Go to contents

Korea’s Unauthorized Mental Facilities

Posted November. 28, 2005 05:44,   


Unauthorized mental institutions are stirring up controversy over human rights infringements due to their insufficient facilities and services.

An unauthorized mental institution near the Metropolitan Seoul area is surrounded by two-meter high barbed wire. A room accommodating 15 patients is blocked by a steel-barred window and the window is also covered by two or three layers of steel bars.

Visitors are not allowed in the institution. The only chance for them to “see the world” is church services that occur three times a day.

Most patients suffer from high blood pressure or diabetes, and they depend on medications sent by their families due to the lack of a medical treatment room.

A member of the institution’s staff said, “In order to transform the institution into an official social welfare institution, we applied for constitutional approval this July and received regular examinations by the city office. Even though it was pointed out that the institution has poor sanitation, insufficient fire prevention measures, and dilapidated facilities, no human rights violations were noted.”

The government devised “Comprehensive Measures on Unauthorized Institutions” in June 2002 in accordance with a “Conditional Approval” system that lasted until this July. The system stipulated that unauthorized institutions that failed to meet legal standards in terms of facilities and staff members would be forced to close. It also stipulated that unauthorized institutions that met its standards would be transformed into authorized institutions.

However, only half of those who receive National Basic Livelihood program benefits among patients are able to move to free welfare institutions, making the government’s policy meaningless. When an institution is forced to close, those who are not qualified to receive the National Basic Livelihood benefit will be displaced. Worse, the chances are high that unauthorized institutions will be operated illegally.