S.Korea receives unfavorable human rights assessment

Posted on : 2010-11-10 13:10 KST Modified on : 2010-11-10 13:10 KST
Amnesty International reports that human rights have been greatly curtailed under the Lee administration

By Kim Min-kyoung


Amnesty International Asia-Pacific region researcher Rajiv Narayan gave an alarming analysis of the human rights situation in South Korea following a month-long study.

“Compared to three years ago, the freedoms not only of assembly and expression, but in civil society as a whole have been greatly curtailed,” he said.

Narayan, 44, covers the Asia-Pacific region that includes South Korea, North Korea, Japan, and Mongolia. He has been on a two-month visit to South Korea that began in October. Familiar with the country’s human rights situation from his work as South Korea investigator from 1999 to 2007, Narayan expressed his concerns about recent developments in South Korea during an interview with a Hankyoreh journalist Tuesday.

Narayan noted that due to the upcoming G-20 Summit, police questioning of homeless people and crackdowns on migrant workers have escalated, and certain international visitors to South Korea in connection with the G-20 have been denied entry or had visa issuance requests rejected.

“National security is an important issue, but the South Korean government, in the name of national security, is suppressing and discriminating against the socially disadvantaged and those who voice critical opinions to the government,” Narayan said.

On the recent situation with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, where two of three standing commissioners have stepped down and many civic organizations and legal scholars are calling for the chairperson’s resignation, Narayan said, “The initial fears have become reality.”

In 2002, Amnesty International noted that the structure in which the president appoints the NHRCK chairperson could compromise the commission’s independence. Since the Lee Myung-bak administration came to office, Amnesty International has expressed opposition to bills for reducing the commission’s scope and moves to turn it into an organization under the authority of the president.

“The more the government tries to control the NHRCK, the more independence and influence, the core of the commission, are compromised,” Narayan said. “There needs to be fundamental changes to the NHRCK system so that it can independently handle its own committee member selection, budget, and other matters.”

Narayan also noted the recent push by the ruling Grand National Party to amend the Assembly and Demonstration Act to ban nighttime outdoor assemblies, despite a Constitutional Court ruling finding this unconstitutional, and the attempt by police to introduce equipment of unverified safety to suppress demonstrations, including sound cannons.

“Right now, everyone in the international community is worried about South Korea, which was once a beacon of hope for human rights,” Narayan said.


Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]



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