We didn’t have much time to explore Gwangju — just two days — so we dropped off our luggage and headed straight for the May 18th National Cemetery. There’s more information in my blog post from last year’s visit, but here’s the short version: many residents of Gwangju, including students attending Chonnam National University, were killed when Korea’s military violently suppressed a pro-democracy movement in May 1980. The cemetery is the final resting place for many of those victims. We visited just a few days after the May 18th anniversary, and workers were busy breaking down the tents that had been used for the ceremonies.
It was a somber experience, but I thought it would be important for my students to see a memorial dedicated to people who died for something that we Americans can sometimes take for granted.
That night, I convinced a few folks to take a city bus to Chonnam National’s neighborhood with the promise of introducing them to Korean BBQ. That was a great meal.
We were watching lots of planes — some of them huge — land at Jeju International Airport while we were awaiting our flight to Gwangju. Jeju’s tourism industry appears to be in good shape.