Rebellious and slow Gwangju (Day 225)
Gwangju is known as a rebellious city. Yet there are areas around here which was known to be Slow. A rebellious and slow Gwangju?
In 1929 during the Imperial Japanese rule, there was a demonstration here by the students and this culminated into a national uprising against the cruelty of the Japanese. Then in May 1980 a peaceful demonstration against the military dictator turned sour with a violent crackdown by the army. This turned into a horrendous massacre of innocent civilians. It was stated by the government that 144 civilians had been killed but census figures reveal that almost 2,000 people of Gwangju disappeared during this time.
We discovered all about this at the 18th May Memory Hall today which is recognised by UNESCO and is widely considered as a turning point for democracy and human rights. This country has had its fair share of trauma and later today we discussed the impact that it has had on people’s mental state. South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates compared to other countries in the developing world. This is mainly from a large number of suicides among the elderly due to poorly funded social care and not wanting to be a financial burden on their families. So sad.
Our travelling is opening our eyes to the needless suffering that people endure around the world, yet we meet the most wonderful, kind and caring people everywhere. Work needs to be done to end this suffering. Is anyone able to translate a short book into Korean, please?
On a brighter note, Sei-Woong and Soohyun took us to Damyang Bamboo forest after we had a meal with many plates of scrumptious food. We both love the food here, a smorgasbord of tastes, lots of side dishes called banchan together with kimchi, fermented cabbage. Might not sound appealing but it is delicious.
The Bamboo forest was wonderful, so serene and Tim and I much preferred it to the rather touristy one we went to in Kyoto, Japan. We could wander a little way into the forest amongst these tall, straight, strong bamboos. Soohyun shared with me that the reason Japan has a lot of Bamboo forests is that the roots are very deep and wide, so hold the ground better in times of earthquakes. That makes sense.
Within the area, we came across bamboo poles set with different gaps in between. The aim was to squeeze between the poles to show how big your waistline was. I do think that in some countries the gaps would need to be much bigger than these! We also came across a game where you needed to throw sticks into some bamboo. Seehyan was the first to be successful, then Sei-Woong. Was it going to be a repeat from last night at 2:0 to South Korea? Luckily I managed to get a stick in. Come on Tim, you’ve let the side down!
On the way back, we visited the Slow city of Jeonnam (a village rather than city), a tranquil peaceful place that seems very well kept. This idea comes from the Slow Food movement that started in Italy and is now in over 100 countries around the world.
If you live in a town or city with less than 50,000 residents, then you can apply for it to be called a Slow City. What this means is that the area has less traffic, noise and pollution. Supporting the local culture, traditions, and buying local products and services is part of the ethos as well as having a more sustainable environment and encourage healthy living. Building a strong sense of community and getting back to basics. Sounds good to me. Who would have thought there was one of these in South Korea, in fact, there is 11! (the United Kingdom only has 5).
We got back and went to the supermarket to get the provisions for dinner. We were making the meal that we made at our Korean Cooking class a couple of days ago. Seehyun took control whilst Tim and I did the chopping and I fried the pancakes.
And then we started talking about my book Got It, where stress comes from, how we experience life and how this understanding can help many people have more content and peaceful lives rather than unnecessarily suffer. That is when we started talking about the issue of suicide in South Korea. We have 42 days left here…how can I get this understanding to many people in this time – I only know a handful of Korean words…Any ideas?