On November 30, 2017, in a three-hour screening-plus-discussion event held by the Centre of East Asian Research, two local Koreans from Gwangju were invited to Soochow University to share their views on Gwangju democratization movement after a viewing of the recent Korean blockbuster A Taxi Driver, which is based on the historical event in 1980.
Around six hundred SCU students gathered at Chuan-Hsien Hall watching the film with full attention before some of them posed one inquiry after another to the two Korean guests, Bing-Wo Ren, Chair of Korean Association in R.O.C., and Sheng-Zan Shen, a young Gwangju local and a former SCU exchange student. In-depth questions from students ranged from how Gwangju Massacre affected the whole Korea to what the Korean government had done to compensate victims and their family. Ren was truly surprised by Taiwanese youngsters’ strong interests in politics of other countries like Korea.
“I would not be here today if my supervisor had allowed me to attend the protest on the day of May 19th, 1980,” recalled Ren, who had been involved in Gwangju Uprising. In a choked-up voice he added: “For you, ‘A Taxi Driver’ may be just a movie you watched tonight, but for me, it is a real thing I have gone through in my life.” Born ten years after but hearing a lot about the bloodshed, Shen, who represented the younger generation in Korea, called for the government to reveal the truth of the incident.
Toward the end of the discussion, Sana Ho, Associate Chair of the Centre and SCU professor of Dept. of Sociology, called on fellow students to remember some similar tragedies in Taiwan’s history and to reflect on the current situation of Taiwan’s democracy. She put great emphasis on sharing views and discussing issues. In so doing, students would not only be more familiar with Korean culture and the effort Korean government had made for transitional justice, but also better reflect upon Taiwan’s own painful pursuit of democracy.
In the audience a sociology major surnamed Chang, who was touched by the film, related Gwangju Uprising with the 228 Incident in Taiwan. He considered military crackdowns a measure of political manipulation that had resulted in people’s apathy about politics.
Gwangju democratization movement has been known as a significant milestone in Korea’s progression toward a full democracy. The speakers also mentioned that news or information related to the tragedy has remained concealed for many years until 1998, when Korean President Kim Dae-Jung ordered to reinvestigate the incident and unveil the truth. However, some of the facts are still covered and wait to be fully disclosed.
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