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[Editorial] The Government’s National Human Rights Policy Framework is Troubling

[Editorial] The Government’s National Human Rights Policy Framework is Troubling

Posted December. 16, 2005 08:34,   


The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRC) says it will submit its final draft of basic framework on national human rights policy to the government by next month. The plan is a list of necessary national tasks to protect and enhance human rights in accordance with the United Nation’s recommendations.

Aside from protecting children and juveniles and supporting the early settlement of North Korean refugees, the main ideas of the draft include scrapping the national security law, legalizing military service rejection based on one’s conscience, eliminating compulsory government arbitration of labor-management conflicts, and assuring political participation of public employees and teachers.

In fact, a near-consensus within the political circle on a partial revision instead of the abolition of the national security law has been reached. More than 70 percent of the public is also against scrapping the law. Nevertheless, the NHRC repeatedly recommends repealing it in the name of advancing freedom of speech and the press.

Declaring conscientious objection to military service flies in the face of jurisprudence of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. The Supreme Court had upheld the conviction of conscientious military objectors last year, and the Constitutional Court said the ruling was not unconstitutional.

Furthermore, reducing the number of public utility businesses and lifting compulsory government arbitration is tantamount to shaking the foundation of labor-management relations. What about all the corruption and illegal strikes of labor unions and the resulting national losses?

Another hard-to-believe element is the recommended revision of the AIDS law that involves mandatory medical checkups, employment restrictions, and the AIDS patients reporting system.

The NHRC has caused no little confusion so far with its decisions isolated from the public sentiment or the national interest. It adopted an anti-war statement after the government decided to dispatch troops to Iraq, and sided with the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union over the controversy regarding the National Education Information System (NEIS). It even raised the issue of human rights over student diary reviews and hair codes. But it remained totally silent about the violation of human rights in North Korea. It turns a deaf ear to the cry of those kidnapped to North Korea and their families.

There is one remaining procedure of the NHRC’s basic framework to be decided on before its final adoption: the government review and its decision on the scope of the application. The problem lies with the NHRC’s plan, which does not solely focus on human rights. It appears to be concealing the Roh Moo-hyun administration’s attempt at leftist measures under the guise of human rights. “Ulterior motives” must be stopped at the assessment stage.