South Korean Human Rights Monitor


UN Special Rapporteur on the Status of Human Rights Defenders Visit Report

Soo Yon Suh June 18, 2013

Special Rapporteur, Ms. Margaret Sekaggya, has completed her investigation on the status of human rights defenders here in South Korea and expressed concerns and recommended improvement.

To implement the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders established in 1998 the Commission on Human Rights established in 2000 the mandate on the situation of human rights defenders. Since this implementation, Ms. Sekaggya’s visit is the first of its kind for Korea. The investigation was conducted over a period of ten days (29 May ~ 7 June 2013) where the rapporteur met with various government and civil society organizations

Ms. Sekaggya announced her findings on 7 June 2013 and she indicated several dire concerns in the status of human rights in Korea. First in the area of freedom of expression, despite the fact that it is explicitly protected through the Korean Constitution she criticized the existence of the criminalization of defamation seriously limits the space where a human rights defender may exercise his/her fundamental right, as Ms. Sekaggya indicates, “which is a key right to claim other rights.” She also pointed out the National Security Act (NSA), although there has been improvements in regards to the act there is much more room for improvement to reduce the use of the law to prosecute defenders who express “criticism of government policies and labeling them as anti-government organizations.”

It was also noted that there has been multiple instances where the freedom of peaceful assembly has been challenged. There have been reports of arrests during peaceful protests. For example on the scale of local residents protesting against large scale development projects such as the Miryang electrical tower construction and Jeju Island’s Gangjeong Village Navel Base construction there have been incidents of violent arrests. Even the entry of foreign human rights defenders were denied.

The rapporteur also noted the limitations on the right to form trade unions where public officials and teachers were concerned. Noting the continued struggle by the Korean Government’s Employees Union (KGEU) to gain legal status over many years.

In ad midst the accreditation process of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) much concern has arose as over the years the protection and promotion of human rights in the country has been losing confidence.

The full statement of Ms. Sekaggya can be found in the link below.

Mrs. Margaret Sekaggya as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders © UN Photo

[1] Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders at the end of her visit to the Republic of Korea (29 May – 7 June 2013) 

[2] Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders at the end of her visit to the Republic of Korea (29 May – 7 June 2013) KOREAN VERSION

About Author

Soo Yon Suh

Soo is currently a program coordinator at the Korea Human Rights Foundation (KHRF) managing the Asia Democracy Network and HRM. She has been with KRHF since 2010 starting as a research fellow managing and developing the HRM project. 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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