Chanho Kim, Director of the “May 18 Memorial Foundation”, the group that bestowed the award said, Min Ko Naing was chosen for the award in recognition of his commitment and struggle for democracy and human rights, despite the ruling military junta’s repression.
“We have chosen Min Ko Naing this year, because of his commitment in the struggle for democracy and human rights under the repressive rule. Moreover, we want to show that we are good friends of Burma. The situation in Burma has not improved and there are many political prisoners,” Chunho Kim told Mizzima.
The award is given by the Gwangju-based May 18 Memorial Foundation and Min Ko Naing was nominated by the Korea-branch of the National League for Democracy-Liberated Area (NLD-LA).
Students in Gwangju city formed the May 18 Memorial Foundation, in remembrance of the day they stood against the then South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan on May 18, 1980. The foundation is mainly sponsored by the South Korean government.
Min Ko Naing, popularly known as leader of the 88 generation students, would be honoured with prize money of 50,000 USD and a gold-plated memento and a certificate on May 18 at Gwangju city.
“We do not know who will receive the award on Min Ko Naing’s behalf. Some of his cousins and colleagues are abroad and are likely to come and receive it on his behalf. We will not receive it on his behalf but we will keep his award for him,” Yan Naing Tun, information in-charge of the South Korean branch NLD-LA told Mizzima.
He said, the NLD-LA would keep the money and the memento and use them as per the wishes of the recipient. The NLD-LA has also kept the prize money and memento of Burma’s detained opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who was awarded the same prize in 2004.
The Gwangju Prize for Human Rights was first given in 2000 to outstanding persons, who had committed themselves to the struggle for democracy and human rights. Xanana Gusmao, president of East Timor was the first to be honoured with the award in 2000. Last year, the organization awarded Pakistan’s Muneer A. Malik, a Human Rights lawyer who stood up against President Pervez Musharraf’s military rule.
Earlier, the prize money was set at 10,000 USD, but it was later increased to 50,000 USD in 2005.
Organizers said, the May 18 function would include paying tribute to students and people, who have given their lives in the South Korean struggle under President Chun Doo Hwan and would be graced by the present president of South Korea as well as members of parliament and leaders from other countries.
The ceremony will also include a separate panel discussion on Burma.