Kwangju (gwäng`jo͞o`), city (1995 pop. 1,257,504), metropolitan city located in but independent of South Jeolla (Cholla) prov., SW South Korea, in the Yeongsan (Yongsan) River lowland. A regional agricultural and commercial center built on the site of an ancient market, Gwangju has rice mills and industries that produce automobiles, textiles, and beer. The city is also a railway, road, and air hub. In the hills around Gwangju are ancient tombs and temples. In 1980 demonstrators protesting martial law briefly seized control of the city; the ensuing massacre of the protestors by government forces was a factor in the toppling of Choi Kyu-hah's government by General Chun Doo Hwan. Gwangju was formerly the capital of South Jeolla prov.