Colette Noir, the French Heroine of Gwangju

Noir was the only non-Korean who was investigated by the Chun Doo-hwan dictatorship regarding the massacre in Gwangju.

Colette Noir, the French Heroine of Gwangju

Photo: Colette Noir.  Credit: Jeonjinsang Education Center.

International solidarity was a crucial factor in the Gwangju Democracy Movement 광주민주화운동, as journalists from abroad - including Jurgen Hintzpeter of Germany, who captured the massacre on video - played an indispensable role in raising global awareness. Recently declassified documents from the Chun Doo-hwan 전두환 dictatorship revealed yet another unsung international hero.

Colette Noir, a member of Association Fraternalle Internationale, a Catholic charity, came to South Korea from France in 1962 at age 28, assisting Korea’s democracy movement. In the aftermath of the Gwangju uprising in 1980, Noir smuggled documents and voice recordings of eyewitnesses through the network of Catholic priests, nuns and volunteers, sending the news of the massacre throughout South Korea and internationally to Japan. The Chun dictatorship arrested and interrogated Noir, making her the only non-Korean to face interrogation with respect to the Gwangju massacre.

Noir continued to live in South Korea until 2016, working in charity projects in the slums of Seoul before returning to France.

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