Archive for November, 2010

From Bad to Worse: Unstable Human Rights Commission

November 27, 2010 Leave a comment


Protest supporting Commissioner Hyun

By: Soo Yon Suh

Protests in front of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea was bustling on in regards to the resignation of Commissioner Hyun Byung Chul November 17, 2010.

Continuing the coverage of the unstable National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) administration the HRM team went on site to the sit-in of demonstrators calling for the resignation of Commissioner Hyun Byung Chul in front of NHRCK. Although a small crowd of protesters, it was obvious that a diverse group gathered to voice their opinion regarding the deteriorating human rights in South Korea.

Interestingly, the group of anti-commissioner Hyun was not the only ones protesting. A group of demonstrators that were in support of Commissioner Hyun was also present. Many of these protestors held anti-gay rights posters and were calling for the resignation of committee member Hyang Sook Jang rather than commissioner Hyun.

In addition, recently 64 members of human rights experts, committee members, standing commissioners and advisory committee members to the NHRCK have officially all called for the resignation of Hyun. In amidst public protest and members of NHRCK pushing for a resignation, Commissioner Hyun expressed that he has done nothing wrong and that he does not feel that he needs to resign.


Protest calling for resignation of Commissioner Hyun



Reflection: Security Preparations for Seoul G20 Summit: Protective Measures or Infringement on Human Rights?

November 24, 2010 Leave a comment

By: Soo Yon Suh

South Korea officially held the 2010 G20 Summit in its capital, Seoul, from November 11-12. This was the fifth meeting of the G20 heads of government to continue its discussion of the global financial system and the world economy. The Seoul G20 Summit holds a significant meeting for the host country as it will be the first non-G8 nation to host the event. The theme of the Seoul summit is “Shared Growth Beyond Crisis.”

The summit became a hot topic of conversation for its significance in South Korea taking a bold leap in leadership in the international arena; domestically the G20 summit stirred a lot of criticism. As the G20 summit was a forum that gathered world leaders into Seoul, it was necessary for security to be top notch. Within this context the South Korean government indicated that it will put up a 2.2 meter high protective blockade around the G20 convention hall. Buses were rerouted and streets were blocked off to restrict civillian entry into the vacinity of the convention hall. It was also notified that trains will not be stopping at SamSeong Station, where the convention hall is located, during the two days of the event. The Korean police authorities are stating that the measures are taken to protect the well being of the leaders participating in the summit.

Many criticized this protective measure as a second “Myung Bak Fortress”, reflecting on the 2008 container blockade the government set up to resist the candlelight vigil regarding the U.S. beef issue.

According to an interview conducted by Kyunghyang Newspaper of a police authority, the officer indicated “I am aware that even at the G20 summit held last June in Toronto, Canada there was a 3 meter high metal wire fence placed up.”

One can’t help but question whether this is an infringement on citizen’s human rights. With the precedence of the container blockade installed during the candlelight vigils in 2008 by the Korean government, justification by comparing other country’s actions won’t cut it. In addition to the barricades, the Korean government placed many questionable regulations on the country during the summit that triggered the human rights infringement alarm. For example, many protests permits were rejected by the city of Seoul claiming that the possibility leaders passing through the area exists. There were reports that known foreign protesters of the G20 were identified and were detained and returned back to their point of departure at the airport.

The most impacted by the G20 regulations would be the underpriviledged. Many homeless and street vendors that depend on their days earnings to get by have been chased out of streets causing social unrest. In addition, there was a large scale crack down on illegal migrant workers deporting all those with expired visas. The list is endless, it was also indicated that there were forms of racial profiling stopping and searching those of Middle Eastern decent in the name of terror prevention measure.

Many human rights activists in the country criticize these actions as infringements on the citizen’s basic human rights. Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of travel to name a few were clearly infringed.

The South Korean government patted themselves on the back for a successful and smooth end to the G20 summit. However, the efforts of the government to safe face and covering up their social issues posed more suspicision and questions about the state of the countries human rights.


Human Rights Slipping Away in South Korea

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment

By: Soo Yon Suh

In act of protest the leadership of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRK) two standing commissioners has decided to resign from their position.

At a recent meeting two of the three standing commissioners, Yoo Nam-young and Moon Kyung-ran, indicated to commission Chairman Hyun Byung-chul their intent to resign from their position.

The commission was launched by Former-president Kim Dae-Jung, as an independent governmental body to protect and promote human rights in South Korea. Since its establishment in 2001, this incident would be the first time top officials resign from their post.

In the center of this feud would be the Head Commissioner, Hyun Byung-chul. Since his nomination by the Lee Myung –bak administration, Hyun has received much criticism. Many experts in the field of Human Rights criticized the nomination of Hyun as he had no background knowledge of Human Rights issues, causing concern on his credentials to defend and progress South Korean Human Rights.

What many experts feared came true of Hyun’s competence. Since taking office, NHRCK did not make a public statement on several high profile human rights concerns that occurred in South Korea. For example, the prosecution of MBC “PD Journal” Mad Cow report, prosecution by the nation against lawyer Won Soon Park and the constitutional court hearing of nighttime rallies were very hot topic human rights issues that stirred the nation and NHRCK neglected to release a statement on all these cases, seeming to protect the incumbent government. The NHRCK was mocked a “puppet of the administration” referring to Hyun leading the commission along the will of the administration rather than it being an independent governing body.

The last straw in tolerating Hyun’s leadership for the commissioner’s was the management re-organization of NHRCK on the 25th of last month. Through this re-organization, a shift of power moved from the commissioners to the Chairman. According to an interview conducted by Kyunghyang Newspaper, Commissioner Yoo stated, “The re-organization of NHRCK was to give the Chairman more power to make unilateral decisions.”  Many have indicated that it is fair to call the Chairman a “dictator” of NHRCK.

Since the announcement of the resignation of Commissioner Yoo and Moon, there has been public uproar. On the 4th of November, it was reported that several civic groups conducted a sit in on the seventh floor of NHRCK demanding the resignation of Chairman Hyun. Thus far civic groups and previous employee’s of NHRCK has released statements also demanding the resignation of Chairman Hyun to salvage the human rights of South Korea.

Amidst the commotion, Chairman Hyun has not displayed any movement towards a resignation. It will be interesting to see how this issue will be resolved.


사퇴한 두 상임위원 문답:  “운영규칙 개정, 상임위 무력화” 유남영 “문제제기 위해 결단” – 경향신문 11월 2일

First South Korean elected to UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

November 8, 2010 Leave a comment

By: Soo Yon Suh

On the 1st of September, the United Nations in New York announced the new elected members to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. South Korean International Studies Professor at Korea University, Kim Hyung-Sik, was one of the 12 elected to the committee from a pool of 23 candidates. The ministry stated that Kim is the first South Korean to earn a seat at the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The committee is an 18 member group consisting of experts in the protection of persons with disabilities. The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities works to monitor the implementation of the Convention.

South Korea signed onto the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability in December 2008.

Professor Kim is currently the Director of the Disability Research Center, Korean Society for the Rehabilitation of Person with Disabilities. As well as worked previously as the Korea Representative to the UN to negotiate the drafting of the CRPD.

To name a few notable Koreans in the United Nations:

Yanghee Lee, Committee on the Rights of Child

Heisoo Shin, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

Mr. Hyung-Sik Kim Photo Courtesy of