“Murderous Tear Gas”

A good article on the ubiquitous use of tear gas in South Korea – an ever-presence in Seoul in the Eighties.

I remember reading at the time that some countries (I believe, the Philippines) refused to buy it from South Korea, stating that it was “an inhuman product.”

Even before the mass protests in June 1987, which brought millions into the streets, knowledge of the police use of tear gas had spread widely among the population. Just as citizens had their own verbiage for the white helmet-clad riot police, which they called the “White Skull Corps,” people also gave names to the variety of tear gas canisters.


The “White Skull Corps” (백골단) were a particular subset of the riot police – in many ways, better known for their denim clothes and sneakers and small riot shields (their job was to chase after student demonstrators – and therefore not to be held down by boots or clunky equipment). They became especially well-known among the general public after the Kang Kyung Dae Incident where they beat a college student to death. I was in Shinchon at the time of the demonstrations, and the tear gas was indescribable.

It is also well-worth remembering that demonstrations continued to happen – and happen rather fiercely – well after the June 1987 Uprising and the labor protests, before eventually petering out.

Related to this, I found this on youtube recently. This is Ali singing “92년 장마, 종로에서” (Monsoon rains in ’92, in Jongro). Beautiful song, beautifully sung.