Story of Korean democratization brings the president Moon to tears

by Knowing Korea

A movie released towards the end of 2017 deeply touched and healed the hearts of the Korean people. Titled '1987', the film recounts the true story of the final, triumphant year of the Korean Democratization Movement.


At the time, Chun Doo-Hwan held a strong position as the President of South Korea. An ex-general, he seized political power by military coup in 1980 and is held widely responsibly for the massacre which brought an end to the 1980 Gwangju Uprising against his rule. After his formal inauguration in 1981, Chun wasted no time in sending countless democracy activists opposing his administration to jail, where they were routinely tortured.


'1987' begins with the death of Park Jong-Cheol, a student of Seoul National University, who was accidentally killed during a brutal police interrogation. After numerous people fought to make the truth of his death public, the outrage led to protests nationwide. During one of these protests at Yonsei University in Seoul, a student named Lee Han-Yeol, was struck in the head by a tear gas canister shot by riot police and fell into a coma, prompting even fiercer protests.


President Chun Doo-Hwan initially announced his intention to hand over the presidency to his friend by indirect election, but in the face of strong resistance from the public was forced to submit into promising to have the next president directly elected by the people.


Current president of South Korea, Moon Jae-In was a lawyer at this time and actively participated in many of these anti-government protests, himself getting arrested and confined for over 50 hours after attending a pan-national memorial service for Park Jong-Cheol.


President Moon recently watched the movie alongside many others who participated in the protests of 1987 and celebrities who had been blacklisted by the previous conservative administration for expressing critical opinions against it. Like many others in the theater, President Moon was seen visibly shedding tears as a list of citizens killed during the democratization protests was shown at the end of the film.