Witnessing Gwangju: A Memoir


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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.



Paul Courtright

Paul Courtright was a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Jeonnam Province of Korea from 1979-81. He completed his Masters and Doctorate in Public Health focusing on eye diseases and neglected tropical diseases. For 20 years he lived and worked in Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Tanzania establishing, with his wife, the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology in Moshi, Tanzania.

He has published over 250 scientific articles and has received awards from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Premio Vision Mundi de Lucha Contra la Cuguera, and the Antonio Champalimaud Vision Award.  He is a professor (adjunct) at the University of Cape Town and currently he is the Trachoma Technical Lead, consulting for Sightsavers, a UK based non-governmental organization. He is married with two sons and currently lives in San Diego.  Since 1981 he had continued his relationship with Korea conducting research there with Korean colleagues and a summer epidemiology course at Yonsei University with his wife. His work in Africa has been recognized by the Queen and got invited to England.

Robin Moyer

Robin Moyer was in Seoul, South Korea on assignment for Time Magazine when he heard about the 1980 Gwangju uprising. Shortly after covering Gwangju he became a Time contract photographer (1982–1999) and spent a lot of time photographing feature stories as well as breaking news.

In 1982 he was awarded World Press Picture of the Year for a photo of the massacre of Palestinians in Lebanon, as well as a Gold Medal Citation from the Overseas Press Club’s Robert Capa Award for Courage and Enterprise for his body of work in Lebanon. As chief photographer (Asia) for TIME, he took photographs of many news stories including Cambodian refugees, the People Power revolution and Muslim insurgencies in Mindanao, Afghanistan during Russian occupation, The rise of Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar, Sri Lanka’s long war, the Tiananmen Incident in Beijing in 1989, and the many colourful leaders in Asia. He photographed Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement’ in 2014, and is currently producing a book on the current demonstrations in Hong Kong.

208 pp.
Softcover 15 x 21 cm.
ISBN-13: 9781565914957
ISBN-10: 1565914953