United Nations Secretary General should not shun away from human rights violations occurred during anti-US beef rallies
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon should take an active role in dealing with US beef crisis in South Korea: Ban should not shun away from human rights violations occurred during anti-US beef rallies.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to make his first official visit to Korea on July 3rd since he took office. Ban is loaded with a tight schedule, including receiving an honorary doctoral degree from Seoul National University, giving congressional speech, joining a dinner hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and attending Model United Nations Conference of Seoul. The coalition of human rights and civic groups in South Korea express our grave concern over not holding a talk with Korean civic society during his visit, and call on Ban to hold such an occasion immediately. As head of UN, Ban needs to make responsible comments on the recent police crackdown and human rights violations occurred during the rallies against American beef imports. Handling of this crisis has clearly exposed that South Korea’s image as ‘Asia’s leading advocate on human rights issues’ is a pure fabrication. Therefore, as head of the UN whose primary role is to champion fundamental human rights for everyone, Ban should not hesitate addressing this issue. By taking special measures in the UN if necessary, Ban should actively intervene the current human rights situation in Korea where freedom of expression and rights to health were seriously violated by resuming the imports of the US beef susceptible to Mad Cow Disease.
Korean people, holding candlelight vigils for last two months, have been demanding full-scale renegotiation with the US over beef deal. Nevertheless, the Lee Myung-bak administration ignored voices of the people and suppressed their essential rights to freedom of expression and assembly by brutally crushing peaceful demonstrations. In this process, many people, largely peaceful demonstrators, were seriously injured by police’s excessive use of water cannons and violent beating with clubs and shields. As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, South Korea should demonstrate its full commitment to human rights. Nevertheless, Korean government did not cease their brutal action. Last year, Secretary General Ban commented on the violent suppression of the Burmese military junta over peaceful demonstrators as a “despicable and unacceptable behavior,” and called for concrete measures to be taken to promote democracy and human rights in Burma. Furthermore, this year is the 60th anniversary of declaring the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In this ceremonial year, Ban expressed his determination to heighten human rights awareness in international community by bringing change from the level of UN. In this regard, Ban should not forget his duty to safeguard human rights, that is, “an essential mandate of the UN” as the current governmental measures regarding anti-US beef protests are rendering serious human rights violations.
Recently, Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan expressed his opinion in a newspaper article prior to Ban’s visit that “we should help solving problems of international community and thereby elevate our national integrity in the world.” However, Korea’s national integrity dropped beyond our imagination when the government ordered violent police crackdown and infringed fundamental rights of the people consequently. International community already expressed its grave concern over the current status of human rights violations under the Lee administration, and called on the South Korean authorities to guarantee the freedom of expression of the Korean people ensured by Constitution and release human rights advocates immediately. Ban should not remain silent about this. As head of the UN whose essential principle lies in maintaining peace and extending human rights around the globe, Ban should made a clear stance on the current situation and demand the Korean government to make their best effort to protect fundamental rights of the people. Furthermore, Ban should seek ways that UN could help solving this problem, by taking such measures as investigating the cases of human rights violation during the government crackdown. We faithfully anticipate Ban Ki-moon to take an active role over this issue.