A photo Kim Newton took during the South Korean democracy movement in 1987 still resonates in the country.
So much that the University of Arizona School of Journalism professor was invited to return to South Korea to be a presenter and participate in a documentary for the movement’s 30th anniversary. He left March 2 and plans to be in Eastern Asia for two weeks.
“Last week I was contacted by MBC, Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation, the second largest broadcast company in South Korea,” Newton said. “They found me through one of my U.S. News & World Report photos that shows South Korean students holding a photograph of Lee Han-yeol, a student who was killed during the South Korean democracy movement in 1987.”
The movement led to the fall of the government and South Korea’s first free democratic elections.
“The film is aimed at documenting my return to Seoul for the first time since I left in 1988,” Newton said, “discussing my views and impressions as a foreign photojournalist during the 1987 student uprising and my impressions as they relate to today’s democratic situation and impeachment of their current president.”
Hundreds of thousands of South Koreans have held rival protests in Seoul over the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye on corruption charges. A nine-judge panel is set to rule on her fate by March 13. More large demonstrations are scheduled for Saturday, March 4.
“The producers will film me during Saturday’s demonstration and other sites around Seoul where I covered student demonstrations in 1987,” Netwon said. “We will also visit sites I photographed in Seoul in 1987, including many of the universities where students protested during the uprising, including Yonsei University, Seoul University and Ewa Woman’s University to name a few.”
The three-hour documentary plans to focus on three people: Newton, a riot policeman from 1987 and a student leader. The producers, he said, also plan to travel to Tucson to film Newton and his current life and use his photos from 1987 and his return trip to South Korea.
Newton was a freelance photojournalist based in Tokyo and Seoul from 1982-1990 for U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times, Forbes, Business Week, People, Time, Le Fiagaro and others.
He went on to become a Reuters picture editor for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, based in London, from 1992 to 1998, and senior photo editor for Knight Ridder/Tribune in Washington from 1998 to 2002.