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No Improvement of Human Rights in Korea

Posted December. 16, 2002 22:18,   


"The human rights in Korea still have to go a long way in the future, despite the improvements made across the board. The human rights activism has been shifting its focus from on political rights onto quality of life."

The foregoing is the diagnosis rendered by the Korean Bar Association in the 2001 Report on Human Rights that was released yesterday.

The KBA disclosed in the report that, even though our government submitted the second Human Rights report to the U.N. in April of 2001, the U.N. evaluated that the second one had almost no difference from the first one submitted in April of 1995. The only improvement the U.N. found was the across-the-board application of the law on the minimum wage.

The U.N. Commission of Human Rights in charge of reviewing the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, reportedly concluded, "What the Korean government has done for the past 6 years is simply disappointing."

In the report, the KBA points out the improvements to be made in such fields as excessive use of police force in the process of handling corporate restructuring; the National Security Law losing legitimacy in the ear of rapidly changing relations between North and South Korea; unbalanced enforcement of law and trial against politicians; suspected deaths and medical maltreatment of inmates; and the rights of the people with disabilities and the death penalty law.

The KBA, however, cites some cases as a token of improvement. For example, the government has set up the National Human Rights Commission and Ministry of Gender Equality, and ratified the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in 1992 and granted the refugee status to Ethiopian in February of 2001 for the first time in history. In addition, now the public freely debate on the issue of refusal to serve in the army against one`s conscience, and the Presidential Commission on the Suspected Deaths had found out truth in some cases. In response, Ministry of Justice said, "What the U.N. does is critical in nature. Thus, it is likely to produce negative opinions. We will, however, accept and review all positive criticisms, and make all the efforts to improve the situation."

Jin-Kyun Kil leon@donga.com