Scores of Korean volunteer groups protested against the Seoul Peace Prize committee’s decision to confer its annual prize to Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on October 24 and demanded the conferment to be retracted.
The Seoul Peace Prize award has been awarded annually since 1990. Previous awardees include German chancellor Angela Merkel, UN secretary general Kofi Annan and international charities like Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders.
Modi was conferred the award for “fostering economic growth in the world’s fastest growing large economy and furthering the development of democracy through anti-corruption and social integration efforts”.
The other achievements listed including demonetisation, anti-corruption, reducing wealth inequality through ‘Modinomics’, ‘Modi Doctrine’ and ‘Act East policy’.
A press release from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs claimed the award committee described Modi as “the perfect candidate for the 2018 Seoul Peace Prize”.
On Sunday, the Korean news agency, Yonhap, reported that Korean civil society groups held a press conference on October 26 to assert that giving Modi the award was akin to “Chun Doo-hwan receiving a peace prize.”
Chun was South Korea’s president from 1980 to 1988 and a former army general and dictator. He was sentenced to death in 1996 for the Gwangju massacre, in which over 600 civilian protesters are believed to have been killed by his martial law government.
In a report, Korea Herald said that 26 NGOs held a joint protest and press conference. “Giving Mr. Modi this prize for ‘Modinomics’ is almost equivalent to giving Mr. Chun Doo-hwan a peace prize for Korea’s economic development in the 1980s and the hosting of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games,” the protesters said. They added “Modi’s win is also a disgrace to the past laureates of this prestigious award”.
The Korean NGOs asserted that the Indian prime minister “does not deserve the honour as he has a history of being complicit in violence against Muslims in India”.
“Human rights groups in Korea say Narendra Modi deliberately allowed anti-Muslim riots in India that killed more than 1,000 people in 2002,” said the Korea Herald report.
Modi was chief minister of Gujarat in 2002 when right wing groups took part in attacks on the state’s Muslims, leading to an intense communal riot.