1. The National Human Rights Commission of the Republic of Korea (hereinafter NHRCK) hereby
submits information on human rights situations in the Republic of Korea (hereinafter ROK), in
particular, for the 4 years from 2004 to 2007, taking note of the UN HRC Resolution 5/1, 15(a). The
NHRCK is an A-accredited national human rights institution, as it was established in 2001 in
accordance with the Paris Principles.
2. During the course of writing this document, the NHRCK consulted with various civil groups.
However, the opinion of this document is solely that of the NHRCK.
Preparation for the UPR
3. It is hard for the NHRCK to assess to what extent the government will consult and listen to
stakeholders, including NGOs, during the preparation of the state report. In consideration of past
experiences with regard to the state party reporting and examination process under the international
human rights instruments, the government needs to find a more effective means to consult and
cooperate with stakeholders.
National Frameworks for Human Rights
4. The Constitution includes the Bill of Rights as well as various human rights protection
mechanisms. In May 2007, the government set up the National Action Plans for the Promotion and
Protection of Human Rights (NAP) as recommended by the NHRCK in 2005 and made it public.
Though being the first plan for national human rights policy, the NAP failed to include important
issues recommended by the NHRCK (See Annex). It is too soon to tell to what extent and how the
NAP is being implemented.
5. Under the Constitution, the international human rights instruments acceded and ratified by the
government have the same legal effect as the domestic legislation. However, international human
rights law is still not widely known to the public, and the Executive, Legislative and Judicial
branches do not possess an in-depth understanding of their legal obligations to implement
international human rights law. Recently the Judicial and the Legislative branches have begun to
refer to international human rights law.
Cooperation with the International Human Rights Mechanisms
6. As of late 2007, the Korean government is a State Party to ICESCR, ICCPR, ICERD, CEDAW,
CAT and CRC, under which the government is implementing quite well the obligation of submitting
reports. The government listens to the NHRCK while drafting its reports.
Improvements in Major Human Rights Issues
7. Over the previous four years, the overall human rights situation has improved greatly, in particular,
with regard to civil and political rights. Discrimination is now recognized as an important human
rights issue in society. While socially marginalized people and minority groups attract more attention,
a widening socio-economic gap between the rich and the poor has diminished the enjoyment of social,
economic, cultural, and other rights.
8. Torture against persons in detention by investigative agencies and other national bodies has
remarkably reduced over the past four years. After 2003, the Social Protection Law that was accused
of sentencing double-punishment was abolished, the Criminal Procedure Law was improved
including a stronger system of habeas corpus, and alternative military service programs for
conscientious objectors started to be considered on a long term basis. On the other hand, there is
room for improvements: the National Security Law was not abolished in spite of the UN human
rights bodies’ recommendations; the death penalty was not abolished even though it has not been
executed for more than 10 years. Also, assemblies related to political issues were banned in advance
for fear of traffic disruption and probable violence, which requires change as well.
9. Instances of torture in detention facilities including prisons are reported to be decreased greatly;
however human rights in protective facilities for the mentally-ill, the disabled, the older and children
need to be urgently improved. Human rights violations, in particular, in unregistered facilities are
reported to be serious; therefore, effective supervisory measures are needed. Additionally, policies
for smaller and more personal facilities and the inclusions of said people in their communities are
10. With the development of information technology, there is a growing risk of privacy invasion,
from CCTV surveillance and eavesdropping to abuse of personal database and bio-recognition
technology. Another problem is digital divide – the inevitable emergence of a group of people who do
not have access to information technology and therefore cannot enjoy the benefits from it. In this
regard, efforts should be made to protect the rights to privacy from excessive collection and misuse
of personal data and to guarantee the accessibility to information for all individuals.
11. Similarly, development of biotechnology presents such serious challenges as ethical issues raised
by the new technology and rights of the people who are objects to the experiments, to name a few.
Especially upon collecting human eggs, the right to life and women’s rights to health should be
guaranteed by relevant legislation which needs to be established and strictly observed.
12. The understanding that the government should guarantee and fulfill individuals’ economic, social
and cultural rights needs to be strengthened. For the past four years, governmental policies to
guarantee social rights have improved. However, considering a wider gap between the rich and the
poor, increasing job insecurity, and unemployment, individuals’ social rights need to be more
13. Non-regular workers are seriously suffering from discrimination in employment and do not enjoy
labor rights. In particular, they suffer from job insecurity and low income, and discrimination against
non-regular workers are especially compounded by discrimination against women. Thus the
feminization of poverty is a serious concern. In July 2007, the Act on Protection for Non-regular
Workers became effective. However, there are few positive outlooks among laborers and academics
on whether or not the Act will achieve its aims of job security and counter-discrimination. When the
law became effective, some employers started to fire non-regular workers or deny renewal of their
employment contracts to avoid the possibility of making non-regular workers regular ones under the
law. This brought about even more insecurity in the employment market.
14. Combined with the lack of a social safety net and the weakness of the current social welfare
system, economic divide and expansion of the poor are becoming more serious, which contributed to
the tendency of poverty passing on from generation to generation. The government should provide
measures to guarantee the right to health by strengthening the social welfare system, guaranteeing
rights to shelter, and expanding medical assistance for the poor so that all individuals in the country
can enjoy adequate standards of living.
15. For the past four years, middle school education has become compulsory in addition to
elementary school education, but parents still need to pay for some portion of the education. Thus
primary education is not entirely free. In that sense, measures should be taken to guarantee the right
to education for students from low-income families. Also for children outside of the regular
education system to get alternative or vocational education, various opportunities should be provided.
16. Currently, the public health insurance program is being provided to all individuals, and the range
of coverage is improving. However, the portion that individuals pay needs to be reduced and
insurance coverage requires to be further widened, partly because economic burdens on patients with
incurable diseases and long-term care needs are ever increasing.
17. CEDAW has largely contributed to improvements of women’s rights in the ROK. It influenced
the process of revising the family law, which led to the most important achievement in the four years:
the abolishment of the male-only family head system or hojuje. Still, there remain many problems; a
wide salary gap between men and women, the low ratio of women in high ranking positions, violence
against women, sexual harassment and stereotypes on gender roles including the conception that
women should be the primary child caregivers. With that, the government should proactively
implement policies to change stereotypes of women and intensify the punishment of perpetrators of
violence against women.
18. There is a growing recognition on the importance of the rights of children, yet still corporal
punishment against children is a particularly serious issue. Corporal punishment at home and school,
bullying at school, excessive focus only on college entrance tests, and the resulting excessive amount
of study have been major stumbling blocks to the rights of children.
19. Recently, rights of persons with disabilities have become a major social concern. The government
introduced improved polices including self-reliance of persons with disabilities, compulsory
employment and better accessibility, and established the Act on Discrimination against Persons with
Disabilities in 2007. The government signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities but did not ratify it yet. However, given the fact that the rights of persons with disabilities
have not received their due attention, the government needs to take more seriously the rights of
persons with disabilities during its decision-making process regarding resource inputs and policy
20. With the increase of migrants including internationally married migrant women and migrant
workers over the past four years, the government has developed new policies and revised legislations
in this area. Examples are the provision of assistance for international marriage immigrants and of
employment, medical and industrial accident insurances for migrant workers. However, for
unregistered migrant workers their human rights are violated or the education rights of their children
are not guaranteed. Discriminations that migrants are facing in their daily lives are serious and the
nature of such discriminations is linked with racism. To tackle discriminations against migrants, the
government should enhance social awareness, and at the same time, should revise legislation and
policies for better protection of their basic rights. Also the refugee recognition procedures should be
improved in line with the international refugee law.
21. As the ROK’s population percentage of elderly people is one of the fastest growing in the world,
the protection of the rights of elderly people with regard to social alienation, underemployment and
poverty, and medical care have emerged as new challenges.
Recommendations and Suggestions
22. Despite the relatively abundant available resources and capacity of the ROK, there is a lack in the
government’s contribution to improvements in the international human rights situation. The
government should develop projects for capacity building and technical assistance, cooperating with
the NHRCK and civil society, as it has voluntarily pledged upon its election to the Human Rights
Council. The government also should consider how to incorporate human rights perspective in its
official development assistance.
23. The ROK has obligations to implement the international human rights instruments to which it is
party. For national implementation, the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches should all take
part in. For this purpose, the government should develop national mechanisms for the Legislative and
Judicial branches to participate in the implementation of international instruments, and at the same
time it should find effective ways to proliferate the instruments.
24. Human rights education should be provided to personnel in law enforcement including judges,
prosecutors, public officials and social welfare workers. In addition, human rights education
programs should be included and strengthened at all levels, types and channels of education in a
comprehensive way. To do this, laws on human rights education should be passed and the
government should identify ways to expand human rights education.
25. The ROK should abolish the National Security Law and death penalty and introduce policies for
conscientious objectors in a prompt manner as the UN human rights bodies recommended. Also it
should ratify the OPCAT and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
26. The government should take diplomatic efforts and measures across ministries to make sure that
North Korean defectors overseas be protected from refoulement and enjoy humane treatment. It also
should take humanitarian efforts to improve the quality of living and the rights of North Koreans.
Annex: Examples of Policies not Included in the National Action Plans for the Protection
and Promotion of Human Rights