The May 18 Memorial Foundation is a non-profit organization established on August 30th, 1994 by the survivors and victims of the May 18 Democratic Movement, the victims’ families, and the citizens of Gwangju. The Foundation aims to commemorate as well as continue the spirit of struggle and solidarity of the May 18 Democratic Movement; to contribute to the peaceful reunification of Korea; and to work towards peace and human rights throughout the world. Thus, the spirit of the May 18 Democratic Movement is inherited and passed on, significantly influencing the progress of democracy in Korea.
International Affairs Department
Since its establishment, the Foundation has carried out numerous projects in various fields, including memorial events, scholarships, research, education and training for the public. Publication of relevant materials, small grants for grassroots organizations and regional and international events, international solidarity events, and Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. The Foundation’s International Affairs Department is responsible for organizing, coordinating and managing the international programs and events.
Below are the current specific programs/events in brief.
Gwangju Prize for Human Rights (Since 2000)
To promote the spirit of the May 18 Democratization Movement, in which the people of Gwangju resisted against brutal military forces for the sake of democracy and human rights in 1980, the May 18 Memorial Foundation recognizes the exemplary efforts of individuals and organizations aspiring to the restoration of justice and human rights in their respective countries through the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Prize. Since 2000, the Foundation has been bestowing the ‘Gwangju Prize for Human Rights’ to individuals, groups and institutions in Korea and abroad that have contributed in promoting and advancing human rights, democracy and peace in their work. The prize is awarded by the citizens of Gwangju in the spirit of solidarity and gratitude to those who have helped them in their struggle for democratization and their search for truth. It is hoped that through this award, the spirit and message of May 18 will be immortalized in the hearts and minds of humankind.
This year, the ‘Gwangju Prize for Human Rights’ was bestowed on Fr. Nandana Manatunga for his remarkable contribution in supporting the victims of the state violence during Sri Lanka’s Dark Age between 2005 and 2015. Fr. Nandana has especially stood on the side of the victims, who have suffered under the dictatorship of the Executive of the country, to fight for them. The victims who had been illegally incarcerated for 7 or 8 years without trials were freed with the help of Fr. Nandana.
Gwangju Asia Forum (Since 2010)
The Gwangju Asia Forum is another important event organized by the May 18 Memorial Foundation to provide a unique platform for exchanging and networking with democracy and human rights activists in Asia. The ‘Gwangju Asia Forum’ takes place in May every year to bring together activists from Asia to discuss pertinent issues of human rights and democracy. The program has started since 2010.
The Gwangju Asia Forum aims to strengthen international solidarity between domestic and foreign activists working for democracy, human rights and peace. During the program, the participants have the opportunity to participate in the official ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the May 18 Democratic Movement and pray for the victims souls to rest in peace. The participants will also attend the award ceremony of the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.
International Internship Program (Since 2011)
The International Internship Program, started by the Foundation in 2001, aims to improve and broaden its relationship with non-governmental organizations through exchange programs and internships with human rights and peace organizations overseas. The program helps to further enhance the cause of human rights and peace in Asia through international solidarity and collaborative networking.
The Foundation recruits two interns annually. It is a paid internship program. The International Internship Program strives to contribute to the development of democracy and human rights throughout Asia by recruiting two interns from abroad, who have been working for human rights and peace organizations in their own countries, and by giving them an opportunity to experience and learn the history and the development process of human rights and democracy in Korea. The interns have a chance to exchange and network with Korean civil society groups. They can also choose or are assigned a topic to research while doing their internship program. As interns, they are assigned with particular duties and responsibilities by the International Affairs Department.
Global NGO Master’s Program (Since 2016)
Global NGO Master’s Program (GNMP) is a master’s degree offered by the May 18 Institute at the Chonnam National University in Gwangju, with full scholarship granted by the May 18 Memorial Foundation. It is four-semester in two year course. The GNMP is intended for the people who have been contributing or have the potential to contribute to leading social progress in Asia-Africa.
The program started in 2016 as a theoretical and practical educational platform for international sharing and expanding of the spirit and experiences of MAY 18 Gwangju Civilian Movement on site. The GNMP works closely with the May 18 Memorial Foundation in Gwangju, the official body commemorating the democratic struggle in Gwangju on May 18, 1980 and the students have an excellent chance to know and trace the spirit and history of democracy movement of Korea. We aim at strength of democratic civil society through NGO workers’ global networking and solidarity across borders. For this purpose, the program provides the foreign students with the good scholarship opportunity and living stipend.
May 18 Academy (Since 2004)
The May 18 Academy is a two-week-long education/training program designed for international civil society activists working for human rights, democracy and peace. The May 18 Academy provides special lectures based on the May spirit and a valuable opportunity to share experiences among activists in solidarity. We welcome international civil society activists from around the world to promote better understanding of Korean modern history and of commemoration events for democracy, human rights and peace movements.
Grassroots Organization Support
The May 18 Memorial Foundation provides a small grant to the grassroots civil society organizations. For this purpose, the Foundation opens a call for proposal every year inviting potential civil society organizations working for human rights, democracy and peace. Upon the selection process, the Foundation provides the successful applicant organizations with the grants to implement the project.
The May 18 Memorial Foundation collaborates and establishes partnership with the organizations and networks to organize the regional and international events such as conference, meetings and trainings. For example, this year, the Foundation collaborated with CAGED-ENGAGE in Malaysia to hold the regional conference on Enforced Disappearance along with the photo exhibition on August 29-30, 2018.
Mayzine and Publication
Mayzine is an online magazine published by the May 18 Memorial Foundation on regular basis, especially following an event.
May 18 Memorial Foundation also publishes or support the publication of different books and resources to promote the May 18 spirits and those related to the struggles of democracy and human rights in Asia and beyond.