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The Gwangju Human Rights Charter (South Korea, 2012)

Throughout their history, the citizens of Gwangju stood up against the exploitation of the central government through Donghak Peasant Movement (1894-95), insisting on their rights to equality. Under the Japanese Occupation in the 20th century, the citizens played a major role in the pro-independence movement such as Gwangju Student Independence Movement in 1929.

Even after the independence from Japanese rule on 15 August 1945, the citizens of Gwangju did not stop their demands for basic human rights. They stood up on 18 May 1980, raising their voices against the dire situation where their political, socio-economic freedom had been taken away by the military junta.

This massive movement on 18th of May made a significant contribution to the promotion of democracy, human rights and peace in Korea. The spirit of ‘solidarity’ revealed through the movement served as a momentum for the city to base itself upon the values of democracy, human rights and peace. Solidarity is still a valid virtue that forms the philosophical basis of social development of the future generation.

The city of Gwangju, based on its historical experience and identity, went on to build networks of global cooperation. The Declaration of Asia Human Rights Charter in 1998 was held in Gwangju, as was the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights in 2000. Asia Human Rights School was also established in Gwangju in 2004, and series of forums on human rights issues, such as World Women’s Peace Forum in 2007, Gwangju International Peace Forum in 2009, Global Human Rights Cities Network in 2011 and World Human Rights Cities Forum 2012 could not have been held with such passion and enthusiasm had it not been for the unique atmosphere Gwangju has acquired through its history.

To allow the spirit and value of democracy, human rights, and peace to take root in the life of all its citizens, Gwangju is establishing its status as a substantial human right city in which citizens find fulfilment by preparing the Gwangju Human Rights Charter and human rights index.

The draft of Gwangju Human Rights Charter, which specifies the rights and obligations to protect and implement the human rights of all the residents, was prepared under the leadership of the Charter Enactment Committee and Foundation Committee whereby the citizens from all levels of society such as cultural and artistic circles, academic circles, religious circles, NGOs, legal circles, labour circles, economic circles, journalism, human rights experts and activists, etc.

The drafting committee worked extensively to ensure the articulation of a charter in which each word is meaningful, while the enactment committee comprising 53 committee members representing each field also laboured in long and passionate discussion during its elaboration.

With two public hearings and a number of discussion sessions with NGO groups, the various citizen sectors all played their part in formulating a human rights charter to foster Gwnagju’s desire to be a human rights city. 

As such, the historic Gwangju Human Rights Charter, having a 518-word preamble and a body comprising 18 articles in 5 chapters, and 'the implementation of the charter' contained in the will of fulfilment was finally completed.

On 21 May 2012, the 47th Gwangju Citizen’s Day, 21 representatives of its citizens including the city mayor, came together to make a solemn declaration with the will of voluntary fulfilment. The Gwangju Human Rights Charter and Human Rights Index enacted and developed as such were thus declared to the world including Gwnagju’s citizens past, present and future, the Korean Peninsula and the whole of Asia.


To download the Gwangju Human Rights Charter click here