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Interview with Park Won Soon

The PakistanCIA The World Factbook
Interview with Park Won Soon,
Yuli Ismartono [time 21:51]

27th March, 2007

Yuli Ismartono: Mr. Park, you have been an activist from the start. You were a student protesting against a repressive regime, then as a human rights lawyer. What drove you to be involved in civic movements?

Park Won Soon: It was a kind of destiny. In 1975, I was expelled from university and went to prison. Actually at that time, I didn't know I was only a freshman, so I really enjoyed attending classes. But one day, there was a big demonstration against the then dictator Park Chung Hee and the police was forcefully tracking down students and I was taking part in the demonstrations. So, I was arrested and expelled, and something, probably God, guided me in that direction. I cannot explain.

YI: You decided to fight against injustice.

Park Won Soon: Yes, after my imprisonment, I met many student activists and I was pretty much influenced by them and their beliefs and I sensed I was in the center of history and the people. So I decided to follow my friends who were fighting against dictatorship and for democracy.

YI: You are known as a human rights lawyer and you also founded the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy in 1994. What was the objective of that organization?

Park Won Soon: In the 1980s, I met many political prisoners and especially in 1987, with so many students, laborers and intellectuals who fought with the people, the regime was breaking apart. After that, in the transitional period, I felt that a new kind government was necessary. In 1970s and 1980s, it was very simple to predict a change into a democratic government but after that it was not quite the situation to change the system and mentality of the people. So I established the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy because I felt we needed more systematic response to changes in the society, people were not targeting or taking on the government. At the same time, we were trying to adjust our own aspirations to new changes.

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Personal Plofile
Park Won Soon Park Won Soon,
Park Won Soon has been known as an activist, human rights lawyer, philanthropist and community hero. Yet he describes himself as a dreamer and a 'social designer.'
As a young lawyer, he defended students and activists demonstrating against the authoritarian military regime in the early 1980s. When Korea became a democracy, Park Won Soon was instrumental in establishing the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), a watchdog organization monitoring government transparency and accountability, corrupt parliamentarians, reforms in big business, civil rights and political reforms.

With Korea now an economically developed nation, Park Won Soon founded the Beautiful Foundation, a philanthropic organization by which members donate 1% of their annual earnings. The Foundation now has 30,000 supporters campaigns and 4,000 volunteer workers to implement its charitable programs and activities.

Park Won Soon obtained his law degree from Seoul University, received a diploma in International Law from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences, and was a Visiting Fellow on a Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School. He is the recipient of many awards, among them the prestigious Magsaysay Award in 2006.
Yuli Ismartono Yuli Ismartono, [Interviewer]
Yuli Ismartono is an executive editor at Tempo, Indonesia's foremost weekly news magazine. Ms. Ismartono, who holds degrees in political science and journalism, has been with Tempo for 15 years, mostly assigned to covering events around the Asia region and interviewing national leaders - such as former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto, former South Korean president Kim Dae Jung,Cambodia's King Sihanouk and prime minister Hun Sen, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and other newsmakers. She is currently in charge of Tempo's English language edition and managing editor of AsiaViews, an online and hardcopy magazine featuring news and commentaries from the Asia region, of which Tempo is a member and coordinator of the media group that publishes it.
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