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[Editorial] UN Rapporteur and Korea’s Int`l Image

Posted October. 14, 2009 05:42,   


Frank La Rue, special U.N. rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, arrived in Korea Monday at the invitation of domestic human rights groups. He will attend an international symposium on freedom of expression, give an interview with the left-leaning daily Hankyoreh. La Rue will also meet members of the National Union of Media Workers and Minbyun (Lawyers for a Democratic Society) over his five-day stay. He will also hold talks with Korea Confederation of Trade Unions Chairman Yim Sung-gyu; former chairman of the Minjahyup Human Rights Group’s standing committee Yim Gi-ran; the creator of an online forum for the Alliance of the Rights of Press Customers Lee Tae-bong; the alleged online economic doomsayer “Minerva” Park Dae-sung; and the policy director of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union Dong Hoon-chan.

La Rue declined an interview request from the Justice Ministry. How can a U.N. rapporteur turn a deaf ear to the host government and listen to biased voices? His qualification for his job is also suspicious if he writes a report based on arguments made by those who led or advocated illegal violent protests that disrupted democratic order based on leftist ideology.

Article 19 of the U.N. Human Rights Declaration adopted in 1948 says everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The 1975 Helsinki Accords required communist countries in Eastern Europe to apply the concept to human rights. In today’s Korea, freedom of expression is excessive rather than limited. Even if one cusses about the president in downtown Seoul and urges people to overthrow the government, he or she is never arrested. If La Rue listens only to the words of radical leftists and misunderstands the reality of freedom of expression, the Republic of Korea will experience severe defamation.

Amnesty International researcher Norma Kang Muico stirred controversy when she released a biased report after studying human rights conditions in a visit in July last year. She mentioned nothing about the violent protestors who attacked police buses with hammers and steel pipes and almost robbed an officer of his vision by poking his eye with a bamboo spear. Muico did, however, blast excessive violence by police, blaming the lack of sleep of policemen not to violent protestors but to the “repressive environment.” Amnesty, which is supposed to be objective, has tainted its reputation by raising questions over law enforcement only.

Those who try to stigmatize Korea as underdeveloped in human rights by giving unbalanced views to the U.N. special rapporteur must stop defaming the country and betraying its people. La Rue should go to North Korea, a human rights hell where freedom of expression is known to be non-existent. The South Korean government must respond to the attempt at national image distortion that erodes the Korean people’s pride and dignity.