South Korean Human Rights Monitor

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News Brief – April 5~8, 2011 South Korea Human Rights

Soo Yon Suh April 8, 2011

April 5

Sexual Rights of Peoples with Disabilities Ignored

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

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

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

6 April 2011

Students Unsatisfied with KAIST President’s Reaction to Student Suicides

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

Sexual Discrimination Still Rampant in the Workplace

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

7 April 2011

Fourth KAIST Student Commits Suicide

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

Seoul to Hire Foreigners in Attempts to Become Expat Friendly

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

8 April 2011

KAIST Students Criticize KAIST’s Hypocritical Standardization

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

About Author

Soo Yon Suh

Soo has been the research fellow at the Korea Human Rights Foundation (KHRF) since October of 2010. Her main duties include managing HRM Korea and assisting various other human rights projects KHRF implements. Soo grew up in Chicago, Illinois, received her Bachelor's in Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago and her Master's in Korean for Professionals (NSEP Korean Language Flagship) from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. View all posts by Soo Yon Suh →

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  1. Pingback: On 2 Schools and 8 Suicides « On Becoming a Good Korean (Feminist) Wife

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