Monday, November 07, 2005

Opening Ceremony of the 2nd Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School 2005

Mr. Park Seok Moo, President of The May 18 Memorial Foundation delivered his Welcome Remarks to the Participants of the Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School.

Welcome Remarks
2005 Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School
Gwangju City Public Servant's Educational Center

First of all, I would like to welcome the 22 participants to the 2005 Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk school from 12 different nations to the city of Gwangju, the city of democracy and human rights. This year's 20 participants were chosen from 91 applicants from 24 nations through a rigorous and a fair screening process and 2 additional participants are here on their own expenses.

Our May 18th memorial foundation have initiated international projects actively since the year 2000. Annual May 18th memorial functions have been the starting point of our international projects. For more in depth and structured education of Korean democratic history, we have been organizing the Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School since last year.

As you may have already known, Korea became one of the nations which succeeded in spectacular economic progress. However, there is a painful and arduous history of democratization behind the spectacle of economic progress. The May 18th, Gwangju uprising is a crucial historical event that contributes to the progress of Korean democracy. In the May of 1980, citizens of Gwangju did not submit to the merciless military suppression but rather, unified and organized to fight against the military. Although the 10 day Gwangju uprising ended in bloodshed by atrocious military suppression, people of Korea have not ceased the fight against the military dictatorship to inquire the truth of the May 18th democratic movement. And finally, we have won that fight.

Gwangju, from a sanctuary for Korean democratic movement, became the sanctuary for Asia's democratic and Human Rights movement. For us, you, the participants of the Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School are another important symbol of the victory of Korean democratic movement. Even at this hour, in various places throughout Asia, infringement of human rights and oppression of democracy is being carried out. Our foundation is directing our attention to these situations in various places around Asia. Just as we were not alone in our own struggles in the past, we are now extending our sincere concerns and support to those places in Asia.

Dear, participants and guests!

The future of Gwangju and Asia is in the hands of young activists like yourselves. The participants of this year's Human Rights folk school will visit not only Gwangju but to various sites and organizations involved in Korean democratic movements. Although 3 weeks is a short time, I hope you bring home many things.

I hope Gwangju, Korea and this program could be a valuable space to further develop your own ideas and plans as well as connecting bridges over national boundaries to initiate solidarity. In addition, let us think about how and in what ways your own nations can develop different ideas about democracy.

Once again, I welcome you to Gwangju and please be in good health throughout our 3 week program, and finally I would like to thank Lee Gwang-Su, education commissioner and committee members and staff who worked hard to make this program possible.

Mr. Kim Jong-Cheol the Solidarity Team Director of the Korea Democracy Foundation (KDF) came all the way from Seoul to welcome the folk school participants.

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