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News Brief March 15, 2011

March 16, 2011 Leave a comment

HRM News Briefs

March 15, 2011

 

NHRCK Establish Center to record North Korean Human Rights Violations

National Human Rights Commission of Korea has released a statement stating that they will be establishing a center to investigate and record North Korean Human Rights infringements. Through investigations with North Korean defectors the center plans to archive infringement for future policy making and human rights reform in North Korea.

Documentation of North Korean human rights infringements were mostly done by local NGO’s. This is the first time that a national governmental agency has taken the initiative to archive the infringements.

 

Jungmi Lee, Second Female to be Appointed Constitutional Courtship Judge

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Since the establishment of the constitutional courts in South Korea in 1988 only one female has thus far been appointed to the constitutional courtship. This has changed on March 14, 2011. It was announced that Jungmi Lee was appointed to the courtship making her the second female on the panel. 

The chief justice of the supreme court, Yonghoon Lee, stated on January 31, 2011 that Lee was nominated as an appropriate candidate to the public’s request for a non Seoul National University graduate, female judge that will protect the social minorities.

 


 

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North Korea condemns NHRCK Again

March 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Moonhee Kim

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) online propaganda toward South Korea, uriminzokkiri (Only between Korean Peoples), condemned the vote for the installation of the Special Committee on North Korean Human Rights by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK).

The NHRCK held their annual first plenary meeting on Jan. 10th and decided to install the Special Committee on North Korean Human Rights. It is necessary for South Korea to get ready for the rapidly changing circumstances of North Korea, such as the succession program for Kim Jung-Un, the Cheonan incident, and the Yeonpteong Island shelling. The SCNKHR will be organized with three to five people and the duration of the work will be a year, starting from this January. Thus, the duration can be extended via vote of the NHRCK. It is the third attempt by the NHRCK to organize a special committee for strengthening the capability to cope with issues related to North Korean human rights, following the year of 2005 and 2008.

Uriminzokkiri, however stated that South Korea’s move towards installing the special committee is pouring cold water to the improvement of the relationship between South and North Korea, making any confrontations between the two more intensified. Thus, the DPRK insists that bringing up North Korea’s human rights issue again only shows that South Korea is engrossed in slandering and scheming the DPRK, while they are trying to take steps to make better relationship between South and North Korea.

Research Stress Urgent Need for Resettlement Program

March 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Moonhee Kim

Being exhausted both physically and mentally, because of the escape from North Korea, hanging between life and death.

“The hardest part of the escape from the North is the fact that human rights as a woman are not guaranteed at all. Although we don’t want to sleep with strangers, there is no choice for us. We have to do what the others ask to achieve the goal, which is entering South Korea. When cops are patrolling, we habitually used to look for the emergency exit first. I’m still tormented by feelings of insecurity,” One of the female North Korean defectors, Ms. Jin, 27, said.

It was found in the ‘Research on The Female North Korean Defectors’ Trauma and proper ways for the Resettlement Program’, conducted by the Ministry of Unification, that most female North Korean defectors suffer from severe trauma (a very severe shock or very upsetting experience, which may cause psychological damage), caused by sexploitation and human trafficking during the process of escape from the North. Thus, it shows that an emotional treatment for these women is urgent.

Choi, Hyun-Sil, a researcher at the Center for Research on Women, Busan National University, pointed out those most female North Korean defectors are too exhausted to recuperate since the escape process takes a great toll on their physical and mental energy. Consequently, the trauma that they had to go through during the defect affects them in a very negative way when they need to control themselves rationally.

This research was held by in-depth interviews with seven female North Korean defectors. Ms. Lee, 32, who came to South Korea through Jilin, China and Cambodia, explains the fear that she went through during the process of the escape. When she escaped to Cambodia, she had to rush into a river which was filled with alligators. She said, “I thought it would be better for me to be eaten by alligators than getting caught by the cops and dying in vain.” She also added that only six people among ten who jumped into the river could come to South Korea alive.

There was testimony of distrust amongst others caused by human trafficking and sexploitation by ethnic Koreans living in China. Ms. Jin said, “I was sold at a giveaway price to get married to the Han who lived in the country side. My husband even followed me to the washroom. If I got caught trying to run away, he beat me till I was half dead.” The other female North Korean defector, Lee mentioned that she is still terrified when she meets a guy in South Korea, doubting him if he is going to use her or if he has another sexual prejudice on female North Korean defectors.

Researcher Choi analyzed that those women sincerely want to forget the bad memories of sexploitation and of having a guilty conscience of the reason why they were so vulnerable to trafficking. They also avoid talking about themselves and stories related to gender.

Therefore, according to researcher Choi, preparing for a professional program to alleviate the female North Korean defectors’ trauma is vital and urgent in South Korea. Although North Korean defectors currently receive psychological counseling at Hanawon, the government resettlement center for North Korean defectors in South Korea, the counseling is limited to a simple psychology test. And it doesn’t help alleviate the pain and trauma resulted from the process of the escape from the North.

Researcher Choi suggests that increasing the number of female police officers would be helpful for the female North Korean defectors because they get the necessary information from the local police officers when they adapt themselves in South Korea. Thus, the education to change South Korean’s perception on North Korean defectors is also raised by Choi.

Choi insists that proper education for the awareness about North Korean defectors is necessary for those starting from the young generation to those in their sixties and seventies, who are classified as the anticommunism generation. Choi explains one testimony from the female North Korean defector who had an experience with one senior in the anticommunism generation. When the senior met a female North Korean defector, the senior tried to check if she had horn on her head or not. Which became popular belief as during that generation there were many anti-communist propaganda taught in schools.

 

Studying with a mission to help other fellow North Korean Defectors

March 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Moonhee Kim

Fighting all odds in assimilating to life in South Korean as a North Korean defector, Park, Jung-Soon only looked forward and studied with a mission to help fellow defectors.

The Yangcheon Love Welfare Center was founded by Park Jung-Soon on January 29, 2011. The center is comprised of a counseling center and a shelter for those who have nowhere to go.

Park crossed Tumen River to bring her second daughter back to North Korea from China in January of 2004. She was shocked to find that her daughter decided to go to South Korea via a Chinese broker. “Since I only taught students about negative points of South Korea, I had no idea about real aspects of South Korea. I finally decided to go to South Korea after a week of taking pains because of my first daughter who was left in North Korea,” said Park, who worked as an elementary school teacher in North Korea.

Park was raised as a daughter of a high-ranking official in North Korea, receiving higher education in the education field. She worked as a consultant for teenagers before she got married. After she got married at the age of 26, she started to teach at a school. Through experiences in North Korea, she started volunteering as a counselor for North Korean defectors in South Korea at ‘The Korea Protestant Council for the North Korean defectors resettlement program.’

“North Korean defectors in South Korea, who are not familiar with South Korean culture, are easily exposed to fraud, family violence, and sexual violence,” said Park. “I decided to become a social welfare expert after counseling immigrants from North Korea who are in my shoes,” Park added.

To achieve her goal, Park studied, volunteered, and tutored for seven years, sleeping an average of two hours a day. She started by finishing a course in psychological counseling at Life line Korea, and graduated from Gukje Digital University, majoring in social welfare. She earned her master’s degree in social welfare at Daehan Christian University. According to the director of Seoul Love Life, Kim In-Sook, “Park doggedly studied every single day to the point she was carried to the hospital by ambulance.” In addition, Park made a living by tutoring elementary school students.

Through Park’s seven year effort, she was finally able to establish a welfare center. Being the first welfare center in South Korea established by a North Korean defector, it had significant meaning to other North Korean defectors. Kim Il-Joo, the chairman of North Korean Refugees Foundation and 40 other North Korean defectors participated in the opening of the center, expecting much for the center.

In addition, Park plans to train professional counselors among North Korean defectors. Kim Sun-Joo (31, name changed for protection), who came to South Korea in 2009 said, “after defection from North Korea in 2002, I got married with a Chinese man and gave birth to two children. I’m worried every day since I couldn’t bring them to South Korea.” Kim added, “It would be great if there are a number of counselors among North Korean defectors who are familiar with our situation.”

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.

Executions

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

News Brief January 21-24, 2011

January 25, 2011 Leave a comment

News Briefs                                                                                                                                                   January 21, 2011

Pastor Gets 9 Years for Multiple Child Rape 

65 year old pastor Kang was sentenced to 9 years for raping an 11 year old girl and sexually molesting three other under-aged members of his congregation. Kang was also accused of taking sexual pictures of the victims and beating and threatening them. The court ruling stated that, “the defendant assaulted five teenagers by coercing them with his religious authority… He left serious, untreatable scars on the young victims.”

Labor Activists Continue Sit-ins through Subzero Temperatures 

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) is protesting against Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction (HHIC) in an attempt to force HHIC to end layoffs. Kim Jin-suk, a member of the direction committee of KCTU’s Busan office, is sitting-in a 35-meter high vessel crane at HHIC’s Yeongdo shipyard in subzero temperatures. HHIC received a court ruling to remove Kim from the site; however, Kim refused to end the protest. Friday marked Kim’s 15th sit-in day.

Government to Provide IT Training for Multicultural Families 

The Ministry of Public Administration and Security and the National Information Society Agency plans to provide IT training for 2,300 marriage migrants and 330 multicultural families. This new program is designed to aid migrants and multicultural families in adjusting to life in Korea by giving them the tools and opportunities needed.

NHRCK Calls for Human Rights in North Korea 

Korea’s National Human Rights Commission wishes to introduce legislation on North Korean human rights and enact an independent archive to investigate, collect, and record human rights violations in North Korea. A bill on situating and contextualizing human rights in North Korea remains pending in the National Assembly; however, human rights activists insist the bill is far too moderate to insight any actual changes in North Korea.

January 22, 2011

Government Rejects NHRCK’s Labor Recommendations 

The Ministry of Employment and Labor (MoEL) recently rejected the National Human Rights Commission of Korea’s (NHRCK) recommendation to reduce excessive governmental interference in labor union establishment procedures and the criteria on valid union members. In rejecting NHRCK’s recommendations, the government plans to continue to only permitting labor union activities within a stringent and restrictive framework. President Lee’s administration has also been accused of abusing current labor unions in using the system to suppress unions the administration does not agree with. The Seoul Administrative Court ruled in line with NHRCK’s recommendations; however, the MoEL remains adherent to its intolerant approach.

Former ‘Comfort Woman’s’ Last Wish 

Lee Ok-sun, 84, was 15 when she was kidnapped by the Japanese military and drafted to become a sex slave during Japan’s invasion of the Korean peninsula. IN 1996, Lee decided to publicize her experiences and began traveling the world, giving lectures on the sufferings of the ‘comfort women.’ Now, like most other former ‘comfort women,’ Lee is ailing; her heart and kidneys are failing, and her vision and hearing are impaired from the beatings she endured during her time as a ‘comfort woman.’ Lee’s last wish before she dies is to receive an apology from Japan to her and all other surviving former ‘comfort women.’

January 23, 2011

Lonely ‘Mart Kids’ Deprived of Proper Care 

Children playing in supermarkets during winter vacation were found to be lacking in proper parental care. Children staying at supermarkets from morning to late evening tended to avoid social contact and experts report that such children are shown little affection or care at home. Supermarket employees worry over the children’s safety as there are no adults with the children; employees also fear that the children may be more vulnerable to crime as they remain unprotected throughout the day and evenings.

North Korean Defector Turned Freedom Fighter through Art 

Song Byeok, 42, defected in 2002 and now uses his artwork to depict difficulties of life in North Korea. Song stated that he was now free of the ‘brainwashing’ he experienced in North Korea. “For a long time, I honestly believed Kim was a great leader and that my country was better off than others,” Song said. Song’s art often caricaturizes North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and his regime; Song stated that he now wants “to devote [his] art to letting the world know that everyone, including North Koreans, deserves to be free.”

January 24, 2011

Budget Cuts for Seoul’s Cultural Programs 

The Seoul Metropolitan Government stated that foreigners wishing to participate in Seoul’s cultural programs will have to wait as Seoul’s cultural programs receive budget cuts. The programs will be available for 1,740 foreigners through 30 events this year, down from 2,591 available slots for 37 events last year. This year, the government will combine several programs together in order to accommodate budget cuts.

Ministry of Employment and Labor Rejects Recommendation from NHRCK 

The Ministry of Employment and Labor has recently released a statement rejecting the recommendation submitted by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) to include the unemployed and recently laid off employees in the National Labor Union and Relations Law. The Ministry replied stating that including this group the law would lose its exclusiveness in protecting those working.

Gwangju to Build Democratic and Peace Human Rights Center on Former Prison Site 

On the 21st of January, over 100 members of various civic organizations met in Gwangju, city in Southwest of Seoul, to present the “Human Rights City Gwangju Proposal”. The proposal states the various programs it plans to carry out to make Gwangju the main hub representing Human Rights in South Korea. As the first steps it was proposed to build a Democratic and Peace Human Rights Center on a former prison site in Gwangju.

NHRCK Propose Letter Exchange Program Between Separated Families  

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) released a statement on the 21st that they plan to promote a letter exchange program between separated families in South and North Korea. It was indicated that the letter exchange program goes along the lines of their “Roadmap for the Improvement of North Korean Human Rights” released earlier this year.