[AHRC STATEMENT] SOUTH KOREA: Sad day to mark international human rights day for the villagers of Miryang, Gangjeong and the workersSoo Yon Suh December 12, 2013
[Statement Released by the Asia Human Rights Commission]
SOUTH KOREA: Sad day to mark international human rights day for the villagers of Miryang, Gangjeong and the workers
December 10, 2013
More Sharing ServicesShare | Share on facebook Share on myspace Share on google Share on twitter The situation in Miryang seems to have been deteriorating, which has shown by the phenomenon of violence in the area, including threats and harassment followed by arrest and detention against villagers who have protested against the construction of a 765 Kv power transmission tower. After two statements issued in this regard(vicarious administrative execution and discrimination, it was reported that many components needed for the construction of a nuclear power plant in fact have failed to meet the safety standards and their test results have been fabricated with the help of officials working at the Korea Electronic Power Corporation (KEPCO). Those officials involved in corruption are currently under investigation. Nevertheless, KEPCO has been continuing to construct power transmission towers. According to reports, Mr. YOO Han-Suk, (71) a villager who attempted to commit a suicide by taking a poison and who was hospitalised, died on December 6. Prior to his death when he became conscious, he had shared with his family members and rights activists his frustration of the power transmission tower that would have adverse effects on villagers, including himself. Early last year, Mr. Lee Chi-Woo, (74) also a villager who committed suicide by burning himself left a message, ‘my death would have solved this problem’. These tragedies have severely affected entire villagers in the area. In order to prevent such tension that was expected by such a unilateral decision, the villagers had requested genuine consultations from both the government and KEPCO before construction. Together with civil society, they also provided alternative suggestions that would have avoided the possible tensions that might have occurred. However, their requests were ignored like the case of construction of navy base in Gangjeong village, Jeju Island. These two cases demonstrate that the principle of participation and human dignity in democratic society can be ignored in the name of public interest. However, no one has asked the fundamental question about human dignity. Utilitarianism argues the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Obviously it is not the case above. Unfortunately, many laws in the country have been introduced for such purpose without taking into consideration the feelings of others who are vulnerable or marginalised and thereby adversely affected by decisions or policies made. It is a basic principle in the democratic society that the affected have the right to participate in policy or decision making processes that may affect them. However, the law and its practice do not seem to care about them. It rather oppresses the workers. Twenty four workers and family members who committed suicide after the violent attack on them by the police, workers who are dismissed on the grounds of enjoying their rights and workers who died of leukaemia due to the company’s failure to provide safety to their workers. Now questions should be raised on how far those laws and their enforcers can use their means under the name of law undermining or limiting rights of people affected by policy or decision makers. What is the public interest? Who is the public? What is interest? How far can human rights be intruded upon in the name of public interest? Laws allowing or justifying deprivation of human rights are only the manifestation of discrimination in itself. But before this, we should first respect the dignity of human beings.
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