The Honorable Chief Justice Hilario Davide, trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, distinguished guests, fellow awardees ladies and gentlemen, good evening.
First of all, I would like to thank deeply each and everyone at the Foundation and those who have supported me to this day.
When I first heard the news, I was more surprised than happy. Considering the Magsaysay prize's international reputation and especially the achievements of previous awardees for the good of our society, I could not believe that I was selected to be this year's awardee. When looking into the previous Korean awardees, from Chun-ha Chang to the most recent awardee, Pomnyun Sunim, every awardee has been a person I respect highly; I did not even dream about following their ways.
Also, knowing that I am being awarded in "emergent leadership," I feel very responsible and obliged because I am being awarded for expected future achievements aside from what I have actually achieved so far.
However, I want to share the meaning and happiness of this award with all the activists who strive for the expansion and deepening of civil society, especially those who, regardless of social recognition, devote their lives to transforming their local communities through various grassroots movements.
Recently, the Korean civil movement has been recognized for its noticeable growth and dynamism. Also, the great influence that our civil movement has had on creating an institutional framework for democracy in Korea is a fact that cannot be denied.
Even so, there are some criticisms we receive, such as that our "civil movement is without citizens" and that our "civil movement is based on specialists and well-known people." Admittedly, the foundations of civil society in Korea are still weak, thus it is still hard to gain wide support and participation from our citizens. From now on, for our society to mature and become truly based on citizens' participation and civil responsibility, I think it is urgent that we mobilize citizens' commitment to, and active participation in, the issues confronting their local communities. For this to happen, local community-based grassroots organizations have to play more and more significant roles.
At this point in time, I would like to praise the Foundation for giving meaning to grassroots activities in Cheonan, a small city in Korea, and recognizing them as an important driving force that will change our society.
I started doing social work in my early 20s, and have now spent fifteen years interacting with my local community. I rejoice over how people have changed through all this work. Images of hard times, happy moments, and those who have been with me flash through my mind. I have worked hard to make change in the local community, but I think the one thing that has really changed is myself. An inexperienced and young woman from fifteen years ago has grown up to become -- although it still sounds awkward for me to say this -- a leader of the coming younger generation. After all, young people learn to take responsibility for themselves and others, to take care of and have a sense of solidarity with others, through various volunteer activities. They also learn to devote and sacrifice themselves for the socially disadvantaged. I believe that this is the true process of building civil society leadership.
When looking through my own experiences, I see that the charm of small grassroots activities is in the many possibilities these create to develop the leadership of everyone who participates in making the activities holistic and substantial. In my own case, I came to realize -- through my experiences, not in theory -- how a democratic citizenry is cultivated through grassroots organizations and their activities. Although it is a slow process, this is the fundamental power needed to transform society.
I could not be standing where I am right now without the guidance and care of many people. I want to thank my family who have shared my life burdens with me and encouraged me with all their hearts. Especially, I would like to give my love and thanks to my husband, Won Geun Lee, whom I met as a co-worker in my community activities fifteen years ago, and who has become my life companion, my work adviser and honest critic. I am also thankful to my lovely son, Hyun Shik, who always had to share his mother with others, but was always understanding and caring.
Each and every one who was with me -- sometimes even compromising themselves in seeking justice and the common good -- deserves this award. Most of all, everyone in Cheonan city knows that this award should go to Sung Ho Park, who has shared the same vision, was never reluctant to be humble himself in order to help others, and who has been a true mentor in my life.
Lastly, I would like to give this honor to the Lord who has "made me the way I am," and I ask all of you to pray for me to become an instrument that is used according to God's will. Once again, thank you so much.