Standpoints of Korean Human Rights NGOs on the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression
2010, Korea is at Risk on the Freedom of Expression
Mr. Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression (hereafter the Special Rapporteur), is making a country visit to Korea from May 5 to May 17, 2010, which is the second visit to Korea of the UN Special Rapporteur after Abid Hussein in 1995.
The Special Rapporteur, Mr. Frank La Rue, during the academic visit to Korea to attend a symposium in 2009, recognized the retreat of the freedom of expression, and expressed deep concerns and anxieties on the status of the freedom of internet expression and on the dismissal of journalists. The UN Special Rapporteur of the Freedom of Opinion and Expression visited 24 countries among the 192 member countries since the official activities commenced in 1993. Among the visits, Korea is the only nation which has been visited by the Special Rapporteur twice, after Iran. It shows symbolically that the international society, especially the UN, concerns the retreat of freedom of expression in Korea at present in 2010.
The standard of human rights of Korea in 2010, is not much different from 1995, 15 years ago. Instead, it has been retreating. The National Security Law, which was recommended to be abrogated by the UN, has become more activated and the arrestees have been increasing more and more. Numerous events have been occurred, such that labors who requested legal negotiations between labor and management suffered from criminal punishments, and peaceful assembly and demonstrations have been blocked out or fined enormous amounts.
The teachers proclaiming of concerns about current situations in the nation and society were punished by the government and were convicted of criminal punishments, and NGOs are forced to sign an oath of not participating anti-governmental assemblies in reward to the government subsidy. In the end, the court sentenced no guilty on the namely ‘Minerva’ case and the case of the MBC PD Notebook. The staff of the PD Notebook were charged for defamation of the minister of Agriculture making the program of the import of the mad-cow suspected meat. Those are victims of the excessive suppression on the freedom of expression by the government.
Imminent to the election of the local governors on June 2, oppositions or expressions against the policies of the government or the ruling party were blocked by the National Election Commission, such as ‘stoppage of 4 river project’ and ‘free meal for students including high school students’ by individuals and organizations. One NGO received official letters five times to stop the campaign of ecological free meals, and cathedrals posting placards read “the stoppage of the 4 river project” were recommended to remove them. In the time of the visit of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Frank La Rue, Korean NGOs published a report of “The Status of Freedom of Expression in Korea 2010｣ and sent it to the Special Rapporteur and the press both inland and overseas.
The Korean government should endeavor to support human rights and freedom of expression which have retreated during last two years, by takingthe country visit of the Special Rapporteur as a turning momentum. In order to do that, the government should support investigations by the Special Rapporteur and respond him sincerely. Korean NGOs will also do their best surely for the Special Rapporteur to investigate safely and completely.
UN member countries should provide all the conveniences properly for the investigations of the Special Rapporteur, and the top level governors at each department should respond directly. Korea would be a laughing stock again in the international society if the response to the investigations of the Special Rappoteur is a time-dragging, distorted, or one-sided allegation. Maldives where the Special Rappoteur had a country visit in May 2009, repealed the criminal law of defamation after the visit. The Korean government should reconsider the conducts of having made people blind and dumb during last two years, and putting bits in people’s mouse. The government should turn away from the past and fully guarantee the freedom of expression.
May 4, 2010
Korean Public Interest Lawyers’ Group – Gong-Gam, Supporting Workers, Action for Recovering the Functions of National Human Rights Commission of Korea, The center for military Human rights, Korea, Cultural Action, Mediact, Democratic Workers’ Solidarity, Lawyers for a Democratic Society, Minkahyup, Press NGO, Korea Center for United Nations Human Rights Policy, Joint Conferecne of Human Rights Groups, Sarangbang Group for Human Rights, Disability Discrimination Act of Solidarity in Korea, Information and Culture for the Disabled, Korean Confederation of Trade Union (KGEU), The Korean Teachers & Education Workers’ Union, National Union of Mediaworkers, Korean Railway Workers’ Union, Korea Construction Workers’ Union), Korea Progressive Network Jinbonet, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, Human Rights Commission in the Catholic Church, Network for Young People’s Human Rights, Campaign for Freedom of Information(CFOI), The Korean Gay Men’s Human Rights Group Chingusai, Writers Association of Korea, Korea Alliance of Progressive Movements
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