Young Peace Corps volunteer, Paul Courtright was helping leprosy patients in the countryside of South Korea 1980. He enjoyed cooking eggs and listening to music. On his way back home from his medical checkup, he got caught in the middle of Gwangju massacre. Between Peace Corps policy and frustration, he decided to act. He escaped Gwangju to tell the US embassy what was going on there.
He couldn't stop writing notes about what he was witnessing. It was the only way he could process what he was seeing. 〈Witnessing Gwangju〉 is based on his massive amount of notes. This memoir is not only the record of Gwangju uprising but also a great story of how the incident changed a young man's life in a very short period of time.
“We have no voice. You have to be our voice. You have to tell people outside what they’re doing to us.” She glanced around the street, then returned her fearless gaze to me. I was rooted to the spot. I was to be the “witness” and she had given me a clear task. I failed the halmeoni. I was given a responsibility that now, forty years later, I can finally face. I hope I’m not too late.
Paul Courtright was a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Jeonnam Province of Korea from 1979-81. He completed his Masters and Doctorate in Public Health focusing on eye diseases and neglected tropical diseases. For 20 years he lived and worked in Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Tanzania establishing, with his wife, the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology in Moshi, Tanzania.
He has published over 250 scientific articles and has received awards from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Premio Vision Mundi de Lucha Contra la Cuguera, and the Antonio Champalimaud Vision Award. He is a professor (adjunct) at the University of Cape Town and currently he is the Trachoma Technical Lead, consulting for Sightsavers, a UK based non-governmental organization. He is married with two sons and currently lives in San Diego. Since 1981 he had continued his relationship with Korea conducting research there with Korean colleagues and a summer epidemiology course at Yonsei University with his wife. His work in Africa has been recognized by the Queen and got invited to England.