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KHIS Monitoring Report on the NHRCK

May 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS) Monitoring Report on the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK)

January~May 2011

Notice : The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHCRK), established in 2001, has been internationally spotlighted since it has repeatedly shown rapid improvement in a short period of time. However, since Lee Myung Bak’s Government came to power in 2009, the NHRCK has failed to perform its own functions. In order to circulate the current situation of the NHRCK, the KHIS will publish newsletters once every two or three months from now on. The first newsletter will be published in this month and it will cover the news about the NHRCK from January to May of 2011.

The NHRCK has been so fare criticized because of its malfunction since inauguration of the Lee Government in 2008 and Mr. Byung-Chul Hyun as Chairperson in 2009. In 2009, the NHRCK was coercively reduced by 21% by the Government and inexperienced persons had been appointed as the Commissioner of the NHRCK so far. The NHRCK were refrained from dealing with politically sensitive issues and they have not even been attempting to explore more of human rights issues needed to be discussed. As a protest against the Commission’s series of inappropriate operation, three Commissioners of the NHRCK, Moon Kyung-Ran, Yoo Nam-Young, and Cho Gook, resigned and 61 members of the special committees of the NHRCK resigned as well. In addition, former Commissioners, former staffs of the NHRCK, about 600 NGOs, and 300 lawyers and law professors published a statement to criticize the NHRCK and the winners of human rights award given by the NHRCK refused to receive the awards.

Such realities of the NHRCK have not been changed at all in 2011. In February 2011, the NHRCK canceled the contract with an employee, who was a vice leader of the NHRCK’s labor union. However, in fact, it is assumed that the NHRCK intentionally fired her, since the NHRCK has usually extended the contract so far as long as there had been no particular reason for disqualification. This employee, who had worked for the NHRCK since its establishement in 2001, was an expert who had dealt with many significant incidents of human rights violations and discrimination. This dismissal is because she had criticized the crippled operation of the NHRCK since the inauguration of Mr. Hyun. In fact, the NHRCK’s union made a statement: “the NHRCK which is supposed to rectify discrimination of irregular workers fired one of its worker because of her position as a member of union. It is an absurd incident that intended to suppress the union”. In addition the union raised an appeal against the NHRCK regarding this incident as “discrimination on employee because of her activities in the union.” In fact, he NHRCK had to receive an appeal from the NHRCK itself. The NGO’s Collaborative Action to Put the NHRCK in its Place (NHRCK-Watch) also strongly urged that the dismissal should be abandoned. (see the NGOs’ Statements attached: NHRCK Chair HYUN Byung-chul and Secretary-General SOHN Shim-gil Are Eager to Seize Full Control of the NHRCK, Firing Staff and Running Counter to NHRCK’s Own Duties, 17 February 2011)

On the other hand, the Human Rights Solidarity for New Society, a Korean human rights NGO, submitted a report which criticized the NHRCK since it does not cooperate with external human rights experts. Last March, the NHRCK prepared an opinion on the issue of Bill of Criminal Procedure, but only two consultations from external experts have been received. It can be assumed that this is because many human rights experts actually refused to cooperate with the NHRCK. This also showed the crippled operation of the NHRCK at the moment.

In addition, even an international conference which was organized by the NHRCK was not properly prepared with the cooperation with NGOs. The NHRCK announced that it would host the ‘Consultation of International Civic Groups to Strengthen the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Body System’ from April 19th to 20th. As the title of the conference indicated, the Conference should be organized and prepared with close cooperation and consultations with human rights NGOs. However, the NHRCK asked NGOs to attend the conference only a month before the conference. 57 Korean human rights NGOs severely criticized this attitude of the NHRCK regarding the conference and announced that they would refuse to attend the conference. Furthermore, those NGOs sent a letter which criticized the NHRCK to international NGOs which were scheduled to participate in the conference and even held an another informal meeting with them.

In this situation, NHRCK restricted citizen’s activities of vigilance. Mr. Hyun revised regulation for public admission to the committee of the NHRCK. According to the regulation, applications for admission should be submitted 3 hours in advance of the meeting. Recording and filming is also prohibited. Furthermore, an audience who are withdrawn by causing a commotion is not permitted to go to the committee for 3 to 6 months. The Human Rights Solidarity for New Society paradoxically made a petition against the NHRCK to the NHRCK last April that the revised regulations has violated the people’s right to know and ‘principles of open proceedings’ under the NHRCK Act. (Article 14: “The proceedings of the Commission shall be made public. That they may not be made public if deemed necessary by the Commission or a subcommittee.”)

Meanwhile, Mr. Hyun has conducted an inspection of employees who staged one-man demonstrations to protest unfair dismissals last February. One-man demonstration is regarded as a legally legitimate way of expressing one’s opinions according to Korean law so that people can state one-man demonstrations without any legal procedure. Nevertheless, Mr. Hyun has performed the inspection and is now considering disciplinary actions against those who were involved in the demonstrations. Needless to say, the NHRCK’s duty is to protect human rights against violators. However, the NHRCK itself is now playing a role as a human rights violator.

In addition, some lawmakers of the National Assembly called for resignation of Mr. Hyun. The NHRCK reported its activities to the National Assembly last April and several lawmakers strongly criticized the crippled operation of the NHRCK by mentioning the dismissal of an employee and the international conference held by the NHRCK. This led to calling for resignation of Mr. Hyun. However he replied that the inspection against the staffs who are involved in the demonstration should not be stopped and the NHRCK is now working very well.

Futhermore, the delegation of the Asian Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI) made an official visit to Korea in order to investigate the NHRCK. This was conducted from 11th to 12th May by having interviews with those who are related to the NHRCK. However, the ANNI failed to meet the Chairperson and some Commissioners, and an interview with the Government which is responsible for the downsize of the NHRCK in 2009 was also rejected. The delegation recognized many problems that has been so far raised by Korean human rights NGOs, such as the independence of the NHRCK and appointment process of commissioners. (see the attached file: MEDIA RELEASE: FOR PUBLICATION – ANNI delegation concludes mission on the National Human Rights Commission of Korea). In addition, Korean Branch of Amnesty International published its “Annual Report 2011 in May. This reports shows deep concerns about human rights in Korea and the crippled operation of the NHRCK.

The NHRCK, which was regarded as a model institution of the world, can hardly perform its functions now. In particular, its independence, one of the most important elements for national human rights institutions, was severely damaged so that the NHRCK is not effectively watching the Government at the moment. Although many human rights NGOs is now pointing out that human rights conditions of South Korea has been getting worse since the inauguration of the Lee Government, the NHRCK has failed to work properly and to play its role as a watch-dog for the Government. Unfortunately, there seems to be no improvements in the near future.

**Above article taken from KHIS directly


Official Statement Korean House for International Solidarity: Arrest and Detention of Ms. Moshrafa Mishu, a labour leader in Bangladesh

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Please see below statement by Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS), FORUM-ASIA member in South Korea. They made a statement on the arrest and detention of Ms. Moshrafa Mishu, a labour leader in Bangladesh. Ms. Mishu, President of the Garment Workers Unity Forum (GWUF), was arrested by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police on 14 December 2010 without a warrant. According to KHIS, Ms. Mishu was arrested in relation to her activities during workers strike on 12-13 December 2010 against Youngwon Corporation, a Korean company in Bangladesh.

In total, 30 Korean organisations endorsed the statement, and Korean NGOs hold a press conference on 26 January 2011, in front of Bangladesh Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. For more details, please see below and the attachments.

Ms. Gayoon Baek
East Asia Programme Officer
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

__________________________________________________________________________KHIS- PDF: Press Statement-Bangladesh HRD-26 Jan 2011

The Government of Bangladesh should release a labour leader Ms. Moshrefa Mishu immediately!

Ms. Moshrefa Mishu (46), President of the Garment Workers Unity Forum (GWUF), was illegally arrested by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police at around 1am on 14 December 2010. According to Ms. Mishu, she had been under intelligence surveillance and the Dhaka Metropolitan Police illegally arrested her without an arrest warrant. Also, the Bangladesh government neither allowed Ms. Mishu, who suffers from asthma, to take necessary medication nor provided her adequate medical treatment. As a result, her condition has seriously deteriorated while in detention. Furthermore, the Bangladesh government threatened Ms. Mishu with death if she refused to cooperate with the government, while interrogating her for her union activities in garment industry for over 20 years. It is obvious that the arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of Ms. Mishu is the irrational repression to labor movement by the Bangladesh government.

We are more concerned by Ms. Mishu’s case because her arbitrary detention is closely related to the recent massive protest organized by the garment industry workers on 12~13 December 2010. This protest was triggered by the workers of the Korean company called Youngwon Corporation, the biggest garment factory in Bangladesh. As been reported in the Korean press, thousands of workers protested in the center of Dhaka as well as the Chittagong free export zone (FEZ) where Youngwon Corporation is located, and called for the increase of the minimum monthly wage and improvement of working conditions. However, the Bangladesh police brutally suppressed protesters by using rubber bullets and tear bombs and as a result, four protesters died and over 200 were injured. Garment exports account for 80 percent of the county’s total exports and several Korean companies including Youngwon Corporation are standing on the heart of garment industry. The December protests became the momentum that raised big concern over the miserable condition of the Bangladeshi workers within the Korean society. More Korean people are now urging that the Korean garment companies in Bangladesh should be held accountable for the December crisis.

We strongly criticize the Bangladesh government’s illegal detaining of Ms. Mishu and denying providing her a proper medical treatment. These acts by the government, which clearly violated international human rights laws, is very shameful behavior and should be strongly blamed. We also urge the Bangladesh government to immediately stop arresting and abusing the union activists. It is shame to see that the Bangladesh government is repressing the labour leaders rather than making any effort to improve the severe working conditions of workers. Such repression by the Bangladesh government eventually forces workers to work under the poor work conditions with very low wages, while being the effective method to increase Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) outflows. This gives us clear signal that the Bangladesh government would continue to violate rights of workers and ignore international criticism. The anti-human-rights capital attraction fever which is representing as free economic zone and free export zone in all the corners of the world including Bangladesh and Korea made the workers’ daily lives worse like a misery. In this regard, Ms. Mishu’s suffering cannot be separated from ours and we will strongly fight for Ms. Mishu with solidarity.

We particularly urge that the government of the Republic of Korea and Korean companies should also take responsibility for Ms. Mishu’s case. Many Korean companies entered Bangladesh market by taking advantage of the Bangladesh government’s low wage policy and anti-union policy, and are highly contributing to build up the vulnerable conditions for the workers. Youngwon Corporation has claimed that the massive workers’ protests triggered from its own factory in December, must be controlled by external powers and kept denying its own responsibility. However, when it comes to take a close look into the purpose of operating its factory in Chittagong FEZ, it becomes very clear why Youngwon Corporation should be held accountable for the December protests. The workers in the FEZ are denied to wield the right to take collective action, while the FEZ authorities has absolute power over the issues such as the workers’ wage negotiation, the employment and dismissal of workers. If the benefited Korean companies would not take responsibility for the damaged workers by the benefits, then who should take responsibility for this? It is clear that the Korean companies are benefitted by the Bangladesh government’s abuses against workers. In this regard, Korean companies are also responsible for Ms. Mishu’s illegal arrest, detention, and ill-treatment by the Bangladesh government.

Instead, the Korean government has been promoting Korean companies to invest in Bangladesh by suggesting attractions such as low wages and weak labour protection policy. Till now, the Korean government has been paid less attention on the international labor standards and has not been implementing its international obligations. However, the recent massive protest in Bangladesh indicates that the Korean government should not remain passive over the labour issue in Bangladesh. At least, the Korean government should sincerely study the causes behind the massive labor demonstration and try hard to make sure that Korean companies are not involved in human rights abuses against Bangladesh workers. One of President Lee Myung Bak’s national campaign slogans is “becoming the mature global country”. Urging the Bangladesh government to release Ms. Mishu should be the top priority for the Korean government as “the mature global country”, for the sake of protecting and improving human rights.

We, the Korean civil and union groups, strongly call for Ms. Mishu’s immediate release. Standing in solidarity, we will continue to fight together with Bangladesh workers until Ms. Mishu is released and workers achieve three basic labour rights and live like a human being. All the workers are the one; no one’s human rights should be violated!

This statement is endorsed by:
Ansan Immigrant Center
Asia Pacific Workers Solidarity Links Corea
Catholic Guri Namyanju Migrant Center
CHANG: Korea Human Rights Reserch Centre
Cheon-an MOYSE(Migrants Center on based Catholic)
Committee to support imprisoned workers
Daejeon Association for Foreign Laborers
Daejeon MOYSE(Migrants Center on based Catholic)
Democratic Workers’ Solidarity
Friends of Asia
Gumi Catholic Workers’ Center
Human Rights Welfare Organization for Migrant Workers
Korea Migrant Workers’ Human Rights Center
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
Korean House for International Solidarity
Korean Progressive Labor Network
Migrant Labor Center in Gyeongsan
Migrants’ Trade Union
Network for Glocal Activism
Network for Migrants’ Rights
Osan Laborer`s & Migrant`s Shelter
People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy
People’s Solidarity for Social progress
Public Interest Lawyers Group ‘Gonggam’
Pusan Missionary Association for Foreign Labor
Ronel Chakma Nani
Solidarity with Migrants
Window of Asia
Yang San Migrant Worker’s House

Human Rights Watch: Human Rights World Report 2011

January 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Human Rights Watch have recently issued their 2011 Human Rights World Report. Based upon their intensive investigation conducted in 2010, it contains the Human Rights conditions of more than 90 countries and territories in the world.

Human Rights Watch: Human Rights Report 2011

North Korea: Country Summary

Despite lip service to human rights in its constitution, conditions in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) remain dire. There is no organized political opposition, free media, functioning civil society, or religious freedom. Arbitrary arrest, detention, lack of due process, and torture and ill-treatment of detainees remain serious and endemic problems. North Korea also practices collective punishment for various anti-state offenses, for which it enslaves hundreds of thousands of citizens in prison camps, including children. The government periodically publicly executes citizens for stealing state property, hoarding food, and other “anti-socialist” crimes.

Vitit Muntarbhorn, then-United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, wrote in his final report in February 2010 that the country’s human rights situation “can be described as sui generis [in its own category], given the multiple particularities and anomalies that abound.” He added that, “simply put, there are many instances of human rights violations which are both harrowing and horrific.”

Inter-Korea relations plunged after 46 South Korean sailors died when their warship, the Cheonan, sank in March 2010. A South Korea-led team that included investigators from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Sweden blamed North Korea for the attack. In July the UN Security Council adopted a statement condemning the attack. However, North Korea’s strongest ally, China, declined to name North Korea as the party responsible, and shielded it from significant Security Council action.

A campaign for a UN commission of inquiry on North Korea gained momentum in 2010, with a growing number of international and South Korea-based human rights organizations pressing governments to support the initiative.

Monetary Devaluation and Food Shortages

Reports of deaths from starvation surfaced in the months following North Korea’s ineptly managed monetary devaluation scheme, which effectively demonetized savings in the old currency in November 2009. North Korea abolished its old bank notes with virtually no advance notice and only allowed North Koreans to exchange up to 100,000 won (approximately US$25 to US$30 according to the then-market exchange rate) of the old currency for the new bills. Authorities also banned the use of foreign currencies and closed markets. It later lifted those bans.

Many people saw their entire private savings wiped out overnight, while prices for food and other basic commodities skyrocketed as merchants stopped selling goods in expectation of further price hikes.

South Korea-based NGOs and media with informants inside North Korea reported on new hunger-related deaths, especially among vulnerable groups. North Korea reportedly executed Pak Nam Ki, the former finance minister who implemented the currency revaluation, accusing him of being a South Korean spy intent on wrecking the economy. Although several international humanitarian agencies continued to deliver food and services, they have continued to have difficulty confirming delivery to the most needy.

Torture and Inhumane Treatment

Testimony from escaped North Koreans indicates that persons arrested on criminal charges often face torture by officials aiming to enforce obedience and to extract bribes and information. Common forms of torture include sleep deprivation, beatings with iron rods or sticks, kicking and slapping, and enforced sitting or standing for hours. Detainees are subject to so-called “pigeon torture,” in which they are forced to cross their arms behind their back, are handcuffed, hung in the air tied to a pole, and beaten with a club. Guards also rape female detainees.


North Korea’s Criminal Code stipulates that the death penalty can only be applied to a few crimes, such as “crimes against the state” and “crimes against the people,” although at least one scholar believes a December 2007 law extended the penalty to many more. In reality, North Koreans are executed for a wide range of crimes, including vaguely defined non-violent offenses.

Forced Labor Camps

Testimony from escapees has established that persons accused of political offenses are usually sent to a forced labor camp, known as gwalliso.

The government practices collective punishment, which results in an offender’s parents, spouse, children, and even grandchildren also being sent to a forced labor camp. These camps are notorious for abysmal living conditions and abuse, including severe food shortages, little or no medical care, lack of proper housing and clothes, mistreatment and torture by guards, and executions. Death rates in these camps are very high.

North Korea has never acknowledged these camps exist, but US and South Korean officials estimate some 200,000 people may be imprisoned in these facilities, which include No. 14 in Kaechun, No. 15 in Yodok, No. 16 in Hwasung, No. 22 in Hoeryung, and No. 25 in Chungjin.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

North Korea criminalizes leaving the country without state permission. Those who leave face grave punishment upon repatriation such as lengthy terms in horrendous detention facilities or forced labor camps with chronic food and medicine shortages, harsh working conditions, and mistreatment and torture by camp guards. Some are even executed, depending on their offense and who they met abroad.

Most North Koreans who leave do so across the country’s northern border with China. Hundreds of thousands have fled since the 1990s, and some have settled in China’s Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. Beijing categorically labels North Koreans in China “illegal” economic migrants and routinely repatriates them, despite its obligation to offer protection to refugees under both customary international law and the Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 protocol, to which China is a party.

Many North Korean women in China live with local men in de facto marriages. Even if they have lived there for years, they are not entitled to legal residence and face arrest and repatriation. Some North Korean women and girls are trafficked into marriage or prostitution in China. Many children of such unrecognized marriages are forced to live without a legal identity or access to elementary education in order to avoid their mothers being identified and repatriated.

Government-Controlled Judiciary

North Korea’s judiciary is neither transparent nor independent. All personnel involved in the judiciary, including judges, prosecutors, lawyers, court clerks, and jury members are appointed and tightly controlled by the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea. In cases designated as political crimes, suspects are not even sent through a nominal judicial process; after interrogation they are either executed or sent to a forced labor camp with their entire families.

Labor Rights

The ruling Korean Workers’ Party firmly controls the only authorized trade union organization, the General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea. South Korean companies employ some 44,000 North Korean workers in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), where the law governing working conditions falls far short of international standards on freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, and gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

Restrictions on Information, Association, and Movement

The government uses fear-generated mainly by threats of forced labor and public executions-to prevent dissent, and imposes harsh restrictions on freedom of information, association, assembly, and travel.

North Korea operates a vast network of informants to monitor and punish persons for subversive behavior. All media and publications are state-controlled, and unauthorized access to non-state radio or TV broadcasts is severely punished. The government periodically investigates the “political background” of its citizens to assess their loyalty to the ruling party, and forces Pyongyang residents who fail such assessments to leave the capital.

Key International Actors

The UN Human Rights Council reviewed North Korea’s human rights record at a Universal Periodic Review session in December 2009. North Korea failed to formally state whether it accepts any of the 167 recommendations that it took under advisement from that session. The same month the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution against North Korea for the fifth straight year, citing member states’ serious concerns about continuing reports of “systemic, widespread, and grave violations of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.” In April 2010 the council adopted a resolution against North Korea for the third year for abysmal, systematic human rights violations.

In July 2010 the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the European Union to sponsor a resolution to establish a UN commission of inquiry to assess past and present human rights violations in North Korea.

The Six-Party talks on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula remain stymied. Citing the attack on the Cheonan, the US announced new sanctions targeting Office 39, a secretive Korean Workers’ Party organization known to raise foreign currency for the party. North Korea jailed Aijalon Mahli Gomes, a US citizen who crossed the border, on charges of illegal entry and other unspecified crimes. Former US President Jimmy Carter secured Gomes’ release in August 2010.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il visited Chinese leaders in Beijing in May and August 2010 to discuss economic and other cooperation schemes. Observers speculate the trips were tied to building support for a future transfer of power from Kim to his third son, Kim Jong Un.

North Korea’s relations with Japan remained frosty, largely due to a dispute over abductees. North Korea admitted in 2002 that its agents had abducted 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s to use them for training North Korean spies. It returned five to Japan, but claimed the other eight had died. Japan insists the number of abductees is higher. No legal means of immigration between the two countries exists; of the nearly 100,000 migrants from Japan to North Korea between 1959 and 1984, only 200 have been able to return to Japan by escaping clandestinely.

PDF:  Human Rights Watch_World Report_2011_North Korea

Amnesty International Press Release: South Korean Rights Defenders Convicted for Helping Victims of Violations

January 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Amnesty International Press release
24 January 2011

Amnesty International has condemned the conviction of two South Korean human rights defenders for peacefully protesting in support of families whose loved ones died while demonstrating against forced evictions.

Park Rae-gun and Lee Jong-hoe were convicted for their roles in a campaign seeking justice and reparations for the families of victims who died in a January 2009 fire while protesting evictions from their homes and businesses in Seoul’s central Yongsan district.

Park received just over 3 years sentence suspended for 4 and Lee received 2 years sentence suspended for 3 years for their role in organizing a demonstration that did not have police permission.

“Park and Lee have been convicted solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Their convictions must be overturned,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Programme Director.

Park and Lee had joined with other human rights activists to organize protests calling for justice and reparations for the families of those who died in what became known as the Yongsan Fire Incident.

On 19 January 2009, protestors fighting the evictions barricaded themselves inside a watchtower they had erected on the roof of a building earmarked for demolition. They gathered paint thinner and other flammable materials to deter police in the event of an attack.

Early the next morning, police commandos mounted a raid on the watchtower. As police landed on the roof to arrest the protesters, a fire broke out that claimed the lives of five protesters and a police officer.

Park, Lee and the other activists demanded an official apology, adequate compensation and a thorough and impartial investigation into events leading to the deaths. They submitted the necessary police notification for protests but were turned down five times by police who said the protests could become violent.

When the protests went ahead without police permission, Park and Lee were accused of “hosting an illegal protest” and “blocking traffic” even though the duration of any traffic obstruction was not substantial during the demonstrations, in some cases just half an hour.

“The broad discretion police have to issue prohibition notices effectively means that protests can only take place with police permission,” said Catherine Baber. “This discretion has been used to silence dissenting voices.”

Detention orders for Park and Lee were issued in March 2009 and January 2010 respectively. In 2009 Park wrote to the Seoul Central District Court, saying he would only hand himself in to the authorities after the government had met the demands of the families for an official apology and compensation.

On 30 December 2009 the Prime Minister issued an apology and compensation was awarded to the families of those who had died. Park and Lee turned themselves in to the police on 11 January 2010.

In March 2010, the Constitutional Court of South Korea noted that the traffic disruptions that inevitably result from peaceful assemblies and protests should not be punished as “blocking traffic” under the Criminal Code.

“The South Korean government needs to ensure that the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are guaranteed in law and practice” said Catherine Baber.


[PRESS STATEMENT] MINBYUN – Lawyers for a Democratic Society_MINBYUN Highly Welcomes the Decision Declaring the Framework on the Act on Telecommunication that Punishes False Communication Unconstitutional

January 12, 2011 Leave a comment

On the 28th of December 2010, the Constitutional Court ruled that Article 47 Section 1 of Telecommunication Acts, which reads “Those who undermine public interest by disseminating false information should be sentenced 5 years of imprisonment or be fined 50 million won,” was found unconstitutional.The Court added that the legal provision being both a legislative restriction against freedom of expression and a penalty provision at the same time, can not confirm (a) which expressive behavior undermines public interest (since the concept of ‘public interest’ is quite vague) nor (b) which type of ‘false communication’ is prohibited while false communication is generally accepted. Therefore, it contradicts the principle of clarity in strict meaning.This case of legal provision originated from the Telecommunication Acts of 1961. However, it was first applied in the summer of 2008 during the pan-national Candlelight Vigil, which was held to urge the renegotiation of US beef imports when the government took issue with the contents on the internet which supported the Vigil.The provision had been a dead letter for the past 50 years, until it was reenacted through the Candlelight Vigil, the Minerva Case, and the case of the president of Seoul District Court. Due to its obscurity and overly broad context, its application had been determined by the will of certain legal executors’.MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society5F, Sinjeong B/D, 1555-3, Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea, P.O. 137-070Tel (82 2) 522 7284 Fax (82 2) 522 7285 NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations2A free democratic nation should, be an ‘open market of ideas’, not the unilateral ‘government’ that decides whether certain ideas and opinions are right or wrong, worthy or worthless. Even though some ideas might be harmful to our society, their corrections should be made in that open market of ideas through ideological debates by the people.Historically, the dissemination of false information or demagogies has arisen in an era of dictatorship and oppression when telling the truth was forbidden. Still, the problem of eradicating the dissemination of false information and its malaise can possibly be resolved through open discussion that allows for diverse opinions, a process which eventually will bring the expansion of the freedom of expression.Today we highly welcome the Constitutional Court’s decision reaffirming the importance of freedom of expression, saying that the principle of clarity in a strict meaning can be applied to limit the freedom of expression.

Sun- Soo KIM


MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society

PDF: MINBYUN_Press Statement _Telecommunication Act_20101228

[PRESS STATEMENT] MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society _ MINBYUN Welcomes But is Unsatisfied with the Constitutional Court’s Decision of Incompatible with the Constitution on the Protection of Communication Secrets Act Article 6, Clause 7

January 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Dec. 28, 2010

Today, the Constitutional Court ruled Article 6 Clause 7 of the Protection of Communication Secrets Act as incompatible with the constitution for its infringement of the principle of proportionality due to its clause which fails to state limitations on the frequency and total period of communication-restrictions.1 Also the Court maintained that there is no way to limit communication-restriction and that privacy invasion is severe because the victim may not be aware of the restriction for a long time. Although the Constitutional Court ruled that the article is incompatible, so the court ordered that the law be provisionally applied until December 31st, 2011 in order to prevent a gap in the law.According to Article 1 of the Protection of Communications Secrets Act, the purpose of the Act is to “protect the secrets of communication and further freedom of communications by confining its contents its objects and requiring it to go through a strict process of law with regard to limitation on secrets and freedom of communications and conversations” (Article 1). On the other hand, while Article 6, Clause 7 of the same act states that “..Provided, That if the requirement for permission under Article 5(1) are still valid, a request for extending the period of communication-restricting measures may be filed..” it does not limit the extension periods or the frequencies of communication-restriction, thus effectively incapacitating the purpose of the Protection of Communications Secrets Act.1 “Incompatible with the constitution”: This conclusion means the Court acknowledges a law’s unconstitutionality but merely requests the National Assembly to revise it by a certain period while having the law remain effective until that time ( for a Democratic Society5F, Sinjeong B/D, 1555-3, Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea, P.O. 137-070Tel (82 2) 522 7284 Fax (82 2) 522 7285 NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations2We welcome but are not fully satisfied with the Constitution Court’s decision because the Constitution Court did not rule unconstitutionality that the Clause lost its effect immediately but rule Incompatible with the Constitution. As two justices’ opinion insisting the same clause simply as unconstitutional, if there is a need of communication-restriction by law enforcement agencies for investigation purpose, they can request a communication-restriction for not exceed 2 months and if they need to extend a period they can re-request a communication-restriction newly under the current law so that there is no gap in the law. However, the decision to provisionally allow the use of the law until next year permits unlimited extension of communication-restrictions by law enforcement agencies, thus severely violating basic rights.We strongly request that the National Assembly should reform the system following the Constitutional Court’s decision so that no one is indiscriminately watched by the government. Also, law enforcement agencies should respect the decision’s purpose and change any and all investigation processes which violate individual rights. The Court should strengthen legal restrictions concerning unlimited communication-restriction extension claims.Sen-Soo KimPresident,MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society

PDF:  MINBYUN_Press Statement _Communication Secret Protection Act_20101228