history of the ten days in May 1980 when the uprising occurred, it does so by keeping the spirit of the uprising intact...I couldn't help but be reminded of John Reed's classic journalism on Russia's October Revolution, Ten Days That Shook the World or even the slender text by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair reporting the 1999 uprising in Seattle against the World Trade Organization, 5 Days That Shook the World: Seattle and Beyond. Still, this book goes beyond these titles in its depth and breadth discussing what was perhaps one of the greatest post-Sixties movements until the series of anti-capitalist globalization protests that shook up the world from 1999-2001. Besides its role as a journal, it also serves as a handbook - a manual, if you will - of how such events unfold and how they are run.

    Ron JacobsCounterpunch
  • Serves as a testament not only to the broad mobilization for democracy, but also to the painstaking efforts of those who collected and published the information in defiance of the government.

    Darcie DraudtInternational Affairs
  • The story of the Gwangju Uprising is preserved in this is a history that deserves to be recorded and deserves to be shared.

    International Examiner