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Contentious Kwangju

The May 18th Uprising in Korea's Past and Present

Edited by Gi-Wook Shin and Kyung Moon Hwang

One of the largest political protests in contemporary Korean history, the May 1980 Kwangju Uprising still exerts a profound, often contested, influence in Korean society. Through a deft combination of personal reflections and academic analysis, Contentious Kwangju offers a comprehensive examination of the multiple, shifting meanings of this seminal event and explains how the memory of Kwangju has affected Korean life from politics to culture. The first half of the book offers highly personal perspectives on the details of the uprising itself, including the Citizens' Army, the fleeting days of Kwangju citizen autonomy, the activities of American missionaries, and the aftermath following the uprising's suppression by government forces. The second half provides a wide-ranging scholarly assessment of the impact of Kwangju in South Korea, from democratization and the fate of survivors to regional identity and popular culture, concluding with an examination of Kwangju's significance in the larger flow of modern Korean history. In keeping with the book's title, the essays offer competing interpretations of the Kwangju Uprising, yet together provide the most thorough English-language treatment to date of the multifaceted, sweeping significance of this pivotal event.

Contributions by: Jong-chul Ahn, Don Baker, Ju-na Byun, Jung-kwan Cho, Jung-woon Choi, Kyung Moon Hwang, Keun-sik Jung, Linda S. Lewis, Gi-Wook Shin, Jean W. Underwood, and Sallie Yea
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 200Size: 6 x 9
978-0-7425-1961-9 • Hardback • June 2003 • $102.00 • (£70.00)
978-0-585-46670-5 • eBook • August 2003 • $28.95 • (£19.95)
Gi-Wook Shin is associate professor of sociology and senior fellow at the Institute for International Studies, Stanford University. Kyung Moon Hwang is assistant professor of history, University of Southern California.
Gi-Wook Shin
Part I: Origins and Development
Chapter 1: The Formation of an "Absolute Community"

Jung-woon Choi
Chapter 2:
Simin'gun: The Citizens' Army during the Kwangju Uprising

Jong-chul Ahn
Chapter 3: An American Missionary's View

Jean W. Underwood
Chapter 4: Has Kwangju Been Realized?

Keun-sik Jung
Part II: Legacy and Representation
Chapter 5: From Heroic Victims to Disabled Survivors: The 5-18 Injured after Twenty Years

Linda S. Lewis and Ju-na Byun
Chapter 6: The Kwangju Uprising as a Vehicle of Democratization: A Comparative Perspective

Jung-kwan Cho
Chapter 7: Victims and Heroes: Competing Visions of May 18

Don Baker
Chapter 8: Reinventing the Region: The Cultural Politics of Place in Kwangju City and South Cholla Province

Sallie Yea
Afterword: Kwangju: The Historical Watershed

Kyung Moon Hwang
Shin and Hwang splendidly interlace the complexity of the 5-18 Kwangju democratization movement, a defining moment in Korean history.
Journal of Asian Studies

This book deserves the attention of those with general interests in social movements and historical memory. More specifically, the volume should be carefully studied by students of democratic transitions, and by all observers of South Korea's recent history and contemporary social and political life.
American Historical Review

Combining vivid eyewitness reflections (part 1) with insightful scholarly analyses of the uprising's outcomes (part 2), the editors of this volume, Gi-Wook Shin and Kyung Moon Hwang, endeavor to provide a balanced and comprehensive reassessment of the Kwangju uprising. Together, these essays constitute a comprehensive study of the multiple and shifting meanings of this seminal event. This book is by far the most balanced and comprehensive English-language reassessment of the events. Contentious Kwangju offers a superb and multifaceted lecture on the politics of memory surrounding the Kwangju uprising and is required reading for anyone interested in the history of Korean democratization.
American Journal of Sociology

This is a fascinating book and I applaud the editors' efforts to examine the Kwangju massacre with some historical perspective. The passage of time has led to a more accurate view of those tragic events both with respect to the individual assessments of the impact on individual lives as well as the critical role it played in the democratization of Korea.
Korean Quarterly

Gi-Wook Shin presents a masterful overview of the events of May 1980, impressive for both its breadth and brevity. . . . Contentious Kwangju is a must-read for scholars of contemporary Korean history and those interested in issues of civil society, democratization, and contested visions of the past more generally.
Journal of Asian Studies

An excellent and indispensable work, a first of its kind, weaving vivid eyewitness accounts with a range of insightful scholarly perspectives that probe the multiple meanings of one of the great, defining moments in the history of Korean democratization.
Carter J. Eckert, Harvard University