Gwangju Diary: Beyond Death, Beyond the Darkness of the Age – Lee Jae-eui

Gwangju demonstrators around the fountain

2017 PDF edition of the seminal Gwangju Diary, written by Lee Jae-eui, and originally published in 1985, with an eyewitness day-to-day account of the Gwangju uprising of 1980.

Gwangju Diary: Beyond Death, Beyond the Darkness of the Age, the English translation by Seol Kap Su and Nick Mamatas of Beyond Death, Beyond the Darkness of the Age, is a day-to-day eyewitness account of the May 18 Uprising first published in 1985. Upon publication, the Korean version of the book was banned by the government until 1988 when Chun Doo-hwan stepped down as president. Also known by its shortened title “Beyond, Beyond,” more than one million copies of the book were sold and it is still considered one of the most important accounts of the May 18 Uprising in Korea.

The author, Lee Jae-eui wrote the book in 1985 based upon many interviews and his concern was to tell the truth about what had happened in Gwangju in May of 1980. Lee was a junior at Gwangju’s Chonnam National University at that time. The detailed records rest on his experience and oral testimonies.

This book appeared in two principal Korean editions: in 1985, as Beyond Death, Beyond the Darkness of the Age; and in 1989, as May 18: The Record of Life and Death.

Its English edition Gwangju Diary was first published by the UCLA Asian Pacific Monograph Series in 1999. After being out of print, it has been published again. In May 2017, the May 18 Memorial Foundation published a new and expanded edition.

But we have corrected factual errors and supplied notes to account for changes in our historical understanding since 1985 to share the truth of May 18 Uprising at international level. Rather than note each change, which seemed cumbersome for readers, we decided with Lee Jae-eui to present this first English rendering as a revised edition. We chose a new title: Gwangju Diary: Beyond Death, Beyond the Darkness of the Age.

Contents

List of maps
Translator`s Note / Kap Su Seol and Nick Mamatas

Author`s Preface th the English Edition / Lee Jae-eui
Introduction

Chapter Ⅰ: The Uprising
May 14 and 15 - Taking to the streets
May 16 - March of torches
May 17 - Prelude to suppression
May 18 - Total martial law
Chapter Ⅱ: Open Rebellion
May 19 - Day two of the uprising
Mass uprising: May 20 - Day three: the battle of Kumnam Avenue
Armed uprising triumphant: May 21 - Day four: rebels seize vehicles
Chapter Ⅲ: Gwangju, Gwangju, Gwangju
Days of liberation Ⅰ: May 22 - Day five of the uprising
Days of liberation Ⅱ: May 23 - Day six of the uprising
Days of liberation Ⅲ: May 24 - Day seven of the uprising
Days of liberation Ⅳ: May 25 - Day eight of the uprising
Days of liberation Ⅴ: May 26 - Day nine of the uprising
Chapter Ⅳ: The End of the Uprising
May 27 - The final battle
The end
Gwangju Diary: The View from Washington
Korean demoracy vs. Cold War politics
America`s friends in Seoul
U.S. approval of korean military preparations, May 1980
The movements of the paratroopers
U.S. distortions of the Gwangju uprising
Meeting at the White House
Conclusions
Biographical Notes

List of Maps

1. Korea / Gwangju
2. Student protesters` march downtown from Chonnam University (10:30 p.m., May 18)
3. Clash with paratroopers (10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., May 19)
4. Afternoon clash (2:00 to 4:30 p.m., May 19)
5. Battle at the Intercity Bus Terminal (4:00 to 5:00 p.m., May 19)
6. Battle at the Gwangju Train Station
7. Battle at Kumnam Avenue (3:00 to 6:00 p.m., May 20)
8. Cabbie troops` march (6:00 to 6:30 p.m., May 20)
9. Battle at Kumnam Avenue (6:00 to 9:00 p.m., May 20)
10. Battles at M.B.C. and the Labor Supervision Office (7:30 to 12:00 p.m., May 20)
11. The military`s final cordons (12:00 p.m., May 20)
12. Battle at the train station (9:00 p.m., May 21 to 4:00 a.m., May 22)
13. The spread of the uprising
14. The militia changes the final cordons of the military (3:00 to 5:00 p.m., May21)
15. The retreat of the military (7:00 p.m., May 21)

Public domain PDF taken from 518.org.

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Working Class H...
May 20 2021 16:57

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Hieronymous
May 26 2021 20:53

This book is highly recommended. I got a copy when it first came out in English in 1999. Funny story: it wasn’t available online, so I phoned my dad (I was living in Europe at the time) who drove cross town — remember that L.A. is a fucking huge city — to buy a copy for me from the UCLA student bookstore, in order to mail it to me. I immediately read it straight through.

I agree that this is the most accurate and detailed account of the Gwangju Uprising ever written.

Hieronymous
May 26 2021 20:55

dp

Working Class H...
May 26 2021 23:10
Hieronymous wrote:
This book is highly recommended. I got a copy when it first came out in English in 1999. Funny story: it wasn’t available online, so I phoned my dad (I was living in Europe at the time) who drove cross town — remember that L.A. is a fucking huge city — to buy a copy for me from the UCLA student bookstore, in order to mail it to me. I immediately read it straight through.

I agree that this is the most accurate and detailed account of the Gwangju Uprising ever written.

We would echo this recommendation (hence posting it). However, we also think it's worth highlighting the following text which is kind of the "official" history of the uprising: https://libcom.org/history/may-18-gwangju-democratic-uprising
This contains more info on the preceding coup, and has more specific information from a military perspective, which became available later. It also has loads of photos. It is written from a more liberal/social democratic perspective than Gwangju Diary. Gwangju Diary is also incredibly valuable because it is a first person eyewitness account, which has much more information from the perspective of ordinary people on the streets, which we obviously think is of the utmost importance.

Hieronymous
May 27 2021 21:41

I went to the 15th anniversary commemorative events in Gwangju (back then it was spelled Kwangju) in 1995 and bought a book of first-hand accounts at one of the big bookshops on Geumnamno, right near the old provincial capital building that was the center of the uprising. It was 5-18, the Kwangju incident by Arnold A. Peterson, an American minister who remained in Gwangju during the whole uprising. It was a bilingual book and I read the whole thing in the yogwan (cheap guest house) my first night there. Unfortunately, it’s been long out of print; I later gave my copy to a Korean comrade in Seoul and never saw it again. It was actually a really good account, based on the raw observations of an outsider who saw the whole thing unfold firsthand.

On 5-18 (May 18th), the actual anniversary of the start of the uprising, I was milling around the center of the city with another American comrade with whom I’d traveled there from Seoul. There weren’t many foreigners around for the commemorative events, but we ran into an American guy who happened to be there with Arnold Peterson; he immediately asked why we were there. We said to learn about the uprising. He smiled and promptly invited us to a banquet that night with Peterson and other “dignitaries.”

We declined, which was a good choice. That night, we made our way to near Chonam National University and stayed in the streets till the wee hours watching students fight the riot pigs in some the most intense street battles I’ve ever seen. Those Gwangju militants had a well deserved reputation for being the fiercest fighters in Korea.

The next day we tried to make our way to Manwol-dong Cemetery to pay our respects to the deceased from the rebellion. We went to the express bus terminal to find the proper bus to get there — which was very confusing. We finally found a ticket clerk who spoke decent English, who upon hearing our intent to honor the uprising’s dead, walked us out of the building, led us to the correct stop, then waited for the bus to arrive, and when it did promptly paid our fare and told the driver to drop us off in the section of the Gwangju Uprising martyrs. As we got on the bus, the clerk shook our hands passionately and repeatedly thanked us for learning the history of 5-18. His kindness and the emotions stirred by viewing the original, hand-built tombs at Manwol-dong Cemetery was one of most powerfully moving experiences of my life.