Home > Freedom of Expression, National Human Rights Commission of Korea > Human Rights Slipping Away in South Korea

Human Rights Slipping Away in South Korea

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

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