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.

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Prominent Professor’s habitual violence to students

April 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Sangmin Lee

A number of students submitted a petition to the administrators of Seoul National University (SNU)  titled, “A music university professor’s violence against students.”

Kim In-hye, one of the nation’s most popular sopranos and a professor at one of South Korea’s top school, is accused of alleged violent misdeeds. In the petition, students claimed that they had been habitually beaten by the professor, forced to sell her concert tickets, as well as bring her gifts. In addition, several students testified that Mrs. Kim demanded money tacitly labeled “tokens of gratitude.”

After SNU conducted a full investigation into the incident,  a none-member disciplinary committee decided to dismiss Professor Kim.

According to school authorities, Kim not only made about ten of her students sing at her mother-in-law’s 80th birthday party last October, but also ordered an assistant teacher to allow Kim the use of the school auditorium for her daughter’s practices when personal use of the space was prohibited.

However, Kim denied all such allegations, insisting that some of them were exaggerated. In an interview with a major newspaper, Kim said that her hot temper might have led her to frequently hit students on the head or back, but she did not consider these acts of violence. Moreover, she stressed that strict teaching methods is an essential part of vocal education and that most other teachers also used educational methods similar to hers.

In the area of art, apprenticeship education is a common method of teaching, so the relationship between teacher and student is very closely connected. But when looking at the inside of the system, the professor’s influence is enormously powerful. The future of the student often lies under the control of the professor, thus students have to show almost absolute obedience to the professor. “Professor Kim is a renowned vocal musician in Korea. Being her student ensures a strong foothold in becoming a successful musician. Therefore, not many would dare to raise such a problem,” said a graduate of SNU’s College of Music.

Education based on apprenticeship is a double-edged sword. It allows for the effective and accurate handing down of the teacher’s special skill or know-how to students; however, it often turns into a dominant-subordinate relationship. Additionally, if the relationship goes sour, things like this could happen. SNU plans to apply a ‘tutorial improvement plan’ to freshmen in order to resolve such problems, in which students can select their tutor after having experienced several professors.

The apprenticeship education has been in place for a long time. It was especially well-developed in Europe and Japan. The method itself might not be the problem, but the problem is a matter of how people use the system effectively. It’s time to think about a way to reinvent a desirable relationship between teachers and students in the world of music.

SNU Professor Kim In-Hye

Will Ewha Womans University’s 125-year-old policy of making classrooms off limits to men be repealed?

April 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Moon Hee Kim

“The female-only admission is in violation of constitutional rights.” “Ewha’s unique ideology and educational objectives needs to be respect for the autonomy of private schools.”

On February 10th, the Constitutional Court held a public hearing on whether or not the female-only admission policy at Ewha Womans University Law School had infringed upon rights to equality and other constitutional rights of male students. Three male lawyer hopefuls filed a petition with the court in 2009 to abolish the policy governing Ewha’s law school.

There are several women-only universities in South Korea, but Ewha is the only one to be given authorization to have a law school. Ewha Womans University was founded in 1886 by Methodist missionary Mary F. Scranton to provide then uneducated and underprivileged women in the male-dominated Korean society with choices for further education. Ewha is one of the twenty-five Law Schools in South Korea, which opened in 2009 to educate 2,000 students annually. The Ewha law school offers 100 new slots annually which is the third largest quota accounting for 5 percent of the total.

There were very different views between the two opposite positions at the hearing, male lawyer hopefuls and Ewha Law School. According to a lawyer Jeon Yong-woo, who represents the male students, it is unconstitutional that male students have to compete for the remaining 1,900 slots, while Ewha Womans University Law School offers 100 new slots annually among the 2,000 allowed number of students admitted to Law School. The lawyer Jeon added that this was “discriminatory against men” to exclusively allocate the 100 slots at Ewha to women.

He also said female students are already taking a greater portion in the local judiciary and they do not need any favoritism over male students. “Today, around 40 percent of new judges and prosecutors are female and the ratio continues to increase. So it’s no longer necessary to maintain the policy to boost gender equality with attempts to allocate more posts to females in the legal circle.” About 42 percent of successful test takers of the bar exam in 2010, or 338, were female, which was a record high. The ratio has hovered around 35-38 percent in the past five years, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Ewha Womans University’s representative, Lee Seon-ae, on the other hand, countered that Ewha Law School’s guidelines for applicants are not under the state, therefore it does not fall under Constitutional Acts. “There needs to be respect for the autonomy of private schools,” Lee said. “There is a logical reason behind solely choosing women for its school, it is Ewha Law School’s educational goal to ‘train lawyers for sexual equality’ and ‘raising female leaders of the future,” said Lee.

Lee added that the rights of men to receive equal education was not being violated as male students have guaranteed opportunities to go to twenty-four other law schools. Furthermore, application guidelines are not in violation of Constitutional Rights since admission into a Law School is not directly related to qualification for becoming a lawyer.

The Ministry of Education which endorsed the policy of Ewha, said the rule is not problematic. “The ministry allowed Ewha to run the Law School in the belief that the admission rule is not discriminatory against males.” Prof. Kim Ha-yeoul of Korea University said the disputed 100 slots should be seen as opportunity for the country to discover talented women and nurture them to become leaders in this still male-dominated society. “Ewha’s sprit of education is nurturing female leaders in Korean society. And the ministry endorsed its right to run the Law School to pursue that specific goal.” Kim said.  Prof. Jeon Hak-seon of Hankook University of Foreign Studies sided with the petitioners, saying, “Reserving a certain number of slots only for female contenders could be viewed as a restriction of equality and fair competition.”

Court official said that the ruling is scheduled to be released in three or four months.

First Korean students present at the UN Committee on the Right of Child Conference

April 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Bichi Lee

Two 15-year-old Korean students, Bae Byeong-u and Kim Yoon-hee , stood as presenters at the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child Conference, being held to evaluate the status of Korea’s child and adolescent rights, in Geneva on February  10, 2011.

It was the first time Korean students, both sixth graders at Gahoe Middle School located in Hapcheon County South Gyeongsang province,  participated in such a conference.

In their presentation the two students presented, “the reason that children’s rights in Korea aren’t respected is adults don’t try to pay attention to what children say.”

In 1991, Korea ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Every five years thereafter, the Korean government has submitted reports on children’s issues and the state of adolescents’ rights.  Private organizations such as Save the Children have also submitted reports, but none of the reports was ever submitted by children themselves.  When Save the Children was preparing this year’s report, it decided to include cases in which abused children’s right was told by children themselves.

Save the Children is a relief organization for international children.

Kim No-Bo, the president of Save the Children stated that, “the conference is held to evaluate Korea’s child and adolescent rights. With the direct presentation by the children this presentation carries a significant meaning as it gives an opportunity to voice their opinions.

Korea’s Top Women’s Law School Battles Reverse Discrimination Lawsuit

April 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Sangmin Lee

The Constitutional Court held a public hearing on 10 February 2011, discussing whether the women only admissions policy is in violation of the right of male students to equality and other constitutional rights. Three male students, who have been preparing for law school, filed a petition against Ewha Women’s University law school in 2009. At the hearing, the primary issues were the applicant’s claim of legality and whether or not it infringes on applicant’s constitutional rights.

According to Jeon Yong-woo, the male student representative, Ewha’s policy of restricting admission to only female students is a violation of constitutional rights, specifically the right to receive education, freedom of occupation and right to equality. The current law school system in Korea is set up in a way where the government limits the number of law school graduates to about 2,000 per year students. Ewha was one of the 25 universities authorized by the Ministry of Education and Science Technology (MEST), and allotted the third highest quota with 100 students. In particular, the fact that Ewha is the only women university to be given a license to run a law school eliminates the quota of 2,000 to 1,900 for male applicants.

Lawyer Jeon insisted that “law school is a training organization for national judicial officers and the admission rules of private law schools should be based on public interest as well. Ewha law school unfairly limits the opportunity to become a lawyer on the basis that the applicants are men. It violates the gender equality.” Therefore, claimants added Ewha law school should choose either to cancel the current guidelines for applicants or have their authorization to run a law school revoked in order to give fair opportunities between men and women.

Jeon stressed that prohibiting men’s admission itself is discriminatory in principle. If there is a need to protect women, preferential policies for women by giving additional points to female applicants will reasonably fit the benefit and protection of the law.

At the national bar examination as of 2010, 338 successful candidates (42%) were female, which was a record high. And the ratio has continued to increase in recent years.

On the contrary, Ewha Womans University’s representative, Lee Seon-ae refuted that Ewha is not a state institution and its guidelines for applicants are not under the state, thus it does not fall under constitutional acts. Furthermore, claimants have no eligibility to sue because they did not even apply to Ewha law school.

Kim Moon-hyun, dean of Ewha law school, said “women make up only 17 percent of the Korean legal circle, thus Ewha law school’s policy is an affirmative action and does not breach the Constitution. Ewha law school’s educational goal is to ‘train lawyers for sexual equality’ and ‘raising female leaders of the future.’ Specific educational goals and ideals of school should be guaranteed in terms of fundamental rights of autonomy of private school.” He also said, “it is desirable to have female-focused legal training institutes in the male-dominated Korean legal circles.”

Lawyer Seong seung-hwan for MEST also said women are proportionally still have a weak position in Korean society. “Ewha’s quota takes up just 5 percent of the total, thus its policy seems to be rational and a proper method,” he insisted.

The ruling is scheduled to be released in 3 to 4 months, according to court officials.

HRM News Brief March 26-28, 2011

March 30, 2011 Leave a comment

 

HRM News Briefs                                                                                March 26, 2011


 

Police Seek Arrest Warrant of University Group’s President

The Korean National Police Agency is currently investigating a university student academic group called Capitalism Research Society and has requested an arrest warrant for the group’s first president. The president is a 37-year-old individual and is being pursued by the National Police on charges of violating Korea’s National Security Act proscriptions against praising North Korea. Authorities claim that the university group is encouraging North Korea by forming a group working in the interest of ‘the enemy.’ Civic groups protested what they called the “forming of an atmosphere of a police state.”

 

 

Father and Son Walk to Raise Disabilities Awareness

Lee Jin-seob, 47, and his 19-year old-son, Gyun-do, set out on a 40-day, 600-kilometer (372-mile) walk from Busan to Seoul. Lee heads a social welfare counseling center in Gijang County, Busan. His son, Gyun-do is autistic. He and his son are walking 15 kilometers per day to complete their goal. During the journey, Lee said a rope keeps him and his teenage son together because “Gyun-do is 180 centimeters tall and weighs 100 kilograms (220 pounds. There’s no way I can control him if he becomes overly excited. He could jump into the middle of the road or run away.” Lee quit his job 10 years ago to look after his son. His wife runs a small coffee shop in Busan.  Lee earned a diploma in social welfare from the Catholic University of Busan last year and opened the counseling center for parents with disabled children.

 

March 27, 2011
 

Reports Indicate Korean Youths Lack Social Skills

A state research institute conducting an international youth survey showed that Koreans came last in terms of social skills. According to the National Youth Policy Institute, Korean teens on average ranked the lowest among 36 countries in terms of relationship orientation and social cooperation. The results were based on the analysis of a survey taken by 14,600 second grade middle school students all over the world. Results indicated that Koreans scored last in both relationship orientation and social cooperation in regards to issues regarding school and community group participation, immigrants, and institutions, among others.

 

Labor Union Battles with Kumho Tires

Kumho Tires, Korea’s second largest tire maker, is continuing their battle with their labor union, causing Kumho Tires to close down plants for longer than expected. Union workers initially staged a one-day strike as a warning, calling for the management to initiate talks on key issues such as pay raises and the improvement of working conditions. The management responded by shutting down its two plants in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, saying the collective move is illegal. The following day, the company planned to resume operations by allowing the workers who submitted a written confirmation not to join in further strikes to return to the factories. However, the union denounced the move, claiming the firm is forcing unionists not to take part in the strikes and asked all the union members not to return to work.

March 28, 2011

 

UN Report Indicates One Forth of North Korea is Starving

The United Nations World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization delivered a sobering verdict on the food situation in North Korea, saying 6 million people in the impoverished country—a fourth of the population—are in dire need of food. The two agencies’ report which came a month after UN officials conducted on-site observations in several provinces, emphasized that children, women, and the elderly are at risk after severe summer flooding in the northern areas of North Korea and a harsh winter wiped out many of the North’s crops. The two organizations called for 470,000 tons of food aid for North Korean.

 

Activists to Quietly Float Leaflets to North Korea

Activists have decided to quietly float propaganda leaflets to North Korea without announcing their plans after a series of recent run-ins with residents near the border who worried about reprisals from the North. The head a coalition of activist groups stated that the time and location would remain under wrap and that better equipment would allow the leaflets attached to helium balloons to can now be launched by one or two people, reducing the risk of protests from locals or shots being fired from North Korea. However, members of Fighters for Free North Korea said his group will launch at least some balloons openly in a show of defiance against North Korea’s threat last week to fire shots at launch sites. Last week, the group was forced to withdraw their loudspeakers which were to blast propaganda across the demilitarized zone after North Korea threatened to shoot at them.

Categories: Children, Disability, Labour