Paratrooper from Gwangju Uprising photo comes forward, apologizes

Posted on : 2022-05-10 16:56 KST Modified on : 2022-05-10 16:56 KST
The 69-year-old came forward after recognizing himself in a photo of martial law forces in Gwangju during the uprising and its suppression
During the May 18 Gwangju Uprising, a Gwangju citizen kneels as a paratrooper deployed to suppress the uprising stands over them. (provided by the May 18 Memorial Foundation)
During the May 18 Gwangju Uprising, a Gwangju citizen kneels as a paratrooper deployed to suppress the uprising stands over them. (provided by the May 18 Memorial Foundation)

A paratrooper who was deployed to Gwangju during the uprising that began on May 18, 1980, has offered his apologies to a citizen he dragged onto the back of a military truck at the time.

According to the May 18 Democratization Movement Truth Commission, a 69-year-old man who was deployed to Gwangju as a sergeant in an airborne unit in May 1980 recently told the commission that he was the paratrooper in a photo from the uprising and wanted to apologize to the citizens who suffered at the time.

The photo in question shows a civilian wearing a suit kneeling in front of a paratrooper in the cargo hold of a military truck. This photo showing the brutality of the martial law army at the time of the May 18 Uprising was reported to have been taken on May 18, 1980, in Geumnam-ro, Gwangju.

The former paratrooper, who now lives in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, attended a photo exhibit on the Gwangju Uprising that took place in Jangan Park in Suwon and instinctively knew that the soldier in the photo was none other than himself. After informing an expert committee member of the May 18 Democratization Movement Truth Commission, the former soldier said that he was “sorry towards [citizens of Gwangju],” the commission stated.

During a question-and-answer session with the committee member, the 69-year-old responded that he “knew it was [himself in the photo] because as a staff sergeant responsible for firearms, he was carrying an M203 grenade launcher [at the time of the Gwangju Uprising].”

After listening to the man’s story, the committee member sent the photo to a May 18 national merit recipient living in Gwangju, requesting them to ask around and find the individual kneeling in the picture. The committee member planned to hear a more detailed statement from the former paratrooper on Friday, but the meeting fell through after the man collapsed from a chronic condition.

The man was reportedly a sergeant in charge of firearms who belonged to the 9th Company of the 33rd Battalion of the 7th Airborne Brigade. Park Jin-eon, the spokesperson of the truth commission, stated, “Once he recovers his health, we plan to officially grasp the details [of the former paratrooper’s case] by listening to [his] statement related to the photo.”

By Jung Dae-ha, Gwangju correspondent; Kim Yong-hee, Gwangju correspondent

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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