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“I didn’t know how to shoot and kill like in war”… Kim In-hwan, citizen militia of the last resistance 

During the May 18th, 1980, Seo Ho-bin, a senior at Chonnam National University at the time, was shot and oxidized while defending the Jeonnam Provincial Office until the end. Seo Ho-bin’s college classmate and hometown friend Kim In-hwan was also with him at the provincial government building in the early morning of May 27th.

When I stayed at the Jeonnam Provincial Office, I didn’t know that they would suppress it like that. I knew you would tell me to surrender. Still, I was left with the idea that I had to leave something like ‘I resisted to the end’. Shooting and killing us like a battlefield like this, I never imagined that this would happen.

Kim In-hwan said that he only had casual conversations with his friend while standing guard behind the provincial government building at dawn that day when martial law troops were predicted to enter. He never imagined it could be the last. Even the citizen militia who survived the final struggle against the provincial government are enduring more than 40 years with their heartbreaking stories.

Kim In-hwan, executive director of the May 18 Democratization Movement Seoul Memorial Foundation

During the May 18th, KBS Gwangju 「Video Recording May 18th」 reporters met Kim In-hwan, who participated as a citizen militia with his friend Seo Ho-bin, and who remained at the provincial government building after carrying out weapons recovery activities .

■University student with little interest in protest

Kim In-hwan, who was in his third year of college in 1980, did not usually participate in pro-democracy demonstrations. A Yeosu young man with a lot of dreams who wanted to go to KAIST went to Chonnam National University College of Engineering with friends from his hometown, including Seo Ho-bin, in the expectation that he would be able to participate in the design of the 2nd Yeocheon Industrial Complex in his hometown. In 1980, during his junior year, he served as alumni president of his hometown high school.

Looking at the situation on May 18th, I thought, ‘It can’t be done’. I went out to the public terminal on the morning of the 19th to say, ‘Go to Yeosu’s house,’ because my alumni and freshman and sophomore juniors didn’t want to be in Gwangju. However, the terminal caught fire and tickets were not sold. There were also a lot of protests there. So I couldn’t send my alumni down and told them to ‘just stay at home’.

■Participating in protest against martial law troops

At the time, Mr. Kim In-hwan lived in Yangnim-dong, Gwangju City, a short distance across the Gwangju Stream from the South Jeolla Provincial Office. He dissuaded his juniors, saying it was dangerous, but as his house was close to the provincial government building, he witnessed the protests up close every day. Watching the brutal atrocities of the martial law forces, Mr. Kim naturally took part in the demonstration.

When I saw people beating up people to make bowls of porridge like this, I thought, ‘This isn’t it’. If you hide at home or run away, you have to leave it alone. But I just went to the end and knocked it out and dragged it out, and when people passed by and said something, they just hit me with a club and did this. This wasn’t suppression, honestly. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine such a thing, and since something beyond imagination happened, I think it was May 18th that everyone was indignant at seeing it.

■ Weapon recovery activity with high school classmate Seo Ho-bin

Kim In-hwan also participated in the weapon recovery activity led by the Citizens’ Probation Committee. At that time, the Civil Probation Committee led the recovery of firearms and entered into negotiations with the authorities, and they participated in this arms recovery activity. He was with his friend Seo Ho-bin for two days on May 25 and 26.

Citizens armed with firearms in May 1980 (screen capture)

President Choi Kyu-ha came down and said that they were negotiating, and the Citizens Probation Committee said, ‘There are too many weapons, so I don’t think anyone should have them, so I have to retrieve them.’ I agreed to it and retrieved the weapon, with a friend.

In the back of the 1-ton truck, 4 people also got into the luggage compartment to retrieve weapons given by citizens, and broadcasted to the car to continue returning weapons. I was originally from Yeosu, so I didn’t know the geography of Gwangju, so I went to several places in the direction of Hwasun as the driver went. My friend Hobin came to my house and we collected weapons together on the 26th.

■”I’m sorry”… Remaining at the last wiretapping,

the militia retrieved a large number of weapons and negotiated with the authorities, but failed. Now, only the hard suppression of martial law forces remains, and the leadership of the last resistance has been formed. Kim In-hwan and his friend Seo Ho-bin decided to stay in Jeollanam-do Provincial Office. “I’m sorry” The reason he stayed at the South Jeolla Provincial Office the night the martial law force’s final crackdown was announced was ‘I’m sorry’.

On the 26th, around 6:00 pm, I retrieved my weapon and came in, and now the martial law troops are coming in. I’m sorry about that. It was a decision made by the Citizens Probation Committee, but I still feel sorry for recovering the weapon, and I thought that I should stay at the provincial office until the end and protect it. So my friend and I were left alone.

On the night of May 26, when the suppression of martial law troops was announced, Kim In-hwan and Seo Ho-bin took charge of security behind the provincial government building. They stood side by side on the left and right sides of the small side gate leading to the village behind the provincial government building. I was given an old-fashioned rifle and even a magazine, but I never imagined that it would turn into a battlefield in a few hours.

Provincial office occupied by paratroopers

Estimated location of Seo Ho-bin’s death on May 27, 1980 (captured from the broadcast screen)

Martial law troops begin pushing into the South Jeolla Provincial Office at dawn on May 27th. Kim In-hwan, who was standing guard, fired a blank shot, but of course it was useless. Indiscriminate shooting continued, and paratroopers descended from helicopters and continued brutal suppression.

It seems that a helicopter flew in from the Chosun University side, stopped in the air, and a soldier descended on a rope, holding a gun to his side and shooting. It was seen right from our side. I was standing here next to the building and Hobin was standing by the side door, and I think Hobin was shot at that time. He used to crawl on me.

That time was less than a minute. Even though it seems long, it’s kind of blurry. I just passed out when a soldier hit me with the butt of a gun. Later, after being arrested, I took off my clothes, leaving only my underwear, and then I came to my senses.

■I didn’t want to believe in my friend’s death안전놀이터

Kim In-hwan, who was arrested at the provincial government office, was taken to the Sangmu University detention center and was beaten and tortured for over 100 days. At least, that was because his identity as a Chonnam National University student was not revealed and he was classified as a ‘re-student’. I can guess how the martial law forces would have treated me if I had been arrested as a 3rd year student at Chonnam National University until the end of the provincial office.

I was almost out of my mind while I was at the Sangmu University detention center. I think the reason I was able to endure that was because of the expectation that ‘my friend (Seo Ho-bin) wouldn’t die’. I didn’t know that Hobin died like that for almost 3 years.

Her mother was afraid to speak to her. Because even after I came out of Sangmu University, I lived without my mind. Even when I went home, I always went to the backyard and just sat there blankly.

After 30 years…

Tombstone of Seo Ho-bin at the May 18th National Cemetery

Originally, I suggested going to KAIST with a friend. However, when Chonnam National University College of Engineering became specialized, they said that they would entrust the second design of Yeocheon Industrial Complex to us. I thought it would be okay if I participated in the design of the Yeocheon Industrial Complex in my hometown, so I went to Chonnam National University with Hobin and another friend. Isn’t it wrong that I asked my friend to go to Chonnam National University? I couldn’t even say anything.

Seo Ho-bin, a friend I’ve known since childhood. His mother also knew each other well in the neighborhood. He never thought of coming to Gwangju for the next few decades. It has been 30 years since he returned to Gwangju. It was only then that I found Seo Ho-bin’s grave and met Ho-bin’s mother in 2018, 38 years later.

The memory of that day in May 1980 left a deep scar on Kim In-hwan.

■ ‘Fact-finding’ ‘Inheritance of the spirit of May’

The victim definitely exists, but the soldier who said he acted like that doesn’t appear now, so I just want him to testify. But it’s a pity that I didn’t say that and tried to take it to the grave.

10,000 soldiers came, and those who directly suppressed the protests, wielded clubs and shot, have to find out the truth. This will go down in history. It’s not about asking for guilt.

Kim In-hwan is currently serving as the executive director of the May 18 Democratization Movement Seoul Memorial Foundation. Overcoming the pain of May 1980, we are working hard to find out the truth about the May 18th and inherit the spirit of May.

There was nothing wrong with what we protested, it was literally a protest. It is said that ‘we must not usurp democracy’.

After May 18, many young people across the country lost their lives fighting to promote democracy and achieve democratization, and there are many martyrs. May 18th is not only for meritorious people. Even in 1980, May 18th belonged to all citizens of Gwangju.

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