PSPD People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy
2009 ANNI Report, Deep Setbacks on Human Rights in South Korea
- 2009.09.30 (15:48:41)
- 첨부 1
2009 ANNI Report on the Performance and Establishment of National Human Rights Institutions in Asia
- The Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI)
General Overview on Human Rights Situation in 2008 ROK and NHRCK’s Responses
There is serious concern about both the general human rights situation in the country, and the current threat to the independence of the National Human Rights Commission of the Republic of Korea (NHRCK).
When he took office in early 2008, President Lee Myung-Bak described the past ten years as the ‘lost decade’ and promised to rebuild the Republic of Korea and help the people regain their lost smiles. He pledged to increase efficiency through the rule of the market, and to establish public order through the rule of law.
In reality, however, these strategies have increasingly been at the expense of socially marginalized people and meant the repression of public opinion. Democracy and human rights have actually declined compared with the situation ten years ago.
The mass candlelight demonstrations from May to September 2008 against the Lee government’s decision to approve the importation of US beef provide a telling example. Police used unnecessary force to disperse the protesters, beating protesters with batons and police shields and arbitrarily arresting bystanders.
In a more recent example from January 2009, police used excessive force to disperse protesters demonstrating against forced demolitions that were being carried out by the government to make way for Yongsan redevelopment. Five protesters and one police officer were killed in the blaze. Police are still attempting to blame the protesters for the tragedy, arguing that the crackdown was justified.
A blogger named ‘Minerva’ was targeted for continuously criticizing the Lee government’s economic policies on a prominent internet discussion board between March 2008 and
January 2009. On 7 January 2009, he was arrested and charged with ‘spreading false information on the internet,’ though he was finally found not guilty in court and released from jail in April 2009.
Prosecutors also arrested the producer of the investigative television program ‘PD’s Notebook’ at the country’s secondbiggest television station in March 2009. They accused him of reporting ‘misleading’ information about the problems of US beef imports and leading Korea into chaos by inflaming massive street demonstrations against the government’s decision.
The Ministry of National Defense created a list of banned books, including best sellers and academic books, in order to prevent ‘seditious’ books from entering the military. A few military judicial officers filed a constitutional petition arguing that such disciplinary measures violate the ‘right to know’, but they were discharged from the military against their will.
The human rights of socially marginalized groups, such as migrant workers most vulnerable to the effects of the worldwide recession, have been violated even more frequently than before. During his presidential election campaign,President Lee promised the eventual legalization of irregular migrant workers; immediately after the election, he ordered the deportation of 20,000 undocumented migrant workers by the end of 2008. As a result, immigration officials began a harsh crackdown on migrant workers, often making strategic arrests to meet their quota. They even detained refugee applicants for working without permits, despite the fact that the government provides neither financial aid nor the right to work during the long process to determine refugee status.
Police even arrested the heads of the Migrant Workers Trade Union. While the NHRCK was in the process of investigating whether their arrests and subsequent investigation involved
coercive treatment, the government suddenly deported the union leaders to their original countries without any prior notice.
Faced with these difficult human right issues, the NHRCK has expressed some recommendations and regrets over the major incidents. After the dispersal of the candlelight demonstration, the NHRCK recommended that Chief of Police (1) punish the
police officers responsible for human rights violations when dispersing the demonstrators; (2) prohibit riot police from spraying fire extinguishers directly onto demonstrators; and
(3) not arrest or block mere bystanders who were not involved in the demonstration. In response to the Ministry of National Defense blacklists, the NHRCK gave its opinion that choosing a book to read is a fundamental human right enshrined by the Constitution in Article 19 (freedom of conscience) and Article 21 (freedom of expression), so that creating a list of banned books should be reconsidered in pursuance with the spirit of the Constitution. The NHRCK also expressed its regret to the Ministry of Justice after the expulsion of the Migrant Workers Trade Union heads.
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