Police in Seoul`s Yangcheon district are suspected of using torture as raised by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. The commission has given specifics on the time, location and methods of the harsh treatment. It investigated 32 people booked by Yangcheon police from August last year to March this year, and found 22 were hit while gagged and had their handcuffed arms twisted.
Yangcheon police have denied the allegations. One officer said a suspect who testified before the commission is a 16-time narcotics offender. The suspect claimed he got a scar after being hit by a police officer, but Yangcheon police say the officer brought the suspect to the hospital to treat the scar the suspect got while fighting other suspects. Many drug addicts or thugs resist arrest with knives or bats, while other suspects cry police brutality after harming themselves on purpose. The occasional use of physical force is inevitable to control belligerent suspects.
It is a different story, however, if brutality occurs in the process of investigation at a police station. A surveillance camera that should have filmed the police station March 28, when the suspect claimed he was hit by police, was facing upwards. A hard disk drive also did not contain footage of the surveillance camera from March 9 to April 2. This has fueled suspicion over a cover-up. Torture is wholly unacceptable in a country of free democracy and rule of law. A domestic court by law cannot recognize evidence obtained through forced confession.
The people vividly remember the brutal torture inflicted by previous dictatorial governments, including a college student who died after being tortured and a female college student who was subject to sexual assault. It is shameful to see suspicions of torture linger 23 years after the 1987 pro-democracy movement. Prosecutors have subpoenaed five police officers charged with brutality. The investigation into the Yangcheon police must be thorough to leave no ounce of suspicion. If the torture allegations turn out to be true, the guilty officers must face justice and their superiors must be held responsible.