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PSPD    People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy

  • Newsletter
  • 2014.03.03
  • 1837

PSPD English Newsletter : February 2014

<Report from Lee Tae-ho, secretary-general of PSPD>
It has been more than a month since a New Year. The January seemed so short because of early lunar New Year. Is everything goes well accordingly to your New Year plans?

● The secretariat office of PSPD had a New Year office commencement ceremony on 2 January having three representatives of PSPD in presence and started the first day of 2014 the 20th anniversary.

● The New Year press conference of the President Park Geun-hye on 6 January was very disappointing. There was no mention concerning intervention of national organizations in the presidential election. When a reporter raised the issue, she responded “stop wasting time for such dispute and step forward for the future”. Speeches on executing promises for democracy in economy and welfare were hardly found. Instead, the president suggested 3-year-plan for economy innovation and promised to normalize abnormalities in the public sector. She also promised extensive deregulation including medical, and boosting the real estate.

● Especially, it made many people angry when the president spoke about laws, principles and ‘normalization of abnormalities’ but rather kept silence on intervention. Speaking of abnormalities, concealing, minimizing, disturbing investigation of intervention scandal of national organizations in the presidential election, privatization without a consent of the people, using police force without a warrant, punishing railroad workers for having a legal strike and giving disadvantages to whistle blowers on a public interest matter such as a prosecutor Yoon Seok-yeol and a senior policewoman Kwon Eun-hee who testified intervention are what abnormal and absurd acts the government has committed. Criticism and concerns are focused on replacing the presidential election promises on democracy in economy and expanding welfare with deregulation and boosting economy. Speaking of key policies for a New Year, privatization, profit-making, opening the market and economic policies favorable to large conglomerates are likely to accelerate under the name of deregulation. On this account, PSPD presented refuting comments titled “the new year press conference confirmed non-communicable and self-righteous president”  

● The Civil Society Organizations Network in Korea members held a New Year party on 10 January and announced <New Year remarks- a pledge of civil organizations to make our society where everyone is well>. The Network criticized that ’Normalizing abnormalities’ insisted by the president Park Geun-hye was a war declared by the power of the state against citizens who are urging normalizing the democratic constitutional order. It also resolved to make 2014 ‘the year of victory for democracy and justice’, ‘the year of restoring the flow heading to economic democracy and welfare’, ‘the year of recovering lives, peace, human dignity’ and ‘the year of true revolution for grass-rooted civil sovereignty and civil alternatives’.

● The Current Situation Council for NIS scandal in which PSPD is participating continues to organize weekend candle rallies urging for special prosecutor investigation and punishment of the responsible. Particularly the Council and civil societies are asking to dismiss three prime movers Nam Jae-jun (president of NIS), Hwang Gyo-an (Minister for justice) and Kim Gwan-jin (Minister for National defense) as well as special prosecutor investigation for government authorities’ illegal election.

● Unfortunately, politicians are not as active as last year for demanding to find the truth of national organizations’ intervention in the presidential election. Ignoring the leading party which had no interest from the beginning, the Democratic Party and the working group of ‘New party for a new politic’ led by an assembly member Ahn Cheol-su do not seem to care about the matter any longer. Therefore, PSPD held an urgent symposium on 16 January in order to discuss limitations found from the first phase of NIS reform last year and clarify tasks for the second phase. NIS reform special committee officer of the Democratic Party evaluated that contents of the first bill was not satisfactory for the civil society but a desperate measure to get agreement between the leading and opposition party, and produced some results. On the other hand, counterarguments were raised by the head of the Center for administration watch of PSPD and a professor Lee Ho-joong of Seokang Law School that cyber psychology warfare activities of NIS shouldn’t have been acknowledged at the first legislation process. For the second phase, NIS’s investigation against communism, collecting domestic information and cyber psychology warfare should be prohibited by the law. For details, please see a movie ‘Symposium for NIS reform special committee; the first round assessment and the second round tasks’ at the PSPD website on http://www.peoplepower21.org/1124100

● As soon as a New Year broke out, all politicians started a racing for a provincial election scheduled in June. While political powers are busy with the election, the Politic Reform Special Committee of National Assembly is tensed with ‘Politic Reform Bill’ to be applied in the coming election. Meanwhile, the leading and opposition party are in the middle of criticism and blamed for pursing evils instead of reform because they agreed on the election reform bill on 24 December last year which prohibits encouraging the act of voting during election period. The Civil Society Organizations Network in Korea in which PSPD is a member held a press conference on 16 January to declare itself against the election reform bill and to present political reform tasks to be accomplished before the June election.

● The Committee for Fair Labor Society of PSPD gave a comment to denounce the police which requested a warrant on 15 January to arrest nine railroad union executives despite of their voluntarily appearance at the police, and the court which issued warrant for four executives on 17 January. During the strike of railroad union, police requested a warrant more than 20 times but the court turned them down. For this reason, issuing warrants for four executives after the strike is an antinomic decision of the court. 103 labor scholars from U.S. Canada, Singapore, Argentina and South Africa submitted a petition to the President, the Ministry of Land and Transport and Executives of KORAIL expressing concerns over acts of Korean government and the police in regard to forced entrance into the building of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and to oppress railroad union. Moreover, a word of supporting the railroad union was included. This petition with signatures was initiated by the urgent petition drafted and sent by the International Solidarity Committee and the Committee for Labor of PSPD to UN last month.  

● Together with the movement objecting privatization of railroad, people are trying to stop privatization of medical industry since Park Geun-hye government is focusing on privatizing and deregulating medical industry this year. The ‘Movement to stop privatization of medical industry and realize free medical treatment’ including PSPD held a press conference on 13 January <Proclaiming to collect one million signatures to stop privatization of medical industry>. In addition, more than 100 organizations gathered on 28 January and resolved to expand solidarity for <National movement to enhance public healthcare>.    

● The President Park Geun-hye suggested a rosy picture on South and North Korean relationship saying ‘Reunification Bonanza’ at the New Year press conference. The Defense committee of North Korea also announced ‘Serious proposals’ to improve the relationship at the New Year remarks. What it matter is execution. South and North government are still talking about family reunion which didn’t happen last year. PSPD believes that practical efforts should be made to ease the military tension to resolve humanitarian problems such as family reunion. Especially it expressed the opinion to reduce or suspend provocative Korea-US military drills.

● The Center for Judiciary Watch is demanding the Ministry of Justice to punish a prosecutor Lee Jin-han who committed sexual harassment at a year-end party but haven’t received any disadvantages or disciplinary measures.
● On 14 January, 46 human rights organizations and PSPD urged 13 government bodies including Police Administration, Ministry of Employment and Labor, National Defense, Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Justice, Health and Welfare, Gender Equality and Family and Korea Communications Commission to show specific action plans how each organization would follow recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Council. The UN Human Rights Council has given 70 recommendations to Korean government on 25 October 2012; prevention of abusing National Security Law, abolition of capital punishment, adoption of alternative military service for conscientious objectors, legislation of comprehensive anti-discrimination law inclusive of sexual preference, prohibiting usage of excessive armed force of security services, human rights of children including prohibiting corporal punishment, anti-discrimination against single or unmarried  parents and settlement to the right of health and residence of the poor.

The report was from the secretary-general.

<Civil and Political rights related activities>

Abolition of political party nomination for the provincial election, is it a medicine or poison?

(for further information, please visit http://www.peoplepower21.org/1129639  - Korean only)

Having provincial election ahead, the National Assembly and political field are discussing pros and cons of political party nomination system for provincial election. The argument supporting abolition is based on two realities; a candidate should have a good term or show off to a central party or/and provincial assembly members to be nominated and a specific party is dominating in a specific region. 

However, the concern on abolition is also high because nomination deal under the table is likely to happen and it would make more difficult for minorities to enter the political field such as progressive party, women, and the handicapped. Consequently, local powers will obtain seats on the contrary to the intention.  

Then, is abolition of party nomination a key to activate regional politic? Isn’t it more desirable to provide environment in which various political parties and powers are competing? Current Political Parties Act limits qualification of party establishment by setting to have a central party located in Seoul and more than five regional (city and provincial) parties with 1,000 members or more. High standard only restricts participation of voters and gives more powers to a few existing parties. It is believed to be more effective to reform monopoly structure of large political parties by easing establishment criteria than abolition of party nomination.

Besides it, there are piles of systems to be amended before the provincial election. A toxic article of the Public Official Election Act restricting the right to freedom of expression of voters should be changed. Extending voting hours and lowering down voter’s age to 18 proposed by the Democratic Party received public consensus at the last presidential election and now it is time to be reflected in a law. The Civil Society Organizations Network in Korea presented <Tasks for political reform to be carried out before the provincial election> on 16 January. The opinion on abolition of party nomination is reserved because the Network did not reach an agreement. Instead, it suggested lessening political party establishment criteria (securing regional political party establishment), extending proportional representatives for provincial councils, and legislation of major constituency system to elect more than three from each constituency in order to improve current political party structure and activate provincial politics.  

A prosecutor Lee Jin-han unpunished for sexual harassment, a prosecutor Jeong Byung-du unqualified for a justice of the Supreme Court 
The disciplinary measure decided for a prosecutor Lee Jin-han who sexually harassed female reporters remained at ‘Warning’. ‘Warning’ is not a punishment because it does not give a disadvantage to promotion. In addition, it is not fare compared to a previous case in which ‘three months suspension’ was decided to a similar scandal. It seems to be a present of Kim Jin-tae, chief prosecutor given to Lee in respond to his interfering NIS investigation. The Center for Judiciary Watch of PSPD urged the Ministry of justice to punish Lee.

On the other hand, a prosecutor Jeong Byung-du who directed investigation of a TV program ‘PD Journal’ and Yongsan tragedy during Lee Myung-bak administration was recommended for a justice of the Supreme Court. He has suppressed the freedom of the press and overlooked abuse of public power so that he is not qualified for a justice. Hence, PSPD urged chief justice of the Supreme Court not to re-recommend Jeong to the president and started activities to stop his appointment.
<Socio-Economic Rights related Activities>
Yongsan Tragedy, still progressive form after five years have passed
(for further information, please visit http://www.peoplepower21.org/Magazine/1129636  - Korean only)

Yongsan Tragedy, it’s been five years since that horrible incident happened. Redevelopment union blinded by greed and security service paid by construction capital suppressed residents and shop tenants in eviction area who cried out for their right to live and made temporarily lookout on the roof of the Namildang building in Yongsan. 

Yongsan tragedy revealed problems of violent and greedy new town and redevelopment business. Various reforms initiated from Seoul City government have been executed. However, the issue of store tenants of redevelopment area is yet resolved. Tenants have devoted for their livelihood ground from a few years to more than decades but about to lose their livelihood. How can it be a solution to increase business income compensation from three months to four months?

Even at this moment, tenants are being kicked out from their stores without their rights being protected. Commercial Building Lease Protection Act should apply maximum rent fee system to all tenants regardless of their bond amount and guarantee more than five years of business right considering the business nature. Premium should be secured by asking a new tenant to success it from an old tenant or reasonable compensation for an eviction should be paid in case a tenant has to vacate a store before contact ends. At least, forced eviction should be banned during the winter and the evening in any cases.

The first withdrawal of SSM, E-mart Pyongteak in a new year, too?
Homepuls Express Mangwon branch has closed down on 31 December 2013 recoding the first closure of distribution chaebol’s SSM. It is the result of solidarity and efforts of small business owners such as store union of Mangwon and Worldcup market, residents, economic democracy organizations and opposition party for the last three years. The closure looks like to help securing livelihood of small business owners and boosting regional economy since sales of Homeplus Express Mangwon reached to 8 billion won per year.

However, E-mart is still planning to open the second store in Pyongteak and distribution cheabols are opening variegated SSM and so called product supply stores which are not regulated by the Distribution Industry Development Act. Fundamental solution is for the National Assembly to reform Distribution Industry Development Act in order to regulate variegated SSM and product supply store, and expand compulsory closing days for large discount stores and SSM

<Peace and Disarmament>
Korean government and companies oppress labors in Cambodia?
(for further information, please visit http://www.peoplepower21.org/Magazine/1129634  - Korean only)

On 3 January, Cambodian government mobilized air-borne troops to oppress labors asking to raise minimum wage. Five workers lost their lives on that day.

Development dictatorship of the state incurred bloody oppression to protect sewing industry and corporations which have been sustained by unrealistically low wages. The Cambodian government said last December to increase the minimum wage to $95 per month but that is still not sufficient to keep livelihood. Even the report of the Cambodian government suggested a proper minimum wage to $157~$177 so that it is out of question for workers to choose strikes demanding $160.

In the course, it is revealed that Korean sewing companies in Cambodia requested Cambodian government to intervene the strike with police force to stop minimum wage increase. Even the Korean embassy asked Cambodian authority to quickly end strikes and protect Korean companies. More striking fact is that Cambodian government mobilized air-borne troops to oppress workers with force of arms as responding to that request.  

참여사회 2014-02월호

As an OECD and UN Human Right Council member, Korea can’t avoid reprimand for failing to ask responsibilities to companies which infringe international standard ‘OECD guideline for multi-national enterprises’ and ‘United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. PSPD and Korean civil societies held a press conference in front of the Cambodian Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs right after the incident denouncing ‘Bloody situation in Cambodia’. PSPD will watch the situation and cooperate for Cambodian workers to find their rights.

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