Man devotes his life to uncovering military’s secret burials of Gwangju Democratization Movement victims

Jeong Su-man lost his brother and later discovered him at a firing range

The bodies could be seen in the pile of dirt dug up by the excavator. There were 11 of them. His eyes went to one that had the number “1” painted on it in white. Seeing the pants and handkerchief, he confirmed that the body belonged to his younger brother.

The life of Jeong Su-man, now 70 and a former president of the May 18 Victims’ Family Members Association, was forever changed after June 2, 1980, the day his brother’s body was found buried at the 101 firing range within the ROK Army Training & Doctrine Command (Gwangju Sangmudae Military Complex). Then 31 years old, his brother Ji-yeong had gone out into the streets out of anger over the heavy-handed suppression tactics used by the airborne units; now his body lay cold and dead. Unable to comprehend his brother’s death, Jeong organized a memorial the following May at the former May 18 Cemetery in Gwangju’s Mangwol neighborhood, which led to his arrest and an eight-month prison sentence. They were harsh times.

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