The 2nd prize ceremony took place on November 27th 1981 in the Vienna City Hall. The focus in 1981 was again Latin America and the Middle East. However, at the same time, the Bruno Kreisky Foundation also drew attention to the situation developing under the military dictatorship in South Korea. Kim Chi-ha and Kim Dae-jung, two leaders of the democracy and human rights movements in South Korea, were honoured. In 1974, the poet Kim Chi-ha (Kim Chi-ha in Korean is a homonym for underground) was sentenced to death for allegedly instigating public disorder. Worldwide protests led to his release, but he was re-imprisoned again in 1975. Although he was a celebrated poet internationally, his work was strictly censored in South Korea. In 1980, after he had again been released, Kim Chi-ha became a symbol of resistance to the military regime.
As leader of the democratic opposition, Kim Dae-jung was repeatedly imprisoned and was kidnapped from exile in Japan and taken to South Korea. In 1980, under the dictator General Chun Doo-hwan, he was sentenced to death. The punishment was downgraded to lifelong imprisonment in 1981. In 1982 Kim Dae-jung was allowed to leave the country for exile in the USA. After the democratisation of South Korea in 1987, Kim Dae-jung won the presidential election in 1998. Kim Dae-jung received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his policies of seeking closer relations with North Korea and a settlement of the conflict.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, imprisoned on Robben Island, was another prize winner. The award of the Bruno Kreisky Prize was the second international prize for the African freedom fighter after the Jawalarlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1980. Mandela could not accept the award in person. The prize and its money could only be delivered to his family by covert means. In 1993, Nelson Mandela together with Frederik Willem de Klerk received the Nobel Peace Prize for their policies of peaceful change in South Africa.
The Israeli Trade Union Federation, Histadrut, was honoured for a project promoting coexistence of Palestinian Arabs and Jews in northern Israel. Two other prizes went to Raymonda Tawil, a committed Palestinian women's rights activist and journalist, and the Israeli historian and journalist Simha Flapan.
Three prizes were again awarded to Latin America. Orlando Fals Borda, the Columbian sociologist received the award for his fight against poverty and the oppression of small peasants. Enrique Álvarez Córdoba, the Agriculture Minister of El Salvador and President of the Frente Democrático Revolucionario (FDR), was arrested on November 28th 1980, tortured and murdered. The prize was awarded to him posthumously. Domitila Barrios de Chungara was one of the first grass-roots activists in Latin America. The Bolivian female miner was one of the leading women's rights activists of the 1970s and 1980s in Latin America. At the beginning of the 1980s Barrios de Chungara was living in exile in Switzerland.
The Fondation pour une entraide intellectuelle européenne in Paris was honoured for its humanistic work and support for scholars and intellectuals in Eastern Europe.
Two prizes went to Austrian recipients. Rosa Jochmann, an untiring voice against fascism and as well as a resistance fighter against Austrofascism and National Socialism, was honoured for her many years of engagement, and so was professor Felix Ermacora, the spiritus rector of Austrian human rights policies and research after 1945.