Photo/Illutration Chi Myong-gwan in Kyoto in 2005 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The Japanese monthly opinion magazine Sekai (the world) published a series of reports titled “Letters from South Korea,” which opened a small window for the rest of the world to take a peek into what was happening to South Koreans under what felt like an endless military dictatorship.

The writer of the reports remained anonymous and used the pseudonym "T.K Sei.”

“Nobody has the freedom to speak about the situation in South Korea under martial law,” the author wrote.

The series started in 1973, with a piece describing the stifling lives of the South Korean people under the dictatorship of Park Chung-hee (1917-1979).

The anonymous author, using his own sources, reported on oppression by the military and police as well as people protesting against the crackdown.

When the military crushed a pro-democracy uprising in the city of Gwangju in 1980, the author depicted how people were struck and bayoneted.

Criticizing the authorities for trying to justify the brutality as “moral politics,” the writer said it was shocking to know the government “looks upon itself as a force of morality and justice while killing citizens.”

Chi Myong-gwan, who later revealed he was T.K Sei, died recently. He was 97.

While staying in Japan for a long time as if he were a political exile, Chi was involved in the pro-democracy movement in South Korea.

He also taught at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University. After returning to South Korea in 1990, Chi devoted much of his life to promoting exchanges between the two countries.

In his book, Chi argued that the dictatorship in South Korea did not go so far as to turn into a totalitarian regime where no protest and resistance could exist.

Explaining the reasons, he pointed out that the public continued to fight for democracy and that the movement received international support.

The window opened by T.K Sei also let in the winds of change.

In Hong Kong, Myanmar, and many other parts of the world, there is still oppression by dictatorial regimes and there are people seeking support from other countries.

Let us not despair but remember that the South Korean military government looked very powerful and strong--until it collapsed.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 16

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.