Home News His photos reveal a bloody crackdown, but his identity remains a secret

His photos reveal a bloody crackdown, but his identity remains a secret


It’s an iconic image— Black and white photo A bloodied student is beaten by paratrooper medics. This first photograph of a man slipping through a military cordon in Gwangju, South Korea, in 1980, reveals the brutal repression of the anti-establishment movement that came to be known as the “anti-establishment”. Gwangju Democratization Movement.

But for many years, the photographer’s identity – a man named Luo Jingze ——is still a secret.

Mr. Luo dared not take credit for this and other disturbing photos from Gwangju because he was worried about the military junta and its leaders. Chun Doo-hwanHis crackdown in South Korea left hundreds dead or missing, the darkest chapter in the country’s long fight against dictatorship. Chun’s rule ended in 1988, and many in South Korea now support him. Constitutional amendment To sanctify Gwangju’s role in South Korea’s democratization. Yet most people have never heard of Mr. Roh.

Mr. Na, 75, seemed unfazed by the lack of recognition when interviewed in Gwangju, where he worked as a photojournalist for 40 years until his retirement in 2007. But he is still haunted by what he saw that fateful spring.

“South Korean democracy began in Gwangju,” he said. “I just did what I could for the Korean people.”

Born in 1949 in Naju, near Gwangju, Na was the only son of five older sisters. After graduating from high school, he joined the Chonnam Ilbo newspaper, one of the two daily newspapers in Gwangju, in 1967.

The President Park Chung-hee When Mr. Luo visited the region during a drought, and it happened to rain, both newspapers used identical front-page headlines praising the military strongman as “the rainmaker.” The editor-in-chief of Mr. Luo’s newspaper boasted that his headline was bigger than that of his rival’s.

“We had three photographers at the newspaper, but two cameras,” Mr. Luo recalled. “When one of us came in, the other would go out with the camera.”

Park Chung-hee was assassinated in late 1979, ending his 18-year rule. Then another army general, Chun Doo-hwan, seized power. In May of the following year, Chun banned all political activities, closed schools, and arrested dissidents. When people in Gwangju rallied against martial law, Chun sent in tanks and paratroopers.

On May 18, Mr. Na was attending Sunday Mass in the suburbs when people in Gwangju reported a riot. It was the beginning of a 10-day protest during which soldiers shot at protesters and citizens fought back with rocks and rifles stolen from police stations.

Mr. Na found tear gas so thick in the city center that he could not take photos because he did not have a gas mask. The next day, he saw a radio station car on fire. Under martial law censorship, local media vilified the protesters as “thugs” but did not report on the army’s brutality. Angry people later burned down two TV stations.

“I was afraid of both the soldiers and the protesters,” Mr. Na said. “When they saw the journalists, their eyes were filled with murderous intent.”

Mr. Luo hid on the fifth floor of a building and filmed what was happening on the street: a civilian was forced to kneel in front of an armed soldier, a man and a woman were dragged away by paratroopers with blood on their heads, and a student was beaten with a stick by a paratrooper wearing a medical Red Cross armband.

The gentleman rushed to his evening newspaper, only to find that the paper could not publish any news about the crackdown. The reporters had put together a brief report, but the editors had confiscated and destroyed the typeset.

“We saw citizens being dragged away like dogs and slaughtered, but were unable to report any news about them,” the journalist said. Joint resignation letter.

Mr. Luo and a sympathetic editor decided to give his photos to foreign news outlets.

Tony Chung, a photographer for the Associated Press, was in Seoul when two Gwangju journalists stalked him. They had two envelopes, one for Mr. Chung and the other for the Seoul-based AP. Each envelope contained photos taken by Mr. Na and Shin Bok-jin, a photographer for another Gwangju daily, the Chonnam Ilbo.

Mr. Chung, a retiree living south of Seoul, said by telephone that there had been sketchy reports of “riots” in Gwangju. But the photos contradicted the government’s account because they bore witness to military brutality.

Mr. Zhong did not know who took the photos and did not ask. He said the photographers’ identities had to be protected for their safety.

The first of several photos that Chung sent abroad was the one of the doctor holding the baton. The government’s information minister accused him of spreading “fake” photos, and an intelligence agent warned Chung to be careful at night. Undeterred, Chung sent his photo The deaths of students killed in anti-government protests, captured by Reuters, have given a boost to South Korea’s democratization drive.

“These photos of Gwangju tell the truth and are convincing. Foreign Correspondents “We have to get there,” said the 84-year-old Mr. Chung.

In 1980, even as his newspaper closed, Mr. Na continued to take photographs until more journalists, including Mr. Chung, arrived in Gwangju. Together, they documented the city in indelible images. Citizens gathered around those killed by soldiers. Effigies of “murderer Chun Doo-hwan” were burned. Military jeeps and trucks were commandeered. Paratroopers drove in in armored vehicles, surrounding and beating students cowering in the street. Protesters lay dead in pools of blood. Mothers wailed beside rows of coffins.

Mr. Luo spent the night hiding in a building riddled with bullet holes, hungry and afraid of army snipers. Protesters once grabbed him by the collar and asked him, “What kind of reporter am I not to publish what I saw.”

“I didn’t know how to make them understand that I wanted to leave a record with my camera even though I couldn’t publish my photos,” he said.

Today, the images taken by Mr. Na and Mr. Shin, a photographer for another newspaper who died in 2010, are virtually the only ones that capture the early days of the unrest, said Jang Je Geun, who has edited three Gwangju photo collections.

On May 27, paratroopers stormed City Hall, where protesters, including high school students, made a last stand, each armed with a rifle and a few bullets. As the early morning attack began, a female student named Park Yong-soon appealed through a loudspeaker on the roof: “Gwangju citizens, please don’t forget us.”

According to official statistics, nearly 200 people were killed in Gwangju, including about 20 soldiers, half of whom were killed by friendly fire. Civilian groups believe the death toll is much higher.

Mr. Na’s newspaper reopened six days after the bloodbath, but it was still forbidden to mention the events. When the paper published a poem describing a city “forsaken by God and birds,” most of it was Edited Mr. Luo and other journalists visited the graves of the victims. We offer flowers as a token of our apology.

Mr. Luo hid the negatives under the ceiling of his apartment because the military was looking for the source of the photo of the paratrooper wielding a baton. When officers came to his home and demanded copies of all his photos, Mr. Luo hid the sensitive photos.

The Gwangju massacre set off a wave of protests in South Korea, forcing the government to agree to democratic reforms in the late 1980s. The photos that Mr. Luo hid were eventually shown in a public exhibition and used as evidence in a parliamentary inquiry into the military crackdown. But Mr. Luo was not identified as the source of the photos until 1990, when the Catholic Church honored him for his courage.

In 2011, a file on the Gwangju Uprising was released, including 2,000 photos taken by Mr. Luo. Engraving Participate in UNESCO’s Memory of the World programme, which aims to preserve important documentary heritage around the world.

Mr. Luo, who is married with three grown daughters, worked at a health care center for the elderly for several years after leaving journalism. But he could not escape the pain in Gwangju.

Now, the old soldiers False Information The claim that the Gwangju “riot” was instigated by “hooligans” and “communists” is still being hyped by far-right elements online. After retiring, Mr. Luo has been giving speeches and participating in photography exhibitions to help clarify the facts.

Looking back, Mr. Luo has one regret.

On the fourth day of the uprising, he found himself among the paratroopers, his camera tucked under his shirt. He heard a captain repeat an order over the radio to shoot into the crowd. Mr. Rowe fled for his life, leaving no one to film the mass shooting.

“I should have taken out my camera,” he said, “but if I had, I probably wouldn’t be here.”

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