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Witnessing Gwangju describes the life-altering experience of young Peace Corps volunteer, Paul Courtright. Courtright was in the countryside of South Korea in 1980 to help leprosy patients. On the way back home from his medical checkup, Courtright was caught in the middle of what became known by some as the Gwangju Massacre, also referred to as the May 18 Democratic Uprising where it is estimated that over 600 people were killed. Between Peace Corps policy and frustration, he decided to act. He escaped Gwangju to tell the US Embassy what was happening. This book is based on his eye witness account. His memoir is a record of the Gwangju Uprising as well as a poignant story about how the incident changed a young man’s life in a very short period of time.
From the Prologue:
“We have no voice. You have to be our voice. You have to tell people outside 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 now, forty years later, I can finally face. I hope I’m not too late.”