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PSPD    People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy

  • Newsletter
  • 2014.04.21
  • 1085

PSPD English Newsletter : April 2014

 

<The report from Lee Tae-ho, secretary-general of PSPD>
This month of the PSPD, Dreams we are making together

I have planted a branch of cherry blossom in a pot in the mid-March and watered it every day. Now, buds started to shoot up from the branch. Cherry blossoms are blooming in Tongin-dong near PSPD secretariat office. Daffodils planted last year at the backyard of PSPD have quietly sprung out and grown fast that flower buds begun to open. The life force of the spring makes me feel dizzy. We bought young plants of whitlow grass, moss pink and begonia from a neighboring florist and planted them. Let me report activities of PSPD in March. 


● The 20th General meeting of PSPD has successfully held on 8 March with blessings and new pledges of members. Executives, activists and members made a vow to screw up for reflections and reforms in order to realize our dreams that we have made together for the last 20 years.

● After the meeting, PSPD executives and activists have visited Daegu, Gwangju, Daejeon and Busan on 22 and 29 March to greet members living outside of Seoul, and share plans and visions of 20 year-old PSPD. I would like to express deep gratitude for their hospitality.

● PSPD Academy Zelkova is holding spring lectures. In April, Democracy School lectures are opening including <PSPD, asking for the load of Korean society> a special lecture to celebrate 20 year-old PSPD, <Political philosophy> of Kim Man-kwon and Yoon Hong-sik’s <Welfare Nation Reading Club>

● A member’s club ‘San Sa Rang’ started hiking on 23 March and held a ritual to the god of mountains at Bukhan Mountain wishing for well-being and safety of the mountain and hikers.

● Tragic incident hap pened on 26 February that a mother and two daughters took their own lives. The death of this family brought out the issue of the people who suffer on blind sides of our social security system and preparing measures for them. The mother looked after livelihood of the family by her own but lost her job because she fell down and got seriously hurt on a way back home from work. While having no income, they decided to take an ultimate choice, the death. Neither employment nor industrial accident insurance does help workers who lose jobs because of injury during commuting. Despite of the facts that two daughters were credit delinquents, they could not receive a help of the basic livelihood security system because of the duty of supporting the family which asks parents to be responsible for children over 18.   

▶ PSPD is studying blind sides of social safety net which drive the poor to the death. The matters focused on are effectiveness of the industrial accident insurance and the employment insurance, the basic livelihood security system especially problems of the duty of supporting the family, financing issues such as credit delinquent system and problems with residential welfare.  

▶ [Urgent discussion to prepare alternative measures for blind sides of Korean Social Security System] was held on 3 March by the Social Welfare Committee of PSPD, the Council for People’s basic livelihood security, the Committee for livelihood of the People and the Hankyorye institute for Social Policies and they urged improvements of related systems.  

● The Saenuri Party is trying to pass three bills; Basic Pension, Basic Livelihood Security and Pension for the Disabled under the name of ‘Three welfare Acts’ or ‘Livelihood bills’. However, they are no near welfare or livelihood but detrimental revision of acts. The notion of minimum livelihood cost is omitted in the reformed bill of the Basic Livelihood Security Act proposed by Park Geun-hye government and it lays responsibility to ministers concerning criteria for recipients and payment level. The Basic Pension Bill is retrograded from the presidential election promise which said to universally increase basic pension payment to double. Now it is designed to pay only to 70% low income level and reduce the basic pension amount for loyal pension payers. Moreover, the pension amount for the handicapped is also very low since the standard is not set at general but middle income class of the handicapped households. 

▶ PSPD and concerned social organizations have held a press conference on 6 March to oppose three welfare Acts made in haste and organized activities to pressurize the National Assembly.

▶ The discussion ‘Uncomfortable truth of the Basic Pension Act of Park Geun-hye government’ was held at the National Assembly on 12 March. On 14 March, the urgent forum titled ‘Problems with the detrimental revision of Basic Act, focusing on medical allowance’ was held at Zelkova PSPD and discussed about medical allowance of the Basic Livelihood Security Act 

● Health and Medical organizations including PSPD are having a movement of collecting one million signatures to oppose the policy which allows remote examination and profit-making affiliates of hospitals. On the same line, PSPD presented the comment on 10 March justifying strikes of the Korean Medical Association which protested against profit-making of hospitals. However, the Korean Medical Association and the government had a meeting twice and agreed on reform of the Medical Act permitting remote examination under the precondition to reflect a result of six month trial. Then, the Cabinet Council gave a tacit approval on 25 March and the concerned bill will be submitted to the National Assembly soon. We should not let this bill pass the National Assembly. Please join in one million signature collecting movement to stop profit-making and privatization of hospitals.    

 

● Another goal of social welfare activities of PSPD is to spend more time with the young generation. In cooperation with the Youth Welfare Solidarity and the People’s Action to Straighten up the National Pension, it has organized ‘University tour – Pension Forum for the youth – You also become an old person’ on 19 March starting at the Choongang University followed by the Korea and the Gyeonggi university and asked young people to pay attention to welfare agenda such as the National Pension. 


● The Campaign for Anyone with Stable Life of PSPD and the Kyunghyang Daily started a campaign in March ‘Small but Precious Rights’. It targets to find small rights which we have lost or deprived in a daily life and tries to report unfair and injustice cases. For example, people can’t cancel mobile phone prescription on weekends. People pay but still forcibly watch advertisement. 

● PSPD, the Korea Finance Consumer Federation, the Committee for People’s livelihood of Minbyun are having a class action lawsuit against three credit cards companies for personal information leakage and closed the list of litigant parties from the first and second invitation. In addition, PSPD requested an inspection to the Board of Audit on 20 March that the Financial Service Commission gave a tacit consent to life insurance companies on excessive collecting of personal medical records.  


● Next to a movie <Another family>, a documentary <The Empire of shame> which exposes bare face of Samsung Semiconductor factory is on cinema. PSPD organized a group viewing of 50 and 30 members and citizens saw the <The Empire of shame> on 13 March at Cine Code Sunjae. After viewing, there was a talk with a family of Jeong Ae-jeong a Samsung semiconductor victim and a director Hong Lee-kyung. PSPD is joining in ‘Straightening Up Samsung ‘ a movement to make Samsung to stop destroying fair society and infringing labor rights’.

● The president Park Geun-hye and the National Economic Advisory Council are reinforcing policies favorable to large conglomerates and contrarily disposing or withholding rational regulations for medium and small enterprises and low income families under the name of regulation reform. PSPD, the Federation of Korean Distribution and organizations representing small and medium businesses held a press conference on 27 March to protest against deregulations and urged for legislating the list of business appropriate for small enterprises and small business. It also asked to enact Agency Protection Act and to adopt permit system for discount stores and SSM.

● It is found that the Financial Service Commission gave a tacit consent on Lone Star which was unqualified to become a large shareholder of the Korea Foreign Exchange Bank because speculative foreign private equity fund Lone Star was ‘nonfinancial company’ which did not make it eligible to govern. This fact was revealed from analyzing the information submitted by the Financial Service Commission on 20 February accordingly to the court decision for which PSPD and union members of Korea Exchange Bank demanded disclosure of assessment information used to judge if Lone Star was eligible to be a large shareholder.


● Therefore, PSPD and the Minbyun reported six authorities to the Prosecutor on 19 March who were in charge of approval at that time for dereliction of duty and misfeasance. The responsible reported include Jin Dong-su, a former chairman of the Financial Service Commission and Kim Seok-dong, a former chairman of the Financial Service Commission


▶ The Center for Judicial Watch has sent a letter of appeal to both leading and opposition party on 4 March for abolishing permanent special prosecutor system which was the promise to the people. In cooperation with Seo Young-gyo, lawmaker of the Minju Party, PSPD held <The Forum to assess prosecutors during the first year of Park Geun-hye government> on 10 March.

● The recent facts revealed on the spy evidence fabrication scandal of the National Information Service are showing how much bold the NIS can be. It’s secretive and illegal maneuvering activities even forged foreign official documents to make a good citizen a spy and obstructed judiciary proceedings. Especially, more striking fact is that spy fabricating activities were carried out at the organizational level under the order of Nam Jae-jun, the current president of NIS even during the NIS employees were being questioned and investigated for the NIS’s illegal intervention in the Presidential election. Despite of all above, the President Park Geun-hye keeps silence and does nothing on this matter.

▶ A joint press conference was held on 13 March by eleven civil and social organizations who were members of the Civil Society Organizations Network in Korea including PSPD, the Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice, the Young Korean Academy and the YMCA Korea. They urged for dismissal of Nam Jae-jun, the president of NIS and adopting the independent special prosecutor system. After the conference, a relay of one organization demonstration was carried out for eleven days.


▶ <What should we do with this monster? – presenting how the National Information Service and the Prosecutors fabricated a spy> was organized on 15 March at the Cheonggye square and Yoo Woo-seong, a victim who was accused for a spy, his legal representative Kang Gyeong-wook from the Minbyun and a producer Choi Seung-ho from the Newstapa were present. It was jointly held by the Minbyun, the Democratic Legal Studies Association, the Minju Party special committee for NIS and the office of a lawmaker Seo Ki-ho.


● The council for current situation on NIS scandal announced the statement on 25 March together with 262 people from various fields. They urged to execute special prosecutor investigation for the unfair election in which public authorities intervened and falsifying evidences to make a spy, and to dismiss Nam Jae-jun, the president of the NIS, Kim Gwan-jin, the Minister for defense and Hwang Gyo-an the Minister for Justice. In addition, citizens were asked to pay attention for upcoming regional government election in order to prevent it from being another unfair one.


● The council for current situation on NIS scandals continues to organize a candle rally on every weekend in March.


● The promise of the Coalition for the New Politic and the Democracy which the Minju Party and the new political group of Ahn Cheol-su collaborated has become a big issue since they would not officially recommend candidates for governors and council members in coming election. Regarding the issue, PSPD takes the stance to be considerate for the elimination of party’s recommendation to keep the responsible politics.


▶ On the other hand, there are issues failed to get attention but more important than political reform. PSPD and the Political Reform Special Committee of the Civil Society Organizations Network in Korea jointly held <A series of 2014 political reform forum> on 20 and 25 March with the Civil Political Forum of the National Assembly. The first forum discussed measures to relieve conditions for a political party establishment in order for easy start of a new party. The second shared ideas to secure the right to express political opinions of voters before and after elections. 


● It is confirmed that Kang Byung-gyu designated by Park Geun-hye for a minister candidate for the Ministry of Security and Public Administration falsely registered the address and illegally owned farms uncultivated. It is very improper to appoint him because he would be in charge of the Ministry which supervises ethics of public officers and residence address registration. The Center for Public Administration watch of PSPD submitted an opinion of unqualified candidate on 24 March to the Security and Public Administration Committee of the National Assembly. In the course, the progress report on appointment hearing failed to adopt while leading and opposition party could not agree on Kang’s qualification but the President Park Geun-hye seems to proceed on his appointment.   


PSPD and the Minbyun have sent activists and experts to the 25th UN Human Rights Council (3-28 March) which was held in Geneva and Baek Ga-yun from the International Solidarity Committee of PSPD participated. 


● The ‘Fund-raising committee to cover legal expenses of Gangjeong’ was officially established on 26 March to raise funds to pay about 300 million won of fines and legal fees levied to more than 600 Gangjeong residents and peace activists who have fought against Naval base construction in Jeju. More than 60 from various fields are participating as an advisor including a reverence Moon Jeong-hyun, a former head of Gangjeong village Kang Dong-gyun, Oh Young-ae (a mother of a Gangjeong peace activist), Shin Seung-cheol, a co-representative of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and Lee Seok-tae, co-representative of PSPD. As the first fund-raising event, supporting pub opened on 29 March.


● Having the fourth year since Cheonan naval vessel submerged, PSPD presented a comment insisting re-investigation and re-examination of the incident in order for ‘Korean peninsula trust process’ of Park Geun-hye government to work properly.


● PSPD won the case at the first trial for which it litigated the New Daily an internet press for defamation and damage. The Seoul Central Court decided on 5 March for the New Daily to compensate PSPD with four million won. The New Daily has spread out falsehood that PSPD oppressed and forced Chaebols to donate to the Beautiful Foundation.  


So far, the report from Lee Tae-ho.

Details of the General Meeting can be found in the proceeding of the 20th General Meeting. Please see www.peoplepower21.org/PSPD/1136810 for more.

 

<Civil and Political rights related activities>

Prosecutors are walking on the abnormal path

(for further information, please visit http://www.peoplepower21.org/Magazine/1146679  - Korean only)


A forum was held to assess the public prosecutors during the first year of Park Geun-hye administration.

Public prosecutors had been used as a control tool of reign power during Lee Myung-bak government for five years. They were ‘political prosecutors’ infringing rights rather than protecting them. People looked forward to seeing complete change of prosecutors and Park Geun-hye promised to set them right during the election campaign. A year has passed. Have they reborn as prosecutors for the people?

The forum to assess prosecutors was held on 10 March hosted by the Judicial Watch Center and Seo Young-gyo, a lawmaker of the Minju Party. Reporters who closely watched legal professors and prosecutors agreed in one voice that they have not changed and it is hard to expect them to change for the next four years. 

The first appointment passed the National Assembly hearing was Chae Dong-wook, a former chief prosecutor and he showed changes by preparing internal reform of the Prosecutors’ office, investigating and accelerating to levy unpaid penalties on a former president Jeon Du-hwan. However, the reign power removed Chae when he tried to do the right thing for NIS’s illegal intervention in the presidential election and dismissed the NIS investigation team headed by Yoon Seok-yeol. The government has been appointing high rank government officers from the prosecutors’ office such as prime minister, senior secretary to the President for civil affairs, chief of staff, and minister for Justice in order to control prosecutors. It can be said that prosecutors are owned and manipulated by the power and reform trial seemed to end even before start.

One of core promises of the President Park Geun-hye on the reform of the Prosecutors was legislating Permanent Special Prosecutor Act that it passed extra session of the National Assembly last February. Nevertheless, it states to appoint special prosecutors only when there is a case and majority of the National Assembly have to approve otherwise, they can’t work. Hence, it is not different from the previous regulation.

Generally, prosecutors have to be independent from external pressure, do not abuse rights and powers and behave with check and balance. In that context, the current public prosecutors’ office is an abnormal organization. If it can’t change by its own, outside world has to try to reform them by continuously watch, criticize and urge until changes. It seems that civil societies are the only one which can take that role. 

The Judicial Watch Center has been watching movements of the prosecutors, recorded details and produced reports every year since 2008. The report during the first year of Park Geun-hye will be published soon.

 

<Socio-Economic Rights related Activities>

 Is your personal data safe?

(for further information, please visit http://www.peoplepower21.org/Magazine/1146677  - Korean only)


Personal information of more than 1,500 credit card users of Kukmin, Lotte and Nonghyup have been leaked last January. The government said on 22 January that it would stop indiscriminate collection and sharing of customers’ personal information, and reinforce punishment on executives and financial corporations.

However, as said by Shin Jae-yoon, chairman of the Financial Service Commission that customers agreed on collecting personal data. Since a related law hasn’t changed yet, sharing information can’t be forcibly prohibited and penalties also can’t be levied retroactively. In other words, punishing credit card companies and preventing information leakage are very difficult under the current law.

Therefore, the Campaign for Anyone with Stable Life of PSPD brought a legal action for public interest on 27 February for the purpose of alarming the government and corporations for their acts of indiscriminate collection of personal data. The lawsuit is taken by the Minbyun and the Korea Finance Consumer Federation and asks compensation of 1.5 million won; 500 thousand won per card, three cards in total for 102 people who have used all three cards and whose information was exposed. 

According to the current law, damages have to be proved by consumers. Even though consumers win the case, financial companies are liable for only corresponding amount of damages so that what they have to bear are not much. These limits on legislation accordingly maximize moral hazard and let personal information repeatedly leak.  

It is necessary to adopt punitive compensation for damages and consumer collective lawsuit system. The former allows to sentence punishment strong enough to shut down a corporation which recklessly handles customers’ information. The latter facilitates compensating every victim on the same case even a case is filed by one litigant. The Campaign for Anyone with Stable Life keeps working to improve the system in order to prevent large conglomerates and financial companies from excessively collecting personal data, negligent management, leakage and unfair use of them. 

 

 

<Peace and Disarmament>

PSPD activist at UN Reported status of Korean human rights defenders at the 25th UN Human Rights Council
(for further information, please visit http://www.peoplepower21.org/Magazine/1146675- Korean only)

Baek Ga-yoon, PSPD activist of the International Solidarity Committee visited Geneva last March to participate in the 25th UN Human Rights Council. She joined in the delegation of Korean human rights organizations to attend the presentation of Korea report on 10 March.

The report was written by Margaret Sekaggya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders who officially visited Korea last May and included comprehensive analysis and recommendations on situations of Korean human rights defenders. ‘Human rights defenders’ refers to anyone who tries to protect and improve human rights. 

In the Korean report, the Special Rapporteur pointed out that exercising basic rights such as the right to expression and the right to assemble were restricted because of misuse or/and abuse of criminal punishment on defamation, restriction on the right to expression on the internet and the National Security Act. It also warned Korean government not to apply laws which control, weaken and disturb activities of human rights defenders.


On the other hand, the delegation composed of PSPD, the Minbyun and the Korean Lawyers Association had informed status of Korean human rights defenders through oral statement and side events. Particularly in the oral statement made right after the Special Rapporteur’s report on Korea, PSPD talked about accusing for pro-North Korea, illegal intervention of the National Information Service in the presidential election, human rights infringement in the course of Milyang transmission tower construction, and oppressing labors such as seizing the railroad union for damages. The Minbyun presented problems of arbitrary application of the National Security Law, the National Security Service’s fabrication of a spy and problems with Ssangyong Motors layoff.

Furthermore, a side event on 12 March dealt with stories of human rights defenders of Asia including Korea. Human rights defenders from Malaysia and Sri Lanka participated in the panel along with the special rapporteur. PSPD continues monitoring whether international human rights recommendations on Korea are being executed and keeps solidarity with domestic and international human rights organizations.

* PSPD gained special consultative status at the UN Economic and Social Committee in 2004 and has the right to officially submit opinions in the manner of oral statement and written statement

 

Korean Teargas driving out the death of Bahraini
Control system for arms export to be set abiding human rights standard  
(for further information, please visit http://www.peoplepower21.org/Magazine/1146673 - Korean only)

참여사회 2014-04월호

‘Please stop tear gas export to Bahrain dictatorship which oppresses democratic protests’ the appeal of Bahraini human rights defenders and Korean peace activists echoed in the press conference room of the National Assembly.

A Bahraini human rights organization has visited Korea. Dr. Ala'a Shehabi and Bill Marczak of the Bahrain Watch have met Korean government authorities and lawmakers together with Korean peace and human rights organizations including the World Without war and PSPD to inform damages of Korean tear gas exported to Bahrain and ask Korea to stop exporting.

Since the Arab spring in 2010, Bahrainis have protested for anti-dictatorship and democracy but the Bahraini government responded with pouring teargas. At least 70 Bahrainis were killed by indiscriminate use of teargas for the last three years. It is revealed that Korea was one of exporters and became a subject for blame. More striking fact was that 1.5 million Korean teargases have been sold to Bahrain where 0.6 million people are living. Brutal bare face of defense industry hiding behind boosting economy was revealed.   

PSPD and peace and human rights organizations have started a campaign asking to stop exporting tear gas since last September. Especially, the campaign denounced the National Police Agency and the Defense Acquisition Program Administration which have permitted the export without concerning human rights situation of an importing state. As a result, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration decided to withhold exports to Bahrain last November but it was only a temporarily decision. 

The Bahrain Watch and Korean organizations focused on official prohibition and its legislation to stop teargas exports to human rights oppressing states. To elaborate, Korean government should prohibit arms exports including teargas to states which oppress and infringe human rights and include human rights regulation in defense industry related Acts and the Control of Firearms and Explosives, etc Acts. The visit of Bahraini activists brought out moral issue of arms exports of Korea. The remaining responsibility to us is to prepare for a measure to control unethical arms exports which threaten human rights and human lives. 

We hope that there would be no more victims like Lee Han-yeol in the Bahrain and wish for Korea not to make Bahrein cry anymore.

 

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