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Archive for April, 2011

News Brief April 16-18, 2011

April 20, 2011 Leave a comment
News Briefs                                                                            April 16~18, 2011

16 April 2011

National Police Agency to Root out Gender and Class Discrimination

A human rights watchdog of the National Police Agency (NPA) said that it has been looking into cases of gender and class discrimination in the police in its efforts to root out problems within the law enforcement authority. The NPA Human Rights Protection Center has collected 162 complaints from police officers and other employees since February and found out that there is discrimination on the grounds of gender and rank within the police. The human rights center said it will map out measures to prevent discrimination in the near future and send them to police stations nationwide.

North Korean Defectors to Receive Improved Healthcare

North Korea defectors will be able to receive door-to-door healthcare service in the South from fellow North Korean defectors, reported the Ministry of Health and Welfare. They will also be able to receive tailored medical services at local public healthcare centers. Authorities have hired 10 North Korean defectors with counseling licenses at public healthcare centers of 10 regions where more than 100 defectors reside. The counselors, paired with professional nurses, will visit residences of North Korean defectors and check their health status, screen for possible infection of tuberculosis, hepatitis B, and mental disorders. They will provide information about medication, nutrition and exercise or translate for the nurses in medical procedures. They will also link them with local public healthcare centers, where tailored services will be provided without the risk of identity exposure. The service is expected to bridge defectors and local communities.

 

17 April 201

UN Slams Korea for Violating Conscientious Objectors’ Rights

The United Nations Human Rights Committee said the South Korean government infringed on the freedom of conscience and religious freedom by imprisoning conscientious objectors who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. The committee demanded the government expunge their criminal records and provide adequate compensation, and set measures to prevent the recurrence of similar cases in the future, according to the Korean headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was the committee’s third and latest ruling of this kind following a collective petition filed with the international human rights watchdog by 100 Korean believers convicted of the charges.

NHRCK to Investigate KAIST

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) said it is investigating whether the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology’s (KAIST) penalty tuition system violates human rights. The investigation follows the New Progressive Party’s petition filed with the commission, stating that the school’s system violated KAIST students’ right of equality and the right to pursue one’s happiness. The commission added that this was the first time for such a petition to be registered concerning a university, although there were examples of discrimination based on grades at high schools. The penalty tuition system became a controversy after four students committed suicide within the past four months.

18 April 2011

Samsung Grudgingly Apologizes for Suicide, Reluctantly Pledges Changes

An employee at the Tangjeong factory of Samsung Electronics in Asan,South Chungcheong Province, committed sucide by jumping from the thirteenth floor of his dormitory. His suicide came 373 days after he joined the company. Evidence indicates that the victim took his own life due to depression from excessive working hours and stress and family members have demanded an apology from the company and measures to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. They also claim that the company ignored no fewer than four previous suicide attempts by the victim without taking any appropriate measures to prevent further actions. Samsung has refused to acknowledge this evidence that it knew about Kim’s suicide attempts. However, Samsung Electronics representatives have signed an agreement that included a company apology and pledge to prevent similar incidents from occurring. 

Korean Military to Reflect an Increasingly Multicultural Korea

The military has decided to omit the word “minjok,” which refers to the Korean race, from the oath of enlistment for officers and soldiers, and replace it with “the citizen.” The measure reflects the growing number of foreigners who gain Korean citizenship and of children from mixed marriages entering military service.  Article 5 of the law governing military service stipulates that new officers and enlisted soldiers have to swear “utmost loyalty to the nation and the race as a soldier of theRepublicofKorea.” One military official said, “The change will apply immediately at the upcoming enlistment ceremony for officers on April 26 and all thereafter.” The military says the changes reflect the shifts in Korean society, which is becoming increasingly multicultural. 

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Categories: 1 Daily News Brief

News Briefs April 9-15, 2011

April 20, 2011 Leave a comment
News Briefs                                                                            April 9~15, 2011

9 April 2011

 

U.S. Denounces North Korean Leader for Human Rights Abuses

The United States denounced North Korean leader Kim Jong-il for ruling the reclusive communist state under an absolute dictatorship with extrajudicial killings and prison camps. In releasing the annual report, Michael Posner, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, depicted the human rights situation in North Koreaas “grim, grim, grim.” He said the U.S.has “not made much progress” in the North’s human right record due to lack of diplomatic ties and information. There continued to be reports of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, arrests of political prisoners, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions and torture.” North Korea is said to have camps accommodating up to 200,000 political prisoners.

10 April 2011

150 Children Commit Suicide Yearly

A recent report highlighted the rash of child suicides in South Korea. The report indicated that nearly 150 elementary and middle school children commit suicide. The number of suicides committed by elementary and middle school students stood at 146 in 2010, 202 in 2009 and 137 in 2008, according to Statistics Korea. The main reasons were listed as family discord and failure to adapt properly to school life. To combat the high suicide rate among young students the government announced plans to establish a suicide prevention committee specially geared towards elementary and middle school children.

 

Discrimination Still Rampant in Korea

The U.S. State Department said in its country report on human rights that South Koreastill discriminates against minorities and foreigners. Citing a National Human Rights Commission report, the U.S. human rights report said there were six cases of alleged discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans gender (LGBT) persons last year. Koreahas long prided itself on its racial homogeneity, but its growing ethnic minority population passed the 1.2 million mark midway through last year. In cases of discrimination against ethnic minorities, it cited an incident where a man with a mental disability killed his foreign bride, which later led to a swift government crackdown on illegal matchmaking agencies. It also said North Korean refugees, although supported by government-funded resettlement programs, “faced discrimination.”

11 April 2011

 

14% of Men Found to be Victims of Sexual Abuse as Children

A recent survey indicated that nearly 14 out of every 100 Korean men were sexually abused as children. The survey indicated that out of a total of 1,043 questioned males, 141 (13.5%) suffered from various forms of sexual abuse at least once when they were minors. Respondents were forced to watch pornographic material or were subject to sexually-explicit jokes, while others were coerced to show their genitals. Other forms of sexual abuse included the exposure of touching of genitals against their will. The survey found that nearly 67% of those who either compelled underage boys to expose their genitals or touched them were adult males. About 86% of assailants were acquaintances, including family members and relatives. Only one victim was found to have received professional legal and medical counseling after suffering from sexual abuse, with the remaining 140 left untreated.

 

230 College Students Commit Suicide Yearly

Recent data indicated that an average of 230 South Korean college students commit suicide every year, amid an alarming series of suicides at the country’s top science university. The number of college students’ suicides fluctuated in the nine years between 2001 and 2009 from as few as 172 in 2004, to as many as 332 in 2008, according to the data submitted to parliament by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology.

12 April 2011

Korean Schools to be Set Up for Migrant Workers

The government is considering establishing Korean language institutes in foreign countries that send workers to Korea through the employment permit system. The Ministry of Employment and Labor said that the institutes would introduce Korean culture and language to permitted workers. Further details have yet to be drawn up but the administration is reportedly looking to set up the language institutes, known as “Sejong hakdang,” in four or five countries, mostly inSoutheast Asia. The countries to host the institutes will be chosen from among the 15 nations that currently send permit workers to Korea.

13 April 2011

Sex Trafficking of North Korean Defectors Crackdown

A human trafficking ring has been cracked down in China for forcing dozens of North Korean female defectors into prostitution after confining them in a cell. The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said Tuesday that they have booked a 40-year-old defector and four others for sexually trafficking defectors. According to the police, the ring profiteered 30 million won, by forcing some 70 North Koreans to sell sex in Qingdao, an eastern Chinese city. The victims were sent to work at local bars, deprived 20% of their 100,000 KRW pay and were physically abused when they failed to make money, said the police. The traffickers collected the women, making false promises that they would be sent to South Korea. The ring said that they would need 3.6 million KRW each to pay a Chinese broker. Authorities believe that there are more people involved and are cracking down on human traffickers in China.

14 April 2011

Sex Offender’s Information to be Made Public

The Ministry of Justice said that the name, photo, address, age and other personal information of sex offenders will be provided to nearby residents via the Internet or mail for a maximum of 10 years. The provision of such data came as part of government efforts to better alert people living close to offenders and reduces the number of sex crimes. Under the new law, the government will notify nearby households with children under the age of 19 via mail of the personal information of those who have been convicted for committing sex crimes against minors. Additionally, more extensive private information of sex criminals, who committed crimes against both minors and adults, will be available at an “online sex offender alter system” (www.sexoffender.go.kr), operated by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. The website provides a photo, height, weight and brief explanation of the offender’s criminal record and consequent court verdicts. The disclosure period of personal information varies in accordance with the sentencing.

15 April 2011

Lawmaker to be Expelled for Sexist Comments

The advisory panel of the parliamentary Ethics Committee has recommended removing a lawmaker expelled from the ruling party for sexist remarks from his seat in the National Assembly. Rep. Kang Yong-seok made a sexist comment insinuating that T.V. newsreaders must provide sexual services for others. The Harvard-educated lawmaker denied the allegation; however, the governing Grand National Party immediately forbade him from rejoining the party for five years as his denial only proved to further infuriate the public.

Categories: 1 Daily News Brief

Overweight? Here’s the pink slip

April 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Sangmin Lee

A 31-year-old researcher at an electronic parts company filed an appeal to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) about his resignation due to stress from coercive weight reduction pressure from his company in July 2010.

As soon as he joined the firm last April, he was classified one of five obese employees and forced to join an exercise program. The company conducted employees’ physical checkups and required them to do mandatory daily jogging in the wake of the examination. In addition, the company’s vice-president ordered department directors to monitor slimming efforts and send updates via email and urged obese employees to submit resignations in advance in case they failed to meet the target weight loss.

The company refuted these claims, denying the fact that the company forced employees to reduce their weight, and argued that participation in those activities was voluntary and for leisure. Rather, the company insisted that it provided a wide variety of activities as part of its long-term health-benefits for employees.

However, the NHRCK determined that the applicant’s resignation was made while being under excessive pressure. Penalizing overweight employees for failing to lose weight is employment discrimination based on personal appearance. In this sense, the NHRCK ordered the company to pay five million KRW (4,480 USD) in compensation and recommended measures to prevent any similar recurrence.

Celebrating International Women’s Day

April 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Moonhee Kim

The International Women’s Day 100th anniversary event, celebrating the accomplishments of women around the world, was held on March 8 at the Seoul Women’s Plaza Art Hall. “We are celebrating mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and workers,” said Susan Raphael, founder of the International Women’s Day Korea Committee and a member of the Seoul International Women’s Association. “And I think connecting with women all over the world, especially in the centenary anniversary, is important.”

Prior to the International Women’s Day 100th anniversary event, a mass meeting of Korean women was held at the Press Center of Korea on March 7th. The meeting, under the theme of ‘Bread and Roses to Her,’ was held while Kim Geuntae, a permanent advisor of the Democratic Party, Kwak Jungsook, a member of the Democratic Labor Party, were attending. Delegate of Civil Society Organization Network in Korea, Park Kyungjo emphasized that leadership of women in the future is necessary. There was also a performance showing the cases of obstacles for gender equality.

March 8th is a day to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations, and for disregarding divisions, be they national, religious, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments as well as for looking ahead towards what still needs to be done to improve the lives and opportunities of women.

There are still many women in South Korea struggling between jobs and infant care every day. The Constitution deems that people cannot be fired or treated differently because of maternity leave; however, the reality is different. According to the Korean Women Workers Association, the majority of companies in Korea see women as half human resources who cannot concentrate on working. So the companies lead the women workers to quit their jobs by announcing inappropriate personnel appointments. For example, the companies appoint women who used to work at headquarters to a branch where it takes more than 2 hours to commute. The treatments towards non-regular workers are even more unfair.

According to the National Statistical Office (NSO), the percentage of female professional and administrative positioned paid workers has increased from 3.6% in 1980 to 20.2% in 2008. Although the number of women who have gained employment has definitely increased, there is still a long way to go for working-moms who struggle with poor and inequal working conditions. Hwang Hyun-Sook, Chairperson of Korean Women Workers Association, said that ‘companies have social responsibility: they need to regard maternity leave as a matter of course, helping those women who come back from maternity leave as well.’

Categories: Women's Rights

Daily News Brief – April 5-8

April 8, 2011 1 comment

5 April 2011

Sexual Rights of Peoples with Disabilities Ignored

Yoon-kyung Cho’s blog titled “Bright Clamor of the Disabled” is the sole Korean language-only site geared to answer peoples with disabilities’ questions on sex, with more than 2,700 members. Cho found many people with disabilities are ill-aware and ill-prepared in having human relationships. Cho said many people with disabilities have some “distorted and wrong idea of sex” due to long-term isolation at home or rehab centers without opportunity to contact the outside world. “This reflects how much handicapped people are ignorant of sex, which is the basic desire of human beings regardless of health conditions,” she said. “At the same time, it shows a lack of opportunity for them to learn about sex in an appropriate manner.” Cho stated that people with disabilities have the same interest and desire to have sex as healthy people, yet their natural craving for sex is ignored by larger society. “Sadly, it’s a dominant idea that people with disabilities are sexually inactive,” said Cho.

Government Official’s Suicide Note Accuses Prosecutors as Being Violent and Threatening

A former local government official’s suicide note has stirred controversy as his suicide note states that during questioning by prosecutors, he was slapped three times. His death triggered speculation that prosecutors may have become violent towards the victim during questioning. In his 20-page suicide note, the victim stated that “during questioning, investigators hurled insults at me and slapped me in the face three times. They also hit me in the chest.” The victim’s suicide note said prosecutors threatened to ask for 10 years of imprisonment or more during trial if he refused to answer questions “properly.”  The victim insisted that prosecutors were insulting, violent, and threatened to blackmail him. The bereaved family is considering making the suicide note public after the victim’s funeral in order to uncover the truth.

6 April 2011

Students Unsatisfied with KAIST President’s Reaction to Student Suicides

Students at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) balked at an online message posted by President Nam-pyo Seo on a rash of student suicides. The post came after suicides at the prestigious school, leaving both students and the public questioning the school’s ability to provide a safe and positive environment for students. The president wrote that there is nothing that can be achieved for free and that students must acknowledge the fact that they can lose from time to time. “The fundamental solution lies in each of the students’ mindset and attitude,” the president wrote. However, students pointed out that the president did not clearly comprehend the problem. Many said that his message showed that he did not have a firm grasp on the fundamental cause of the suicides, as the president implied it was mental weakness that led the students to take their lives instead of the school’s lack of more realistic and effective measures to support its students.

Sexual Discrimination Still Rampant in the Workplace

A survey showed that more than 50 percent of office workers in their twenties and thirties have experienced sexual discrimination at work. According to an online recruitment information provider Break Job, 59.4 percent of 485 office workers said they were discriminated against at their work places. This was the case for 62 percent of women and 37 percent of men. Women, the largest portion or 35 percent, felt discriminated against in tasked to do trifling jobs, such as making coffee. Other degrading duties included pouring drinks at office gatherings (25 percent), being subjected to remarks on appearance (24 percent), followed by discrimination on salaries and restricted vacation days. Some 77 percent of the men noted the most discriminating moment as having to do difficult duties, such as carrying heavy loads. Others included being forced to drink (61 percent), being forced to stay late at work (46 percent), and being frequently sent on business trips (24 percent).

7 April 2011

Fourth KAIST Student Commits Suicide

A sophomore from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) committed suicide. The student is the fourth suicide related to the school this year. The student’s death came after three students also took their own lives earlier this year. KAIST students blame the school’s scholarship and credit system which they claim drives them to severe competition. School President Nam-pyo Suh said he would abolish the controversial scholarship system starting next semester which imposes tuition on students whose grades are poor. KAIST students are exempted from tuition in principle, but 12.9 percent of students paid tuition last year due to poor performances.

Seoul to Hire Foreigners in Attempts to Become Expat Friendly

Seoul City will hire three foreign contract workers as part of efforts to make policies friendlier for expatriates. Those recruited will promote and develop the city’s foreign policy, hold dialogues with communities, and conduct field studies on living conditions. They will also act as mentors for foreigners who come to live in Seoul. Foreign residents in Seoul, including migrant spouses who have lived here for more than a year or naturalized Koreans, are eligible for application. Applicants must be fluent in Korean and experienced in cultural exchanges, journalism, or public relations.

8 April 2011

KAIST Students Criticize KAIST’s Hypocritical Standardization

Amid growing criticism of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) after four students committed suicide this year, a KAIST student put up a hand-written poster at the campus in Daejeon, opposing the school policy that awards scholarships based on students’ grades. The poster, titled “The real owner of KAIST is us, 4,000 students of the university,” says students are suffering from the tough policy.  “The president of KAIST should abolish the neoliberalism school policy that causes harsh competition among students by granting scholarships to students differently by their grades and prohibiting them from taking classes they failed once again. If students fail to get good grades, they are labeled as losers,” it says. “No one has time to share their worries. We are not happy in this campus.” The poster also criticizes standardized education at KAIST, accusing KAIST of promoting itself as encouraging students’ creativity and personality but hypocritically grading solely based on academic reports.

Categories: 1 Daily News Brief

No ‘Human Rights’ at the NHRCK

April 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Tae-young Kim, an investigator of NHRCK stages a relay of one-man protests to remonstrate the unfair dismissal.

Bichi Lee

“The duty of the National Human Rights Commision of Korea (NHRCK) is to make society a better place in which people can live like a decent human being. But NHRCK does not consider people important. They unfairly dismissed and suggest ‘there’s no labor union’. Please, reconsider it before it is too late”

Tae-young Kim, an investigator of the NHRCK carried signs in front of the building of the NHRCK in the Jung-gu district of Seoul on February 14, 2011. Kim is a public certified labor attorney who handled the paperwork on the Right to Work. On February 8th Kim submitted a written resignation in protest of the unfair dismissal of In-young Kang, an investigator at the NHRCK. In-young Kang was the second manager of the Anti-Discrimination Division and handled documents on sexual discrimination.

Kim stated, “I can’t just sit back and watch my colleague be wrongfully fired. As a person that is in charge of labor, I advised NHRCK to withdraw the unfair dismissal of temporary positions.  Regardless, my coworker was wrongfully fired. Byung-Chul Hyun, chairperson of NHRCK should withdraw it.”

Beginning with Kim, commissioners of the NHRCK started to stage a series of one-person protests to demonstrate against the unfair dismissal by Chairman Byoung-Chul Hyun and Secretary General Sim-Gil Son.

It was the first time in the history of the NHRCK that its Commissioners took to the streets in protest. Apart from the labor union, the Commissioners will be continuing the relay of the one-person protests for three weeks during lunch breaks.