제목 [하버드대학교 김구포럼 20년10월] The Gwangju Uprising and its 40-year Global History
작성자 admin 작성일 2021-01-06


The Gwangju Uprising and its 40-year Global History

: A Visual and Cultural Approach



Date: Thursday, October 29, 2020, 6:00pm to 7:30pm

Location: Online Event (Zoom)




Forty years after the people’s uprising and state massacre took place

in Gwangju during the spring month of May 1980, what is now widely known 

as “5.18” remains a contested history. Just these past years, we have seen

new facts about the tragedy unearthed, new testimonies made on public 

record, and old fabrications and fallacies resurfacing in news feeds. In light of 

the increasing pertinence of people’s rise against social injustices across 

the globe today, this panel seeks to revisit the structure and semantics of platforms

through which the newsreels, photographs, paintings, songs, and revolutionary 

affect of Gwangju have been documented and transmitted across geographic and

temporal boundaries. This history of transmission, as much as the history of representation,

is important particularly because the political potential of Gwangju lies not only 

in the actual event of coalition formation (“absolute community”) in the face 

of a state massacre, but also in the power of that historical fact as it traveled beyond

the initial ten days in Gwangju. If the 20th-anniversary edited volume Contentious Kwangju

reassessed the uprising in light of the institution of South Korean democracy in 1987 

and the national politics of commemoration in the 1990s, this roundtable expands on 

the transnational and global aspects of 5.18 and its legacy. With the goal of situating 5.18

within the transnational history of revolution, the presentations highlight the interdisciplinary

aspects of social movements and historicization of their potential impact on future revolutions. 



Short-circuiting Seoul, Reaching Afar to Germany, Japan, and the US:

The Photographs of Gwangju in 1980

Sohl Lee, Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary East Asian Art,

 Department of Art, Stony Brook University

While the access to the truth of the Gwangju Uprising was limited for most citizens of 

South Korea, those living in Germany, Japan, and the US could view photographic

images and documentary footage from Gwangju almost immediately after the uprising

and its resultant massacre. The extent of transnational pathway through which the images of

Gwangju travelled is testament to the transnational nature of South Korean pro-democracy

movement, a significant aspect too often overlooked. What does the examination of media 

platforms that carried the message of Gwangju reveal today about the sociocultural significance

of the event in the global scale--and the subsequent struggles against dictatorship and for

citizenry rights that unfolded in 1980s South Korea? How did the spaces of anti-authoritarian

state pro-democracy movement emerge by bypassing the state apparatus? What was

the role of overseas Korean populations? Each set of stakeholders outside the peninsula

forged distinct relationships with the event and its aftermath, and this diversity compels a

reconsideration of the global significance of 5.18.

Sohl Lee specializes in modern and contemporary art and visual culture of East Asia,

and her interdisciplinary research interests include aesthetics of politics, activist art, 

vernacular modernism, postcolonial theory, historiography, and curatorial practice.

Her book manuscript tentatively titled “Reimagining Democracy: Minjung Art and 

the Cultural Movement in South Korea” has received a major publication subvention

grant from the Korean Arts Management Service of the Ministry of Culture, South Korea

. Her English publications have appeared in Art Journal, Yishu, Journal of Korean Studies, 

Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, and InVisible Culture, and she has curated 

exhibitions in both the U.S. and South Korea.

“March for the Beloved” and the Making of a Counter-Republic in South Korea

Susan Hwang, Assistant Professor, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, 

Indiana University Bloomington

In 1982, a group of writers and musicians gathered in Gwangju to clandestinely perform

“March for the Beloved” (Im ?l wihan haengjin-gok), a song created to honor the

“soul marriage” of two activists who had died in the Kwangju Uprising two years prior.

Over the following decades, the song emerged as a central piece in South Korea’s

repertoire of resistance, resurfacing in March 2017 during months of sustained popular

demonstrations that led to the impeachment of Park Geun-hye. And beyond South Korea,

the song would become a call to action in various other parts of Asia, including Hong Kong,

China, Japan, Malaysia, and Thailand. This paper examines the role that the Gwangju

Uprising played in the process of South Korea’s democratization, and argues 

that “March for the Beloved” was instrumental in transforming the victims of state violence

into martyrs and the subalterns of an unlawful republic into political subjects of a morally

righteous counter-republic. This paper analyzes the people-oriented cultural practices

behind the birth of the song, as well as the performative elements in the making of

the song into an anthem of the counter-state. In conclusion, the paper discusses the 

ongoing controversy over the song as an occasion to think about the reification of

Gwangju and the perpetual struggle over its signification in South Korea’s contemporary moment.

Susan Hwang is Assistant Professor of Contemporary Korean Literature and Cultural Studies

in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Indiana University.

Her scholarship engages with the cultural practices of resistance in South Korea, 

as well as theories of translation and world literature. She is currently working

on her book manuscript entitled “Uncaged Songs: Culture and Politics of Protest Music

in South Korea." It is a cultural history of South Korea’s song movement that charts

how songs became a powerful component of the struggle for democracy in

South Korea during two of the nation’s darkest decades?the 1970s and the 1980s.??

Smoke Signals: Framing the Gwangju Uprising in North Korea

Douglas Gabriel, Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Korean Studies, 

George Washington University

From May 18, 1980, news of the Gwangju Uprising dominated the North Korean media.

Finally, it seemed, South Korean students had taken up Kim Il-sung’s call to 

“thoroughly defend the interests of the workers and peasants, go deeply among the masses 

of workers and peasants and fight in close unity with them.” In turn, North Korean 

cultural producers?including painters, illustrators, filmmakers and documentarians

?began mythologizing the event through representational reconstructions. On the surface,

these works asserted a correspondence between the actions of the protestors at Gwangju

and the vision of reunification sponsored by the North Korean state. Images of 

South Korean youth activists functioned chiefly as a means of bolstering government 

policies by framing the southern half of the peninsula as an illegitimate puppet state of 

the United States. In the process, however, visual artists employed peculiar 

compositional framing devices aimed at keeping viewers at bay, often presenting

the unruly figurative content of their works as dream images detached from the immediate 

circumstances of North Korean audiences who, it was implied, had no reason 

to revolt against their own government. Perhaps paradoxically, 

North Korean artists’ representations of the uprising had the effect of acknowledging 

and modeling ways of acting politically that exceeded the ideological lens through

which they otherwise viewed the world.

Douglas Gabriel is a 2020-21 Korea Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at GW. Douglas 

received his Ph.D. in art history from Northwestern University in 2019.

His current book project, Over the Mountain: Realism Towards Reunification

in Cold War Korea, 1980?1994, examines connections between the visual art of 

the minjung democratization movement in South Korea and the work of 

state-sponsored artists in North Korea. Previously, he was the 2019-20 

Soon Young Kim Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University. Douglas’s research on 

North and South Korean art and architecture has appeared in the Journal of 

Korean Studies and Hy?ndae misulsa y?ngu [The Korean Journal of

Contemporary Art History]. His work has been supported by the Fulbright Program, 

the Harvard Korea Institute, and the Northeast Asia Council of the Association of Asian Studies.


Moderated by Paul Chang, Associate Professor of Sociology, Harvard University