Honorary awards

Kim Dae-Jung

The degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) was conferred upon Kim Dae-Jung, one of the most prominent campaigners for democracy in Asia, at a ceremony held at 6.30pm on 2 September 1996.

The Chancellor Dame Leonie Kramer and Kim Dae-Jung

The Chancellor Dame Leonie Kramer and Kim Dae-Jung, photo, 'The University of Sydney News', 12 September 1996.


Presented by the Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Gavin Brown


We honour today Kim Dae-Jung, Chairman and Founder of the Kim Dae-Jung Peace Foundation for the Asia - Pacific Region, Co-President of the Forum of Democratic Leaders in the Asia - Pacific, a man who has a splendid record in the struggle for the freedom of Koreans from dictatorship and for electoral democracy, and a prolific author on the values of a new democracy that guarantees the right of personal development for all and the wholesome existence of all living things.

Fifty years ago Ghandi wrote that he could not be leading a religious life unless he identified himself wi th the whole of mankind and that he could not do, unless he took part in politics.

Like Ghandi, Kim has pursued his ideals through legal and peaceful means. He has drawn strength from the ancient Chinese philosopher, Meng-tzu, who taught that the people came first, the country second, the King third; from Tonghak, a native religion of Korea which holds that 'man is heaven" and that one must serve man as one does heaven'; and from Buddhism and Confucianism. 'Confucian scholars were taught that remonstration against an erring monarch was a paramount duty', wrote Kim, and he points out 'many civil servants and promising political elites gave their lives to protect the right to free speech'.

Kim, who regards the invention of effective electoral democracy as Europe's greatest achievement, has risked his own life. He was imprisoned by the North Koreans during the war in 1970, and by the dictatorship in South Korea from 1976-78, arrested in 1980 and sentenced to death for plotting to overthrow the dictatorship. That was commuted to life imprisonment and then to 20 years. He was released in December 1982 and went to the United States for medical treatment. Undaunted he returned to Korea in 1985 and stood for the Presidency in 1987 and 1992.

He has inspired campaigners for democratic rights within and outside Korea. Last year he founded The National Congress for New Politics and became its President. Like Ghandi his vision is not purely national. We must, he wrote, start with a rebirth of democracy that promotes freedom, prosperity and justice both within each country and among nations - global in the sense that it extends to the skies, the earth and all things with brotherly affection.

He has become confident that from around the year 2000 a new democracy will take root throughout Asia and set an example to the West.

He came to higher education quite late in life. At 39 he completed a one-year diploma in Business Administration; at 42 another diploma in Industrial Management and at 45 an MA programme in Economics.

Between 1962 and 1983 he wrote four books including 'Letters from Prison' and three years later became a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for International Affairs at Harvard in 1983 and a Visiting Fellow at the Centre of International Studies at Cambridge and became a Life Member of Clare College in that University in 1993.

A year before that he had completed a PhD in Political Science at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow and became an Honorary Professor of Moscow University. Then in 1994 he became an Honorary Professor at three Chinese Universities. Between 1985 and 1995 he published another 12 books including a Plan for the Unification of Korea in three stages.

His publications, Honorary Professorships and four Honorary Doctorates testify to his great courage and achievements in the fields of government and scholarship. Universities if they are to flourish also depend on freedom of discussion, on freedom to meet and work with colleagues in other countries and on a capacity to maintain the ethical principles on which good scholarship is based.

Chancellor, the University is delighted to honour Kim Dae-Jung - and to make him one of our community.

I present to you Kim Dae-Jung for admission to the degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa).