The Truth Foundation Human Rights Award

To commemorate the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on June 26, the Truth Foundation grants the Truth Foundation Human Rights Award to an individual or organization from South Korea or abroad that has made a significant contribution to help and heal survivors of state-sponsored violence including torture and systematic/structural violence that violated human dignity, as well as to prevent such violence. Through the award, the Truth Foundation seeks to respect those who have endured unimaginable pain as a result of state-sponsored and systematic/structural violence and to help put an end to such violence.

Prior Recipients of the Truth Foundation Human Rights Award

The Award was established in 2011 and the first recipient was Mr. Seo Seung. He was falsely accused in the ‘Korean Japanese Student Spying Case’ in 1971 and severely tortured by the South Korean security forces. After 19 years of imprisonment, Mr. Seo emerged as a tireless peace activist, especially devoting himself to the solidarity of East Asian people. 

In 2012, the late Mr. Kim Keun Tae became the second recipient of the Award. He was a pro-democracy activist against the military dictatorship during the 1980s, and was brutally tortured by the Chun Doo Hwan regime. He survived the torture and courageously revealed the reality of state-violence in Korea to society. As a former member of the Korean National Assembly, he devoted himself to improving the human rights situation in Korea. Mr. Kim died in 2011 after battling illness due to the lingering aftereffects of torture.

The following year, the award went to Mr. Hong Sung Woo, a dedicated human rights lawyer. He bravely spoke up on behalf of political prisoners, torture victims and student activists during the military regimes in South Korea. Because of his activities, he was twice imprisoned himself by the military regime. Mr. Hong laid the cornerstone for the foundation of MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society, which has worked tirelessly for the protection of human rights in Korea. He has also kept vast records of human rights court cases in South Korea, providing valuable material for the historical preservation of the struggle for human rights in Korea. 

The 4th recipient in 2014 was the late U Win Tin from the Hanthawaddy U Win Tin Foundation. During the 88 Uprising in Myanmar in 1988, he expressed his strong opposition to the military dictatorship as the vice chair of the Press Alliance Movement. In September 1988, he co-founded the National League for Democracy (NLD) together with Aung San Suu Kyi, and organized a campaign against the military regime. After his arrest, in 1989, and subsequent severe torture, he was committed for 19 years to Insein prison, which was notorious for its inhumane conditions and brutal program of mental and physical torture. Yet the imprisonment did not diminish his will to spread his words or further the cause of democracy in Burma. He continued unceasingly to make his voice heard in Myanmar and in the international community such as to the UN Special Rapporteur regarding the human rights violations committed in prison and the then-situations in Burma. After his release from prison in September 2008, U Win Tin immediately continued with his NLD activities in spite of his frail health brought on by his long imprisonment and torture. In 2012, he established Hanthawaddy U Win Tin Foundation to help the rehabilitation and healing of countless political prisoners and torture victims, as well as their families. He passed away in 2014, but his spirit remains with the young generations in Myanmar who continue to seek for democracy and peace.

The 5th recipient in 2015 was Mr. Kang Ki-hoon. He was accused of committing the crime of assisting a suicide by ghostwriting a suicide note for Kim Ki-sul, who burned himself to death condemning the then-president and government, and was sentenced to three years in prison in 1991. In 2015, 24 years after the horrible accusation, Kang was finally acquitted by the Supreme Court. Kang endured the years of pain and struggles, attesting and revealing the dark abyss of the authority. His existence was the motivation for those who believed in human value and respect. We also expressed our gratitude to his families and friends and their endurance which made Kang’s 24 years struggles to the acquittal.

The 6th recipients in 2016 were Mr. Chae Eui-jin and Mr. Chung Hee-sang. Mr. Chae survived a massacre in which 86 out of 127 townspeople were brutally murdered by a troop of Korean Army soldiers on December 24, 1948. Since then, he tirelessly devoted his life to revealing the truth and seeking justice for not only the victims of this massacre but countless others who inexplicably met similar fates. While the number of victims has never been accurately determined, the estimates range between 300,000 and a million. Due to the political circumstances of South Korean juntas which ruled until the late 1980s, Mr. Chae was never able to satisfactorily achieve his noble goal. However, in 1989, Mr. Chung, then a journalist with Mal Magazine, began an in-depth investigative report dealing with the massacres perpetrated by government forces around the time of the Korean War. During this time, Mr. Chung inevitably came to know Mr. Chae, and they quickly developed a mutual bond of admiration and cooperation. Thanks to their concerted efforts, numerous victims came forth and began exposing myriad atrocities. While much still needs to be done in regards to achieving full and complete justice for the victims, it was through the endeavors of Mr. Chae and Mr. Chung that the all-important process of revealing the truth laid down a solid bedrock for the path to healing.

The 7th recipients in 2017 were Mr. Bedjo Untung and YPKP 65 Indonesia. YPKP 65 (“The Indonesian Institute for the Study of 1965/1966 Massacre) is an organization that was established in 1999 by the victims of the massacres that took place in Indonesia between 1965 and 1966. Mr. Bedjo Untung was a victim who was arrested and detained for 9 years at that time and he is currently the chairman of YPKP 65. Surviving his time in jail despite enduring of torture and violence, he stood up to the pain and hardship. As witnesses of history, Mr. Bedjo and his comrades are bringing to light the inhumane atrocities that the Suharto regime wanted to keep buried forever. With the powerful language of truth, they are peeling away the lies of that era. Heinous acts of torture, detention, and mass killings destroy the dignity and will of a community and turn the members into slaves of fear and horror. The establishment of YPKP 65 became the starting point for Indonesian society to break the cartel of oblivion and denial and start speaking the truth in the face of silence. The existence of YPKP 65 has acted as a weapon against the denials, cover-ups and lies of the government and as a window through which the victims can connect with the world.

The 8th recipient is Mr. Han Jong-sun, the representative of the victims and survivors of the Brothers Home incident. Brothers Home was one of the welfare facilities authorized and operated during the military dictatorship in South Korea. A number of gross human rights violations such as forced labor, sexual and physical violence, and suspicious death routinely occurred at the facility with the managed access from outside visitors. The incident was finally known to the public in 1987 by the press, yet Park In-keun, the owner of the facility, was sentenced with a limited number of minor charges and was not fully accountable for all of the gross level of human rights violations. The cooperative national agency which thoroughly protected the facility itself and its work did not make accountable, either. Han was taken to Brothers Home at the age of eight in 1984. His father and sister, who were also held together with him, is still hospitalized at a mental institution due to the trauma caused by the violence and horror from the facility. In 2012 Han started a one-person protest demanding the truth-finding of the Brothers Home incident which had been hidden under the surface, society was known to the fact that this was one of the urgent issues of human rights violations that had not been solved. At the moment his sit-in protest for the establishment of the special act on investigating the truth of the Brothers Home incident is going on for more than five hundred days at the National Assembly. While fighting for the truth of his own case of human rights violation, Han has become strongly engaged with other victims of state violence, proving the importance of solidarity among the protesters. As a witness of the dark side of history, Han is revealing the truth concealed on his own.

The 9th recipient is the network group of victims’ families of industrial accidents, Da-si-nun (Never Again). The families gathered after the death of Kim Yong-kyun who passed away in December, 2018 after being dragged into a coal conveyor belt at Taean power plant where he worked as a contractor. His death triggered uproar in South Korea where work safety is compromised for temporary or contract workers, despite being a wealthy, developed economy. Kim Mi-sook, the mother of Yong-Kyun, stood upon the frontline of the struggle and seek for the solidarity of other families who went through the loss of their sons and daughters due to industrial accidents or diseases. South Korea has one of the highest workplace fatality rates among developed countries. Work-related death or injuries and the accountability of employers and unfair and/or poor legislations marked urgent social problems caused by the systematic violence. Few changes of relevant acts were established due to the demands of the families and labour activists, but the key tasks still remained. The families who bear the pain of losing their loved ones struggled together in order to prevent other tragic death.

The 10th Truth Foundation Human Rights Award Schedule

Nominations for the 10th Truth Foundation Human Rights Award will be accepted until April 19. The Selection Committee for the Truth Foundation Human Rights Award will review the nominations by May 1, 2020. The recipient of the award will be announced on June 22 and the award will be presented on June 26, 2020 at the commemorative ceremony on United Nations Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Qualifications for Nomination

  • A survivor of torture or state-sponsored violence who has contributed to the defense of human dignity.
  • An individual or organization from South Korea or abroad that has worked for the prevention of torture and state-sponsored violence and/or has provided assistance and healing to survivors.

Procedure for Nominations

  • Nominations are limited to one nominee per recommender (organization).
  • Fill out the attached nomination form in detail and submit it together with supporting materials.
  • Submitted materials will not be returned.
  • The deadline for nominations is April 19, and mailed submissions post-marked up to the date of the deadline will be valid.
  • The Truth Foundation, if it deems necessary, may ask for additional materials regarding the candidate’s work.

Composition of the Selection Committee

  • The Selection Committee will be composed of those who have contributed to the truth finding of state violence and systematic/structural violence, the assistance and healing of survivors, non-recurrence, and the rehabilitation and the promotion of human rights and executive directors of the Truth Foundation.
  • The composition of the Selection Committee will be disclosed when the award recipient is announced.

Selection Policy for the 10th Truth Foundation Human Rights Award

  • The Selection Committee will only disclose the total number of nominees and will not disclose the identity of the nominees or details of the nominations.

Award Details

  • The award recipient will be presented with a prize of 10,000 USD, a medal, and an award certificate.
  • The award recipient will qualify to be a Selection Committee member for the following year’s Truth Foundation Human Rights Award.


  • April 19 Deadline for nominations
  • April 27 - May 1 Review of candidates and selection of award recipient
  • June 22 Announcement of recipient of the 10th Truth Foundation Human Rights Award
  • June 26 Award ceremony


Ms. Sarang Lee (Program Organizer)

  • Tel.: +82-2-741-6260
  • Address: 5th Floor, 29-6 Changdukgoong-gil (Wonseo-dong), Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea
  • Postal Code: 03058

Please submit your nomination form and attachment by post or email written above.