Sharing the video of Zoom meeting held on May 12, 2020.

Witnessing Gwangju

Speaker: Paul Courtright

As a young Peace Corps volunteer, Paul Courtright was helping leprosy patients in the countryside of South Korea in 1980. He enjoyed cooking eggs and listening to music. On his way back home from a medical checkup, he got caught up in the middle of the Gwangju massacre. Between Peace Corps policy and frustration, he decided to act. He escaped from 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. He has now, at long last, published a book, “Witnessing Gwangju,” 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: He quotes an old woman’s words: “‘We have no voice. You have to be our voice. You have to tell people outside our country 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 only now, forty years later, I can finally face. I hope I’m not too late.”

Tonight’s lecture introduces the book, published by Hollym in both Korean and English, with photos by the famed photographer Robin Moyer. Copies will be for sale and there will be a book-signing after the lecture.