Paul Courtright

Witnessing Gwangju

A Memoir

Witnessing Gwangju
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  • Art.Nr./ISBN: 9781565914957
  • Verlag: Hollym
  • Jahr: 2020
  • Einband: Softcover
  • Seitenzahl: 208
  • Sprache: English
  • Medientyp: Book

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A moving and distressing first-hand account of the terrible massacre that occurred over... mehr
Produktinformationen "Witnessing Gwangju"

A moving and distressing first-hand account of the terrible massacre that occurred over several days in May 1980 that was to signal the birth of democracy in South Korea and the end of successive military-backed authoritarian governments. After returning to Korea in 2019 for the first time since the 1980 Uprising, the author was shocked to discover that many people he talked to were not aware of the truth of these horrendous events. Some thought it was a Communist insurrection fomented by North Korea; to others it was a student riot; others doubted it ever happened Paul Courtright was there. He saw what happened. He felt duty-bound to reveal the truth. This book is his account.


Young Peace Corps volunteer, Paul Courtright was helping leprosy patients in the countryside of South Korea 1980. He enjoyed cooking eggs and listening to music. On his way back home from his medical checkup, he got caught in the middle of Gwangju massacre. Between Peace Corps policy and frustration, he decided to act. He escaped Gwangju to tell the US embassy what was going on there.

He couldn't stop writing notes about what he was witnessing. It was the only way he could process what he was seeing. is based on his massive amount of notes. This memoir is not only the record of Gwangju uprising but also a great story of how the incident changed a young man's life in a very short period of time.


“We have no voice. You have to be our voice. You have to tell people outside what they’re doing to us.” She glanced around the street, then returned her fearless gaze to me. I was rooted to the spot. I was to be the “witness” and she had given me a clear task. I failed the halmeoni. I was given a responsibility that now, forty years later, I can finally face. I hope I’m not too late.

-From the Prologue-

About the Author

Paul Courtright was a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Jeonnam Province of Korea from 1979-81. He completed his Masters and Doctorate in Public Health focusing on eye diseases and neglected tropical diseases. For 20 years he lived and worked in Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Tanzania establishing, with his wife, the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology in Moshi, Tanzania.
He has published over 250 scientific articles and has received awards from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Premio Vision Mundi de Lucha Contra la Cuguera, and the Antonio Champalimaud Vision Award. He is a professor (adjunct) at the University of Cape Town and currently he is the Trachoma Technical Lead, consulting for Sightsavers, a UK based non-governmental organization. He is married with two sons and currently lives in San Diego.
Since 1981 he had continued his relationship with Korea conducting research there with Korean colleagues and a summer epidemiology course at Yonsei University with his wife. His work in Africa has been recognized by the Queen and got invited to England.



Dedication 2
Author’s note 3
Prologue 4

Day 1 (Wednesday, May 14): Demonstration curiosity for the uninitiated 6
Day 2 (Thursday, May 15): Demos are neither won nor lost 12
Day 3 (Friday, May 16): Good to be heading home 19
Day 4 (Saturday, May 17): Getting back to normal 27
Day 5 (Sunday, May 18): Disturbing rumors streak across the sky 33
Day 6 (Monday, May 19): Something awful happened here 38
Day 7 (Tuesday, May 20): Getting marching orders and the last bus home 47
Day 8 (Wednesday, May 21): You can push people only so far 54
Day 9 (Thursday, May 22): The mundane and the crazy can easily coexist in the middle of an uprising 67
Day 10 (Friday, May 23): We are all “impure elements” 82
Day 11 (Saturday, May 24): Translating in a mortuary 100
Day 12 (Sunday, May 25): Is there peace to be found heading over the mountain? 119
Day 13 (Monday, May 26): Losing my temper and heading to Seoul 129

Epilogue 139
Acknowledgments 142


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