[KS] Debating DPRK role in May 18

Don Baker ubcdbaker at hotmail.com
Fri Sep 16 16:05:19 EDT 2016


I mentioned in an earlier post this morning that Brian Myers had removed his blog post supporting the claim that the DPRK played a role in the uprising in Kwangju in May, 1980, against Chun Doohan's military coup and demanding free elections. He has now restored that blog post.http://sthelepress.com/index.php/2016/09/16/back-by-popular-demand/
I have read the volumes referred to in that post and they are an example of the absolutely worst sort of historical scholarship.  In fact, though the author Kim Taeryŏng  lives in the US and is exempt from the reach of the Korean courts, some of his fellow conspiracy theorists were sued by people in Kwangju who had been misidentified as North Korean agents who had infiltrated Kwangju in May, 1980.  The people in Kwangju won and were awarded monetary compensation for the defamation of their character. 
Any careful reader of Kim's account of what happened in Kwangju in 1980 can see that the holes in his argument are large enough to drive a truck through them. Kim Taeryŏng takes statements out of context and also mistranslates a lot of English texts. (I know one American reporter who informed Kim that he had not written what Kim said he had written. Kim refused to change his incorrect translation.) He also relies on guilt by association (often false association) to claim that if somebody talked to somebody who talked to somebody who talked to somebody who was a known "pro-Communist," then that first person must also be a Communist agent.  Kim insists that that it was Kim Daejung, not Chun Doohan, who planned a military coup in 1980 and Chun did what he did only to preserve democracy in the ROK. 
Those, and Kim Taeryŏng is not the only one, who claim that North Korean agents instigated the May 18th democratization movement ignore one inconvenient fact: why didn't the Chun regime produce any evidence at the time of dead or wounded North Koreans? Chun's troops killed a lot of people in Kwangju. If there really were North Koreans there, wouldn't at least one of those killed be a North Korean?  And if a North Korean, dead or alive, has been found to be in Kwangju that May, why would Chun not have shown him or her to the press to justify that attack on that city? 
It is not only a slander against the brave people of Kwangju to imply that they were witting or unwitting agents of the North Korean regime, it is also an affront to the standards of respectable scholarship to distort the historical record the way Kim Taeryŏng does. That should be clear to any scholar, not matter what their political orientation, who has read Kim Taeryŏng's work carefully. 

Don Baker ProfessorDepartment of Asian Studies University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada V6T 1Z2 don.baker at ubc.ca 		 	   		  
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