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2020 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Winner Announced

The 2020 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights (GPHR) Jury has announced this year’s winner. The winner of the 2020 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights is Mr. Bedjo Untung who founded the YPKP65(Indonesian Institute for the Study of the 1965-1966 Massacre) and who is the representative of the organization.

Between 1965 and 1966, Mr. Bedjo Untung, a then high school student, witnessed the massacre committed under the military dictatorship of Suharto. Mr. Untung resisted the dictatorship and struggled to let people know of the truth of the atrocity he experienced. This resulted him to be labeled a wanted criminal who was sought after by the military. In 1970, he was caught by the Indonesian Military Intelligent Agency and for ten years he was detained without trial in extreme circumstance where torture, such as electrical shock, was prevalent and where he had to survive on eating mice, snakes, lizards, and insects due to lack of food.  

Soon the international society began to notice his lonely struggle and they pressured the Indonesian government for his release. On October 24, 1979, he was finally freed but it was an incomplete one – His ID card was encoded with ‘ET’ meaning that he was a former political detainee which enabled the security agency to easily spot him and to control his every movement.  

On April 7, 1999, Mr. Bedjo Untung, along with some former political detainees, founded YPKP65 with vision and mission to unveil the truth of the Massacre. Since then he has traveled throughout the country from Sumatra to Java to meet victims and their families and has helped them know about their political rights and to claim their rights for just reparations. His unrelenting activism has resulted in the victims receiving medical care and psychological treatment by the government.  

In 2015, Mr. Bedjo Untung testified at the International People’s Tribunal in The Hague, Holland. The tribunal acknowledged the massacre and crimes against humanity between 1965 and 1966 in Indonesia. The tribunal also recommended that the country establish a special court where human rights violation cases are dealt with.   

The 2020 GPHR Selection Committee believed that the May 18 Spirit is realized through the actions of Mr. Bedjo Untung. It highly appreciates the actions of Mr. Untung who has relentlessly fought against dictatorial regimes regardless of multiple incarcerations and physical threats and his activities have shown the path to justice and are inspiration to world citizens who yearn for peace and democracy.  

The May 18 Memorial Foundation believes that today’s decision will serve as a momentum to secure transitional justice in Korea and countries in Asia through truth unveiling of the May 18 Democratic Uprising and to move towards the development of democracy and the expansion of human rights.  

March 20, 2020

2020 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Jury Members
In alphabetical order
Chief Moon, Kyoo-hyun (Chair / People for Peace and Reunification)
Members Jeong, Jin-woo (Vice Chairman / Korea Democracy Foundation)
Lee, Cheol-woo (Chairman / The May 18 Memorial Foundation)
Lee, Youn Jung (Professor / Chosun University)
Oh, Heung Sook (Representative / Busan Lifeline)
Song, Gapseok (National Assembly Member / The Democratic Party)
Song, So-yeon (Secretary-General / National Human Rights Commission of Korea)