Friday, May 02, 2008

Announcement for 2008 Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School

"I recognized that the power of small individuals could forge and unite in solidarity to bring about the constructive change to the world. Eventually, Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School (GAHRFS) was a true moral blessing and encouragement to me” a reflection made by Ms. Ratchada Arpornsilp, participant from Thailand last year. The May 18 Memorial Foundation is announcing the application for the 2008 Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School. For this year, application is made more competitive to screen the number of applications. Emphasis on organizational partnership is given importance, so applicants endorsed by their organization will be the priority. Since the foundation will not be able to provide multiple translations, English language will be the medium for exchange.The GAHRFS aims to contribute to the development of democracy and human rights throughout Asia. Twenty five (25) participants will be selected from among applicants from all over Asia who have been working for human rights, peace and democracy. They will be given an opportunity to learn and experience the history and development process of human rights and democracy in South Korea. The folk school will also serve as an opportunity for participants to exchange and network with other human rights activists.One of the perks of attending the Folk School is the opportunity to be endorsed for a scholarship. For the last two years the foundation has been supporting scholars to Sungkonghoe University for their Master of Arts in Inter-Asia NGO Studies (MAINS). They were chosen and selected by the folk school committee based on their active participation and performance during the folk school.Interested applicants should download the form enclosed. Applicants are advised to read carefully the guidelines and the rules for their application to be considered. The foundation shall only accept and entertain applicants who will properly comply with the set guide and rules.
This information is available in our website with this link:

Application form is also available here:

Testimonials from the Participants of the 2007 Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School

"Today, years after the supreme sacrifice made by the people of Gwangju, they continue to inspire and teach us lessons, which is why we are here. The Gwangju Uprising reminds us to experience the spirit of democracy in our day to day life. And the democracy groups in Korea; the Folk School in particular has shown us how to make democracy a part of our daily lives. The Folk School by constantly revisiting events of the May 18 Uprising, invites us to re-live the events, the ordeals and the sacrifices of the victims that we may never again be the victims of oppression. By organizing activities such as those we saw at the Liberty Park where young students were immersed in serious discussions on the merits of democracy; the various fora organized to raise awareness of the significance of the May 18 events; the educational tours we had at the Busan Democracy Park and the visit to the Human rights Commission in Seoul, are but a few activities meant to nurture and develop the spirit of democracy in our daily life".
- Mr. Damaso G. Magbual, ANFREL

"Again and again thank you for this chance and I am so grateful for these enlighten learning process here and thank you for endless help what you have done to me. Finally, the sauna bath is really an unforgettable experience where I can be my self without any shame as the human being and acceptance as who am I".
- Ms. Damairia Pakpahan, RUMPUN

"I recognized that the power of small individuals could forge and unite in solidarity to bring about the constructive change to the world. Eventually, Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School (GAHRFS) was a true moral blessing and encouragement to me".
- Ms. Ratchada Arpornsilp, Thailand

"Through this program, all participants were learning that democracy in an on-going process. Democratic process demands times and unstoppable efforts. Democracy was fought and won through eternal vigilance and wary surveillance over decades and for many generations despite of their diverse social, cultural or political context. People were bound and united once their democratic and human right was violated".
- Ms. Nurul Rochayati, Indonesia

Reflection on 2007 Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School

by Ratchada ArpornsilpDuring September 3-14, 2007, I was given a chance by the May 18 Memorial Foundation to participate in Gwangju Asian Human Rights Folk School (GAHRFS) held in Gwangju, the place where democratic uprising was demonstrated and its spirit had prevailed.To me, GAHRFS had led to a great deal of fruition. This significant event consisted of many components ranging among intensive lectures on Korean democratic development and society, discussion to exchange lesson-learnt and experience, individual and group presentation, "Beautiful Holiday" film screening, study trip to National Cemetery of May 18th Democratic Uprising and historical sites, photography workshop, home-stay, rice ball (Joo Muck Bab)making session, sport's activities, and picnic. Well, this was a combination of many various fractions which either deliberately or unintentionally had contributed to the uniqueness and specialization of this program.Definitely GAHRFS accomplished in revitalizing the spirit of May 18 Democratic Uprising in Gwangju taking place in 1980 to other Asian participants. Though Korea has a long history of democratic development and revolution against dictatorship rule, it has so far been overshadowed by its economic success and entertainment K-pop culture in global arena, especially in Asia. Therefore, this event, with a perfectly-blended combination of compatible activities, literally brought me back into 1980, basically equipping me with domestic and global, as well as social, economic and political context of Republic of Korea (ROK or so- called South Korea) during that transitional period due to the assassination of President Park Chung-hee in December the year earlier and the pervasive antagonistic atmosphereof Cold War era with Soviet Union invasion into Afghanistan along with intensive election campaign running around the United States between incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter and Republican opponent Ronald Reagan.Apparently during that critical juncture in South Korea's political vacuum and prospect for transformation, the world was framed into bipolar with domination of the United States against Soviet Union under the rationale of ideological confrontation. Even since the end of Korean war, ROK has always been the United States' strategic partner in containing Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or namely North Korea) and balancing the power in the peninsula. Consequently, regardless whatever cost, the United States would prop up the regime that stabilized the country. General Chun Doo-hwan, then Head of the Defense Security Command was in charge of the investigation into the assassination. On May 17, 1980, Chun Doo-hwan repealed all civilian rules, extending martial law to the entire country and disbanding the National Assembly. That was when the people of Gwangju stood up against the military control following by bloody massacre.Another outstanding nature of this folk school was the selection of its participants which was divided into 3 groups considering the working experience of each participant in their respective NGO fields; senior, middle-level and junior. The nationalities were diverse across Asian continent. As a result, GAHRFS had provided an ideal forum of how people with distinguished background and experience could plausibly assemble together to share their common concerns as well as lesson-learnt. The interpersonal relations among participants interacting with one another gave me such an impressive feeling and rare opportunity to actually see people from conflicting area as India and Pakistan or Taiwan and China join the laughter and understanding even still at personal level.At the end of GAHRFS, I realized that people around the world, even they might look different, they precisely shared a great deal of similarity. Thailand’s history and political development also had been through many militarized authoritarian regime and countervailing student movement and democratic uprisings. Besides, I recognized that the power of small individuals could forgeand unite in solidarity to bring about the constructive change to the world. Eventually, GAHRFS was a true moral blessing and encouragement to me.

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