A total of 25 human rights defenders from 15 different countries participated in this year’s May 18 Academy held in the cities of Seoul, Gwangju, and Jeju in South Korea from September 3 to 17.
The May 18 Academy is a two-week-long education/training program organized by the May 18 Memorial Foundation to welcome international civil society activists working for human rights, democracy, and peace. The May 18 Academy provides special lectures based on the May 18 Spirit and a valuable opportunity to share experiences among activists in solidarity. This event also promotes a better understanding of Korean modern history and commemoration events for democracy, human rights and peace movements among the participants.
This was the 14th year of the May 18 Memorial Foundation’s initiative for human rights education, which was started in 2004.
The first leg of the May 18 Academy was held in Seoul, where participants listened to lectures of Mr. Anselmo Lee of the Asia Democracy Network and Mr. Francis Lee of Sung Kong Hoe University. Their lectures revolved on the human rights situation in Asia and in Korea before and after the Korean War. While in Seoul, participants visited several key historical sites in the capital such as the Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Blue House (or Cheongwadae), Imjingak Resort and Dorasan Railway Station among others.
In Gwangju, the participants visited the 518 Archives, Jeolla Provincial Hall, Gwangju Biennale 2018. Chan-ho Kim of the Gwangju Trauma Center served as the guide in facilitating their visit to the May 18 National Cemetery.
Key figures in the Foundation and in the country spoke about the Gwangju Uprising and detailed aspects of the May 18 Democratization Movement. The facilitators were Youngmi Yang, a member of Planning Committee at the May 18 Memorial Foundation and member of People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, Kim Jung-eun of Chonnam National University, Hyun-ae Jung, Representative Director of the May Mother’s House, Kim Jong-ryul , General Secretary of the Gwangju Cultural Foundation, and Choi Yong-ju of the History Department at Chonnam National University and Senior Researcher at the Foundation.
The two-day visit to Jeju was hosted by the Jeju 4.3 Peace Foundation. While in Jeju, participants visited historical sites such as Jeju 4.3 Peace Park and Museum, and Bukchon Village. The visit was accompanied by lectures on the April 3 Uprising and Massacre. Upon their return from Jeju, participants visited the Gwangju Trauma Center and explored its facilities and programs. They listened to lectures by Chun-hee Lee and Hermien Kleden, Senior Editor and Media Mentor at Indonesian news outlet Tempo Media. Lee Kwangsu, one of Board Directors at the May 18 Memorial Foundation and a lecturer at Busan University of Foreign Studies, delivered the final lecture of the academy.
In addition, all the participants presented the human rights situation, and the activities carried out by them and their organizations in their respective countries. For the group presentations, six groups of participants also presented the common contemporary issues of human rights and democratization in their countries.
The May 18 Academy concluded with a formal graduation ceremony wherein Foundations Executive Director Mr. Cho Jintae felicitated the participants with certificates. Ms. You Inrae, Director of the International Affairs Department, had conducted the graduation ceremony.