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Testimonials from the Participants of the 2010 Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School
Date : 2010-10-18     Hit : 3554

The Impressions of 2010 Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School

I’m very delightful to give my testimonial on Human Asian rights folk school, 2010.

Firstly, the organizer committee was successfully managed the very prestige program and achieved its goal where all participants were active and satisfy. The program involved 20 participants from 14 different countries for three weeks which is available period for experiencing and learning new knowledge and experiences on the development of Democracy, human rights, and establishing perspective network.

In terms of inputs and outputs, the participants were given the chances to share their knowledge, skills and experiences through individual and group presentations. On the other hand, the participants attended several lectures from different high dedication professors of Universities like Chonnam National University, Korea University, Yongsei University, SungKong Hoe University, From them we got various academic views, opinion and shared experiences on how to work together standing side by side to defend and promote human rights in our society, country, regional and over the world in order to prevent human rights violation in the future where the rights of people are respect to enjoy the life with dignity as human being.

We also visited various NGOs those who work on human rights, democracy, environmental and investigation case on human rights violation in the past and then we heard curiously what really happened in the last decades of Korean History where the cost many people‘re sacrificed in the name of Democracy and human rights.

We had also chance to learn Democracy revolution songs, it seems like we went back to 1980s and fighting for freedom, and democracy movement, the meaning of those songs highly boosted to our morale.

In terms of international network, we visited many organizations like the May 18 Memorial Foundation, PSPD, NANCHEN, Gwangju NGO Center, Truth and Reconciliation Commission and some universities. During our visiting to those organizations, we learned what they‘re doing and their experiences too.

After three weeks program end, almost every participant went back their home with tears because we are going to apart to do our jobs in our respective countries. At that time, I saw many participants were crying even tough me. The program was not giving only professional knowledge and links between participants but also mental relationship for future cooperation.

“I am speaking from my heart; I love Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School and program is excellent for human rights worker.

Kyaw Thu Lwin -United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Myanmar

For me, Gwangju Human Rights Folk School gave me its own experience. Before, I never feel different atmosphere works environment. As a reporter, I cannot imagine about human rights defender what is looked like. But the GHRFS experienced me the best knowledge about the faith of Human rights. It opened my mind and the history of GHRFS brought me to the way to come up how to promote and protect human rights in my Country. Let's spread the spirit, and don't stop this noble assembly; because peace, love and rights‘re something that God promised for us.

Cheta Nilawaty Prasetyaningrum- Reporter, Tempo Intimedia (Tempo Magazine), Indonesia

Our journey with GAHRFS 2010 went on during 18 days. And I can say it was satisfaction and excellent program. We learned about the history of Democracy movement and its present developments of South Korea; has had terrible history and prominent victory. And we also shared human right conditions from other participants from different countries.

The Gwangju Human Right forum is a very encouraged program to the value of human rights development in the developing and underdeveloped countries. The people I met were pleasant and polite. The hospitality was admirable. I am proud to be a part of GAHRFS 2010 and I will gladly accept any chance to join any program that is offered by South Korea and work for the rights of human with dignity and integrity.

Parvin Akhter: Assistant Program Coordinator-Bangladesh Journalist Rights Forum (BJRF), Bangladesh.

The Asian Human Rights Folks School organized by the May 18 Foundation, has given me a totally different perception of South Korea. Little did I know that South Korea has had its own painful and bloody history towards the respect of human rights and the achievement of the Democracy.

The field trip, the DMZ symbol is a realistic image of how the world is today – that despite the bloody, long and protracted struggles of the peoples of the world to attain peace and democracy. We still live in a world that is blazing with wars, deaths, tortures, bombs, guns, nuclear weapons, political and social unrest. The world remains to be a conundrum in the realization of universal peace.

The numerous lectures on the history of human rights and democratization of South Korea were so comprehensive and magnanimous. The visit to the memorial cemetery for the May 18 heroes and martyrs were a culminating event. It was a very emotional and moving experience for all the participants. We all felt the eeriness of the place and felt one with the struggles of the thousands whose lives were unduly sacrificed in the name of peace, human rights and democracy. All of the participants later on admitted that they were all in tears as we walked around the cemetery. I am sure that even after we left and went back to our countries, there are still tears in our eyes every time we remember the visit to the cemetery.

The Folks School is a noble activity where one learns about the democratization movement of South Korea, a knowledge which I admitted, is not taught in the schools or portrayed in the different media of the countries where we come from. It was also a good venue to learn about the human rights situations in the countries represented by the participants.

Mary Ann Bayang- Cordillera Indigenous People Legal Center (DINTEG), Philippines


So, this August we had our own regional 'G20' for human rights courtesty of the May 18 Memorial Foundation, for which I am very grateful and honored. It would certainly be an improvement to see those countries governments getting together to work on improving human rights rather than colluding over corporate profits while barricading people outside. As an aside, coming from Australia I was feeling dismayed during the folk school that I wasn't able to produce a national costume (unless as a nation with a convict past it could have been a ball and chain?) and the news this week from the G20 taking place in Seoul reported that the South Koreans mistakenly dressed the statue of our new lady Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Austrian national dress (like Maria from the Sound of Music - 'How do you solve a problem like Maria?') which the Koreans hurredly rushed to correct once it was pointed out! Unfortuneately not much has changed in our penal colony down under since someone leaked to our news TV a video of several Western Australian police tasering a non threatening mentally ill Aboriginal man in custody 13 times. As yet I haven't heard any word from our new PM unfortuneately about such blatantly medieval behaviour. As Albert Einstein once said, example is not only a good way to teach, it is the only way to teach. We should be showcasing our achievements in humanness and compassion at the intergovernmental meetings like the G20, instead of our politicians willingness to fall over themselves while rushing serve corporate and weapons industry interests. On a brighter note, our Australian High Court did rule this week, and it is more than 10 years overdue, that asylum seekers to Australian must be treated fairly and be provided access to Australian legal protection and not left in legal limbo without rights in Australian run concentration camps like the one on Christmas Island. As the John Lennon/Yoko Ono song that is a favorite of my mother's says 'So this is Christmas, and what have you done? War is over if you want it.' 2010 is the 30th anniversary of May 18 1980 and also, I have learnt that 2010 marks 100 years since the beginning of Japanese colonisation, facilitated by USA, of Korea, which has left so many scars and unhealed painful memories for Koreans just as in Australia, we have the Stolen Generations, genocidal history that our country is yet to come to terms with despite the national apology. In many ways the legacy of that history is still evident in the division of the Korean peninsula, in transitional justice issues and debates over school curriculums, and even today the games of so-called 'great powers' still continue to threaten the security of the Korean peninsula and Korean people as they do elsewhere, while it is the ordinary people and families in Afghanistan and elsewhere, who are left to carry the burden, experience terrible hurts and losses, including the irreplaceable loss of loved ones, and so undeservedly it is the ordinary people who suffer the consequences of these small-hearted political tyrants and their 'games'. As an old saying goes, when elephants fight it is the grass that gets trampled. But some of the grass always springs up again, even under the worst circumstances. It's the sunshine's policy! Since I have returned home, BBC news has reported more starvation deaths in North Korea. As a native English speaker among non-native English speakers, I will always recall with amusement the slogan that was conjured by one of our participants from Burma-Myanmar during an early Folk School dinner in Gwangju 'You don't speak from your heart, you speak from your stomach!' It is very true, delicious and funny and I hope we will be able to hear those voices, whose voice always seems so small in our world of fancy globalisation. Speaking of which, I really enjoyed watching Terminator 4 with my Gwangju homestay host nicknamed 'Yoda'. Watching that, I could see how the Californians could vote for Arnie, after all, if he can defeat Predator then he should be able to protect California. But, please Obama, Star Wars should definately stay in the movies! GAHRFS 2010 was like a dream for me - a thwarted Olympic Dream at times recalling our messy 'sports day'! - and I will always cherish the memory of such an itimate and engaging introduction to Korea, her history of struggling for human rights and democracy, war and massacre trauma, national division, military dictatorships and people's resistence. Thanks too to our wonderful cohort of participants working so hard and inspiringly in their own countries in the Asia Pacific region.


Adam Breasley- Australian Pugwash Group, Australia

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