Four and a half kilometers from the east Gwangju tollgate of Honam (Jeolla provinces) Expressway, in the direction of Dam-yang, is National May 18 Democratic Cemetery, located in a nice location looking out over Mudeung Mountain. Within the gate of the cemetery is a sacred Memorial Monument standing tall. The shape of the monument is that of two hands holding an oval object. National May 18 Democratic Cemetery is the symbol of Gwangju, the city of justice and democracy, and is a sacred spot for democracy. The cemetery is about 165,000㎡ in size. When visitors first enter the cemetery they sign the guest book and then present themselves devoutly before the Gate of Democracy. Through the Gate of Democarcy are the Democratic Square and the Memorial Gate. Through the Memorial Gate is the loftily standing May 18 Memorial Monument. The Memorial Monument is a 40 meter high tower - the shape of two symmetrical square pillars - and an egg-shaped statue that symbolizes the resurrection. The monument is in the shape of a Dangganjiju, old Korean stonework of two vertical pillars, but with the monument bears a more modern style. A long bronze sculpture lies beneath the Memorial Monument and bronze sculptures stand to each side. The bronze sculpture are the ‘Armed Movement Soldiers’ statue that represents the military citizens of May, 1980 and the 'United World Soldiers' statue that describes people who sang the song of the victory and endeavored to keep peace. The title of the bronze sculpture at the base of the monument is ‘May 18 Democratic Uprising'. Beyond the Memorial Monument, there is the cemetery where the democratic patriots are buried. At the right of the cemetery is a shrine with portraits drawn on scrolls. The exterior model of the shrine is the shape of Korean dolmen. At the left of the cemetery is a historic gate that shows visitors who prayed before the shrine, the place where we can experience Korean history. Underground, beneath the historic gate, is an exhibition of 122 pictures from the day, including a documentary film about the event on display. There is a small outdoor performance hall below the historic gate, and beyond this, the historical carved relief exhibition place. The carved reliefs represent seven themes: the movement of local volunteer troops, the Donghak Farmers Battle, the 1919 Independence Movement, the Gwangju Student Independence Movement, the 4.19 Revolution, the May 18 Democratic Movement and the Unification of North and South Korea, which is the national aspiration. There is a duplex building with an exhibition room and images of May 18th after passing by the exhibition place. After May 18 Democratic Movement in 1980, many stories were circulated until National May 18 Democratic Cemetery was established in 1997, because the justice and honor of the May 18 Democratic Movement were not recognized until then. After the June Democratic movement in 1987, the democratic demand of the people was accepted. The actual circumstances of the Democratic Movement in May were opened to the public in 1988 with the 'Gwangju Hearing'. In 1993, the civilian government announced the construction of the cemetery as part of 'Establishing the Correct History'. The construction of the cemetery started in November 1994 and it was completed on May 13th, 1997. After that, the 'Law Concerning the Honorable Treatment of Persons who Took Contribute to Democracy in Gwangju' was proclaimed in January 2002 and the cemetery was raised to the status of a national cemetery. Thus, the cemetery was renamed the ‘National May 18 Democratic Cemetery' in January 2006. Now the number of persons registered at City Hall as belonging to the May movement is more than 5,000. The number buried was 794 and in 2008 another 500 were buried there. If the whole cemetery becomes full as time goes on, it will be said that this converted to a crematory cemetery. 120 bodies of patriots, who were wrapped with cotton cloth and vinyl and loaded on garbage wagons and handcarts, were buried at the municipal cemetery in Mangwol-dong after the resolute uprising which lasted ten days in May, 1980. The spirits of the departed who were buried at this location for 17 years could finally rest in the new burial site and comfortably close their eyes for the first time after the business of cemetery sanctuary was promoted since 1994 and the new cemetery (the National May 18 Democratic Cemetery) was completed in 1997. The National May 18 Democratic Cemetery is a symbolic space that reminds us of the May movement. Thus, the place is utilized as the place to boldly teach one important historical lesson that never would immorality or dictatorship be allowed to defile this land again. This cemetery also remains fervent in the minds of cosmopolitans who long for freedom, democracy and justice.
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