The award recognises Professor Evans’ significant contributions over the past three decades to promoting peace, reconciliation and human rights as foreign minister, NGO head, international commission member, writer and advocate.
Established in 2015 by the Republic of Korea’s Jeju Island Province, the award honours the victims of the horrific massacre on that island, claiming an estimated 30,000 lives, and which occurred in the brutal suppression of the uprising that started on 3 April 1948. The ‘4.3’ in the award’s title refers to this date.
Professor Evans said that he was “profoundly honoured and humbled” to receive the award, which will be bestowed in Jeju on 30 May.
“The Jeju massacre – and the burning to the ground of most of the island’s then 230 villages which accompanied it – is still largely unknown or forgotten outside Korea,” Professor Evans said.
“Like the mass killings which occurred in Indonesia two decades later, it was politically motivated, aimed at alleged communists or their sympathisers.
“All discussion of it was suppressed until after Republic of Korea’s democratisation and the election of Kim Dae Jung as president in 1998.
“But following the report of a national fact-finding committee five years later, President Roe Moo-hyeon admitted the abuse of government power and made a public apology to the people of Jeju.”
Professor Evans said that he would donate most of the $50,000 prize to the support of peace and reconciliation causes with which he had long been associated, in particular ending mass atrocity crimes, nuclear disarmament and achieving racial equality.
“For all the efforts that have been made over recent decades to prevent war and end genocide and other mass atrocity crimes, these horrors continue to haunt us,” he said.
“The search for peace and universally respected human rights seems never-ending, but we must never give up the struggle.”
In giving the 2023 award to Professor Evans, the Jeju 4.3 Peace Foundation said: “In today’s world, where human rights are neglected and state violence is rampant, such as in the case of the Myanmar crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the awarding of the Jeju 4.3 Peace Prize to Professor Gareth Evans will be a very meaningful message to the world.”