PSPD in English UN Advocacy 2022-07-14  

Joint NGO Submission for the 4th Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on the ROK

The South Korean NGOs Coalition(461NGOs) has delivered Joint NGO Submission for the 4th Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)


This submission contains sixty-eight human rights issues including the enactment of the Comprehensive Anti-discrimination Act

(14 July 2022, Seoul) The South Korean NGOs Coalition(461 NGOs) delivered Joint NGO Submission for the 4th Cycle of Universal Periodic Review(UPR) on the Republic of Korea. The joint submission includes detailed information on the overall human rights situation in the Republic of Korea since its last review in 2018. The Joint NGO submission covers equality and non-discrimination, civil and political rights, economic, social, and cultural rights as well as women and minority issues in the country. Especially, the submission includes human rights in the COVID-19 Pandemic and the climate crisis and human rights.

The UPR is a system that reviews the universal human rights of all UN member states every four and a half years and gives recommendations for improvements. After the 1st (from 2008 to 2011), 2nd (from 2012 to 2016), and 3rd (from 2017 to 2022) cycles of the UPR, its 4th cycle will start in November this year. In the 4th cycle of the UPR, set for January 26 in 2023, it is expected to evaluate the South Korean government’s implementation of the recommendations from the 3rd cycle of the UPR and to discuss assessment and improvements regarding the situation of human rights in the Republic of Korea (ROK) since 2018.

461 members of the South Korean NGOs Coalition delivered Joint NGO Submission to point out that over five years, there has been no advancement of major human rights issues, including enactment of a comprehensive Anti-discrimination Act, abolition of the Death Penalty, abolition of the National Security Act, ratification of the Optimal Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), and the abolition of the criminal defamation law. Also, they encouraged the government to implement such recommendations strictly. In this submission, the South Korean NGOs Coalition especially focused on the restraints on basic human rights due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There was some criticism that the government’s quarantine measures have changed human rights and quarantine to confrontation by focusing only on preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus and have led to criminalization with the government’s adherence to a strict punishment policy. Also, the submission stated that discrimination against social minorities and health inequities have been deepened during this process because social minorities such as the disabled, migrant workers, and homeless people have not been considered. Not only that, the submission described that privacy rights have been infringed by widely collecting personal information through tracking individuals’ past movements without a proper legal basis and the excessive restriction on right to peaceful assembly has been imposed to prevent the spread of any infection.

This submission, provided by the South Korean NGOs Coalition, specified that inhumane treatment has been imposed on detained persons in the Medical Treatment and Detention Center, rallies still have been allowed by a permit system, communication data have been provided without the issuance of a warrant, more private and comprehensive labor monitoring has been enabled by the development of digital technology, the birth registration system has been used more extensively than necessary. Arbitrary and excessive regulation has been imposed to infringe on freedom of expression. Several problems were also indicated in the submission, encouraging the government to take measures; Although military violence, deaths, and sexual abuse have increased, the truth of such violence and deaths has not been fully investigated, perpetrators have not been punished appropriately, and victims have not been compensated fairly; Japanese military sexual slavery (“comfort women”) victims yet have been involved in human rights violations amid the far-right historical denialists’ attacks; The alternative service in the ROK has been performed with many punitive characteristics.

In this submission, the South Korean NGOs Coalition criticized that the minimum standard of working conditions that should be applicable for all workers has not been applied. The submission suggested that various obstacles still exist in exercising fundamental labor rights, the quality of employment becomes worse continuously, and unjust provisions undermine the workers’ right to know. According to the submission, there were other problems that he/she cannot receive medical benefits because there is a specific standard of a support obligor regardless of whether a person who has a legal duty to support supports him/her indeed, and the rates of public health insurance coverage and public hospital beds may be low. The submission’s opinion was that the government lacks in taking responsibility for elderly care and the national pension service has an extensive range of blind spots, considering that the aging population progresses the fastest in the world. The submission demanded governmental improvements to solve a shortage of housing units that people can afford to pay for and a poor residential environment, to deal with a vastly insufficient budget and the disabled workers paid under the minimum wage, and to secure social rights.

Then, the government was encouraged to improve the human rights of minorities, such as LGBTQI people, migrant workers, refugees, women, children, and unwed mothers, still alienated from society. The submission also covered several problems of; hate and discrimination that LGBTQI people go through; the Employment Permit System that restricts migrant workers by limiting the number and reasons for their workplace changes; foreigner detention center that practices positional torture; the trafficking in persons without being punished adequately; low level of refugee recognition rate and poor treatment of refugees despite the ratification of the Refugee Convention; human trafficking in international marriage brokerage; the National Health Insurance system that shows the discriminatory application on migrant workers. Furthermore, the submission suggested discussion of the child justice system which is not child-friendly, “lowering the criminal liability age” which is against international human rights treaties, adoptions without a management system, of the child protection system which is absent despite increasing child abuse cases, and of school rules which infringe student human rights. The submission blamed the current government which said that there is no systemic gender discrimination in Korean society and pledged to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF) and encouraged it to take measures to strengthen the capacity of the national machinery for gender equality. In addition, the submission urged the government to adopt a gender wage disclosure system to reduce the gender wage gap and take proactive measures to prevent gender discrimination in the hiring process. The necessity of legal and institutional improvements was emphasized in the submission, saying that new forms of cyber sexual violence on online platforms have become highly prevalent and the current law yet has punished women for participating in prostitution.

In this submission, the South Korean NGOs Coalition requested the government come up with follow-up measures against the climate crisis. The submission demonstrated that the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal of the government is not enough to prevent the global average temperature from rising by 1.5 degrees, there is no establishment of a “just transition” plan that secures workers’ right to work in the process of industrial transformation, and a climate policy needs to be developed to guarantee the basic rights of citizens affected by the climate crisis. Also, the government was called for enacting laws to make human rights and environmental due diligence mandatory for Korean companies and preparing comprehensive measures to respond to human rights violations and environmental destruction by Korean companies. Besides, the submission included that the government should establish an accountability mechanism for Official Development Assistance (ODA) businesses, which result in human rights issues including environmental destruction, involuntary migration, and violations of the indigenous people’s human rights that have occurred frequently in large-scale development projects.

At the same time, 461 members of the South Korean NGOs Coalition will continue to inform the embassies of UN member states in Korea of the situation of human rights in the ROK, in addition to delivering Joint NGO Submissions on the UPR. Moreover, Korea’s delegation representing 461 members will be sent to attend several meetings including the 4th UPR Working Group session and HRC plenary session that will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, to inform the situation of human rights in the ROK and it will perform active activities to make the government receive necessary recommendations.

Joint NGO Submission >>

Korean Version >>

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