Yoon Han Bong

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Yoon Han Bong

Yoon Han Bong (1947-2007) is "the Last Fugitive involved in the May 18th Gwangju People's Uprising of 1980 and primary contributor to the progressive Korean American grassroots movement."[1]

Yoon is survived by Soha Shin, a former member of Young Koreans United of Los Angeles and former social service director of the Korean Resource Center.[2]


Yoon Han Bong was born in Kang Jin, South Jeolla Province, South Korea in 1948. As a college student, his leadership role in the “Youth and Student Coalition for Democracy” led to his expulsion from Jun Nam University. From 1978 to 1979, Yoon was imprisoned multiple times under violation of Special Order 9 for opposing the military dictatorship at the time. The following year, Yoon was blacklisted as the most wanted due to his involvement in the May 18 Gwangju People's Uprising. (This event was the genesis of the modern democracy movement in Korea and more than a decade of activism in South Korea and internationally led to the end of successive military dictatorships.) In April, 1981, Yoon secretly escaped on a cargo ship and after more than 40 days, arrived in the United States where he received political asylum.

Organizing in America

Upon Yoon’s arrival in the United States, he focused on building an overseas solidarity movement to support the democracy movement in South Korea. Among his accomplishments are the founding of the Korean Resource Center in 1983, Young Koreans United (YKU) in 1984 and the Korean Alliance for Peace and Justice of USA in 1987. YKU spawned the formation of grassroots community-based organizations throughout the country including the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center in Chicago, YKASECEmpowering the Korean American Community in New York City and the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC).

Return to South Korea

In May, 1993, after South Korea elected its first civilian president by direct popular election, Yoon returned home --- ending 12 years of political asylum in the United States. Upon his return, Yoon established the Korea Future Research Center (analytical research and planning on the future of Korea) and played a leadership role in the formation of the May 18 Memorial Foundation which seeks to transmit the spirit of democracy and human rights throughout the Asia Pacific region. From 2003 to 2006, Yoon served as co-chair of the “No on Park Jung Hee Memorial Museum People’s Coalition” and in 2004, he was elected as the first chairperson of the “Deu-Bul” (Wild Fire) Activist Commemoration Project to recognize the grassroots leaders of the May 18 Gwangju People’s Uprising.

Yoon Han Bong Commemoration Korean Resource Center 8-19-07

Yoon Han Bong Commemoration Korean Resource Center 8-19-07

The Korean Resource Center commemorated Yoon Han Bong a year after his death.