Policies, tools and mechanisms to build a human rights city: the experience of Gwangju

Publication date:
Soo A Kim, Former Directress, Human Rights and Peace Cooperation Office, Gwangju Metropolitan Government, South Korea

Gwangju is a city in the south west of South Korea with a population of 1.5 million and a history of resistance to colonialism and dictatorship. In May 1980, when citizens of Gwangju bravely challenged the military rulers, several thousand people were killed and injured. Despite the extreme fear of death, human dignity was respected, as citizens shared food, donated blood to the wounded and not a single store was looted. The movement was the beginning of the seven-year struggle towards democracy that culminated in South Korea’s new democratic constitution being approved in 1987. Documents from the movement were listed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2011.