The Long Struggle for Democracy

One of South Korea’s most remarkable accomplishments is its transition from a dictatorship run by generals to a vigorous democracy run by elected leaders. That transition occurred only after a 40-year struggle by thousands of Koreans who wanted to participate in their country’s government.

I had the great privilege of watching these events as a newspaper reporter during some of those years, and now it’s also a privilege to share those events with students, both in the classroom and on field trips. Many things that happened in Korea then are now being repeated in other countries that yearn for democracy and public participation rather than authoritarian rule.  They can learn from Korea’s experience, and so can we.

~ Prof. Norman Thorpe, ISS Democratization in Korea and Asia course

Photo captions:

1.  Police use tear gas to try to block pro-democracy demonstrators in the streets of Seoul, May 1980.

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2.  ISS students visit the Gwangju National Cemetery, where martyrs killed by the army in 1980 are buried.   Summer, 2012.

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