The Kwangju Massacre: Background information when reading Forgotten Country

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Forgotten Country

by Catherine Chung

Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung X
Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2012, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2013, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

Buy This Book

About this Book

The Kwangju Massacre

This article relates to Forgotten Country

Print Review

The family in Forgotten Country flees South Korea in the tumultuous wake of what many South Koreans consider to be the worst tragedy in Korean history since World War II - worse even than the Korean War. Indeed by all accounts the event that took place in May of 1980, known as the Kwangju Massacre, when hundreds of students and private citizens of a university town (also known as Gwangju or Gwangju Metropolitan City) were slain by the Korean military, is widely acknowledged as a national tragedy.

Map of Kwangju, South Korea It all began as a demonstration against the military dictatorship of General Chun Doo Hwan who had dashed any hopes of democratic elections upon the assassination of South Korea's previous leader by declaring martial law and imposing strict reins on the press. Pro-democracy students took to the streets in protest on May 18 and were met with armed military resistance. As sympathetic citizens and other university students witnessed what was happening on television, thousands more joined the protesters.

The students, many of whom had recently completed their one-year mandatory military service soon took arms in defense. Other young men in the midst of their obligatory military service, regardless of their sympathies, were called upon to violently oppose the pro-democracy crowds. Shots were fired and bombs were detonated over the next ten days in the formerly bucolic rural town and the immediate surrounding area. Tighter clamps were put on freedoms until ultimately, anyone even heard uttering the name Kwangju risked being arrested.

Mangwol-dong Cemetary In the end, the estimates of fatalities from the Kwangju Massacre range from the South Korean government's official tally of 200 dead to unofficial counts by witnesses who insist the dead number upwards of ten times that sum. As democracy subsequently began to take a stronger hold in the nation, the government eventually paid reparations to the families of about 200 civilians killed during the protest.

To read accounts of the Kwangju Massacre, click on the New York Times article entitled "The People of Kwangju Recall 1980 Massacre" or visit the Flying Yangban blog.

Map by ASDFGH
Bottom image of the Mangwol-dong cemetery in Gwangju where victims' bodies are buried, by Rhythm.

This "beyond the book article" relates to Forgotten Country. It originally ran in March 2012 and has been updated for the March 2013 paperback edition.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Educated
    Educated
    by Tara Westover
    Voted 2018 Best Nonfiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    Tara Westover had the kind of ...
  • Book Jacket: Circe
    Circe
    by Madeline Miller
    Voted 2018 Best Fiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    Towards the end of Madeline Miller...
  • Book Jacket: Children of Blood and Bone
    Children of Blood and Bone
    by Tomi Adeyemi
    Voted 2018 Best Young Adult Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    What would you do if, in a ...
  • Book Jacket: Where the Crawdads Sing
    Where the Crawdads Sing
    by Delia Owens
    Voted 2018 Best Debut Novel Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    Where the Crawdads Sing was a ...

See all Award Winners & Top 20

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Unsheltered
by Barbara Kingsolver

A timely novel that explores the human capacity for resiliency and compassion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Ladder to the Sky
    by John Boyne

    A seductive, unputdownable psychodrama following one brilliant, ruthless man.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The 7 ½ Deaths of
Evelyn Hardcastle

"Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day...quite unlike anything I've ever read." - A. J. Finn

Enter

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay: $400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.