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2012 Gwangju Human Rights Award(Awardee: Fr.Mun Jeong Hyeon)
Date : 2012-07-02     Hit : 1704

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Introduction of Fr. Mun Jeong Hyeon, the Prize Winner of the GPHR 2012

 

 

 A Korean Catholic Priest, Fr Mun Jeong Hyeon is known as a 'street father' because of his support for victims of human rights violations inflicted by state power. His concerns have ranged from his involvement in fighting against  the  mid-1970's  dictatorship  when the  military regime carried out  extrajudicial killings to  oppress democratic figures to his involvement in the current struggle against the forcible construction  by the Korean government of the Gangjeong navy base on Jeju Island. Fr Mun, a true peace keeper of our times, has been at the forefront of protecting and struggling for human rights in Korea.

 

 Since the 1990s, Fr Mun has worked to improve the unequal relationship between Korea and the U.S. and to relieve military tension on the Korean peninsula. He has worked as a people's representative in public action against the Kunsan air base and against SOFA and has worked as a representative for the shutdown of the U.S. army weapons-testing area. In addition, Fr Mun organized the 'Peace Wind Group' to fight against the dispatch of Korean troops abroad in 2003 and to organize against the enlargement of the relocated the U.S. military base in Pyeongtaek and has actively worked to deliver speeches around the country.

 

 In 2009 when the Yongsan tragedy occurred, Fr Mun was one of the first people who rushed to console the bereaved family members and stood up for fact-finding efforts and for punishment of the perpetrators which he called for while conducting a Catholic church mass for the victims. The Yongsan tragedy resulted in the deaths of five evicted residents and a member of SWAT police team and the incident raised an alarm in our society that the Government and police were seemingly conducting  the redevelopment project only to gain profit at the expense of the residents.

 

 He moved to Gangjeong in the summer of 2011 to fight against the Government's forcible construction of the planned navy base and has lived there with the local villagers. About 80 percent of the residents oppose the construction and the National Assembly cut the 2012 budget for the base by more than 96 percent because of the problems of the construction  project.    However, the Government and the Republic of Korea Navy have continued to stick to the project. The suffering of the 2,000 Gangjeong villagers is unspeakable. In such a small rural village, the siren goes off and conflict with military police has become normalized. Villagers and local and international  activists continue to live in a blind spot of human rights in Korea while being illegally arrested, taken to the police station and jailed.

 

 International human rights organizations including  the  Asian Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International have expressed that they are seriously concerned about these human rights violations occuring in Gangjeong. The Most Rev, Peter Kang of Catholic Bishop's Conference of Korea has said of Gangjeong village, "Gangjeong, you are a small village, but peace of the country will begin in you".  At present Fr Mun continues to conduct his Catholic Masses for peace in Gangjeong in order to share the suffering of the villagers and support peace activists.

 

 

Biography of Fr. Mun Jeong Hyeon

 

 

1940 : Born in Iksan in Northern  Jeolla Province

 

1966 : Ordination

 

1974 : Organized the Catholic Priests' Association for Justice

 

1975 : Had his leg fractured by police while protesting against killings of democratic figures under the authoritarian regime

1976 : Jailed with the former President Kim Dae Jung for the Declaration of Democracy and National

 

Salvation at the Myoengdong Cathedral

 

1979 : Imprisoned twice under the Park Chung Hee authoritarian regime

 

1986 : Conducted various activities including participating in hunger-strikes and rallies and delivering speeches for a Democratic Constitution and a direct presidential election system

1992 : Worked as an adviser of Northern  Jeolla Province Association of Korean Confederation of Trade

 

Unions

 

1998 : Was a representative of public association against Kunsan air base

 

1999 : Was a representative in public action against SOFA

 

2000 : Was a representative of the public commission for the shutdown of the U.S. army weapons-testing area  in Maehyangri

2000 : Was made ‘a person of the year’ by Hankyoreh  21 magazine, along with Fr Mun Kyu Hyeon and was awarded Unification Culture Prize by Hankyoreh  newspaper

2003 : Organized the Peace Wind Group against the dispatch of Korean troops abroad and against the enlargement of the relocated the U.S. military base in Pyeongtaek and toured  around the country  to deliver speeches

2005 : Visited Pyeongtaek to fight against the enlargement of the U.S. military base

 

2007 : Visited Kunsan to monitor the Kunsan air base

 

2009 : Conducted Catholic Mass everyday calling for fact-finding efforts and punishment of the perpetrators at the scene of the Yongsan tragedy

2010 : Prayed  for reform of the churches and soul-searching by carving ures on trees near the

 

Myeongdong Cathedral

 

2011 : Conducted Catholic Mass with the villagers in Gangjeong suffering from the construction of navy base on Jeju Island.

 

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