Archive for the ‘Freedom of Expression’ Category

Suggestion for Labor Union Calls for the Pink Slip

March 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Seung Soo Jo, who is the representative of New Progressive Party, is holding a sign saying that ‘Although labor union creation is legally assured, Samsung chooses absolute dismissal? Is this attitude as No.1 Company Samsung? Mr. Park has to be reinstated right now!’ (Picture source : Yonhapnews)

Se Hwa Hong, who is a journalist at Hankyoreh newspaper, is holding a picket saying that ‘Dismissal is murder. Samsung workers die of leukemia and worker repression without labor union. Samsung employees, let’s unite and create democratic labor union!’(Picture source : Byung Seung Song, Sisa Seoul)

Mr. Park is shedding tears revealing his feeling at a press conference of denunciation of Samsung’s labor union creation suppression and dismissal invalidity confirmation lawsuit on December 27th, 2010. In the back, there is a picture of him suspended from working. There isn’t even a computer on the desk.(Picture Source : Sungho Yoo, Ohmynews)

By:  Yuri Yi


Jong Tae Park, who worked at Samsung for 23 years since he was 20, was fired on November 26, 2010. The fundamental reason for his employment termination was his suggestion to make a labor union. However, Samsung is denying such accusations.

The incident began with Park’s passionate move in ‘The Council of One family’[1] which is a substitution of a labor union at Samsung. He was elected as a council member in 2008. Since then, he worked hard to speak up for his colleagues regarding problems such as disadvantages in performance rating.[2]

His passionate service in the organization attracted attention from the authorities who began to monitor him. Whenever he wanted to go to the toilet, he had to advise his supervisor. When he used the computer in the common area during break, a supervisor came to observe what he wrote on the internet website.

Furthermore, they kicked Park out of The Council of One Family and attempted to transfer him to another branch in other countries such as Brazil and Russia. He refused to go abroad for health reasons. Consequently, he had his pay curtailed for six months and was suspended from the company for an indefinite period. His desk was moved to an isolated area so that he could not contact his coworkers. In addition, he had nothing to work on and was blocked from the company’s internal email system. He had to sit alone all day doing nothing; Samsung wanted him to resign.

Park developed depression from this outcast experience, resulting in psychotherapy hospitalization. Currently, he is taking 31 pills per day to alleviate disk, depression, anxiety syndrome, gastritis, and insomnia.

After three months of waiting for work, he uploaded a text demanding the creation of a labor union but it was deleted within 15 minutes. He wrote it again, however, it disappeared in an instant. In the end, Samsung dismissed him on the basis of revealing company secrets, spreading false information, and disorderly conduct.

Even though it has been two months since he was fired, Park is still in the front of Samsung Suwon branch staging a one-man demonstration. Park is having financial difficulties in supporting his two daughters who are attending elementary and middle school; however, he refuses to give up fighting against Samsung stating, ‘I would like to show that justice wins, not winning is justice.’

At first, he was alone, but not anymore. Many people, including employees at Samsung, support him. Se Hwa Hong, who is a journalist working at Hankyoreh newspaper,[3] protested with Park on January 12th. Mr. Hong said that, ‘it’s unbelievable that management without a labor union still exists. I can’t even imagine it happening in Europe. Korean Enterprises are insisting that they are global companies, but their labor-management relations are similar to that of a feudal society in the middle ages.’

Seung Soo Jo, who is a representative of the New Progressive Party, was with Mr. Park on January 24th. Mr. Jo said that ‘we should focus on this problem from the point of view of workers’ basic right repression which is caused by a management without a labor union at Samsung. This is not only a problem of individuals, but also a problem of structure.’

Banollim, which is a group that supports health and human rights of workers at semiconductor factories, joins every Friday to cheer for Park. After several semiconductor employees who worked at Samsung passed away, the members of Banollim attempted to disclose Samsung’s lack of justice.[4] Jong-ran Lee, a labor attorney at Banollim, said that, ‘not only the dismissal of Mr. Park but also the leukemia problem of Samsung semiconductor workers and the suicide problem of Samsung LCD factory workers were caused by the absence of the basis of a humane working environment. If Samsung allows the creation of a labor union, that would allow Samsung to have the fundamentals for fair communication, to prepare safety measures of chemicals use, communication is an important medium.’ Lawyers for a Democratic Society also helped Park win the suit against Samsung to let him go back to his workplace.

Samsung is the number one company in Korea. However, Samsung has not yet joined the UN Global Compact. Beginning this July, multiple labor unions are legally allowed by the labor union law. As managements without labor unions became a target of criticism, attention is now focusing on the direction of Samsung’s attitude.

As Kun hee Lee, the chairperson of Samsung Electronics, state that, ‘society and citizens have to be honest’ right after his amnesty, Samsung would appear as to focus its business ideology on honesty. Nevertheless, as a global company, will Samsung be able to survive in the global market ignoring human rights?


[1]. It is equivalent to a joint labor-management council in which labor and management negotiate about concerned issues. Its name is taken from a motto of Samsung ‘an another family’

[2] For example, female employee who has child can’t avoid negative consequence in human resources. It’s because minimum 5% of employees has to get low score in the assessment of performance, and mothers naturally becomes targets unless something unexpected happens. In order to escape from disadvantageous situation, even pregnant women keep their status secret and have miscarriages in the end of excessive labor.

[3] Hankyoreh is a representative progressive newspaper in Korea.

[4] Recently, Gyo Chul Joo, who worked at Samsung semiconductor factory as a Diffusion Part Engineer for 23 years, died of leukemia on November 14th, 2010. He couldn’t get compensation for Industrial disaster. He was nineth employee who died of disease at Samsung. Joo Hyun Kim, who worked at Samsung LCD factory as a Facility Engineer for a year, committed suicide on January 11th, 2011. He suffered from severe dermatitis caused by chemicals in the factory and excessive labor for 14-15 hours a day. It happened a week after a female employee who worked at the same branch with Mr. Kim killed herself on January 3rd.


”I was fired” Jong Tae Park, who was fired from Samsung Electronics, is staging one-man protest in front of Samsung Suwon branch.(Picture source : Jaemin Kim, Ohmynews)




It’s better to be quiet –Minerva: Law against spreading false information ruled unconstitutional

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Dae Sung Park (right), known as online economic expert “Minerva,” and his lawyer Park Chan Jong on 28th December 2010 meet reporters following the Constitutional Court ruling that the restriction on distribution of incorrect information online is unconstitutional.(Yonhap News Agency)

By: Min Hee Park

On 28th December 2010, the Constitutional Court ruled an article of the Telecommunications Law which criminalized those who distribute misleading content online as unconstitutional.

The epoch-making ruling is expected to help Dae Sung Park, more commonly known as online economic expert Minerva. According to the Telecommunications Law, Article 47, Clause 1, people who spread false information with the intention of “damaging public interest” through the telecommunication infrastructure are subject to a fine of up to a 50 million won (40,000USD) or up to five years of imprisonment.

However, the Constitutional Court judged the term “public interest” as vague and in violation of the constitutional principle to be “clear and definite” The constitutional Court judges concluded that “the definition and interpretation of public interest differs from person to person.”

The 7-2 ruling, which nullified the previous Telecommunication Law, is expected to create a stir, because under Myung Bak Lee’s administration, many people have been prosecuted over such violations.

In the case of Minerva, Dae Sung Park became famous for his online criticisms of the Lee administration’s economic policies, on Korea’s second largest portal site Daum between July and December 2008. Many of his predictions and analysis about the economic situation were proven false, but his accurate prediction about the bankruptcy petition of the Lehman Brothers and the collapse of the monetary value of the Korean won against the U.S. dollar allowed him to gain huge popularity.

The prosecution sought conviction over spreading misleading information related to the economic situations that allegedly misguided investors in Korea. However, Dae Sung Park and his lawyer insisted that the relevant law is a suppression of peoples’ freedom of expression: finally, the Constitutional Court concluded the article of the Telecommunications Law– which had been the grounds of the penalty for Dae Sung Park— unconstitutional.

Thirty four people who were prosecuted for spreading false information on the internet are expected to be affected by the constitutional court decision. Some of the false information released by these people were related to the sunken warship Cheon-An, which was assumed to be attacked by North Korea in March 2010, and North Korea’s shelling of the western island of Yeonpyeong in South Korea on November 2010

Most of Korea’s civic groups harshly resisted Dae Sung Park’s prosecution when he was prosecuted three years ago, contending that the prosecution is a violation of freedom of expression which is the essential part of our fundamental rights. Currently, most civic groups have been very satisfied with the Constitutional Courts decision.

Dae Sung Park (Right), known as online economic expert “Minerva”, walked out of the Seoul detention center in Ui Wang-Si Gyeong gi-Do and met his family, after getting acquitted on 20th April 2009.(Yonhap News Agency)

University Instructor Indicted for Caricaturizing the President

January 26, 2011 Leave a comment


By: Yeseul Christeena Song

Prosecutors have attempted to indict university instructor, Park Jeong-su, 41, on charges of defacing public property. Park and four university students had spray painted a picture of a rat on several G20 Seoul Summit promotional posters; the rat is often used to caricaturize South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak.

Prosecutors felt that Park had gone beyond his right to freedom of expression, stating that Park had, “laid out a scheme to tarnish the nation for hosting the important G20 event.” Prosecutors denied criticism of abuse of authority to indict Park based on political aims.

Civil groups have criticized the prosecution, citing the infringement of Park’s “right to freedom of opinion and expression; including freedom to hold opinions without interference” and Park’s “right to freedom of thought,” both upheld by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Liberal groups also expressed concern over the administration’s over-reaction to harmless satire and the stifling of independent, free opinion.

Categories: Freedom of Expression

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