NGO Report on the Situation of Freedom of Opinion and Expression
in the Republic of Korea since 2008
Joint Korean NGOs
for the Official Visit of the Special Rapporteur
to the Republic of Korea
Mr. Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, is officially visiting Korea on May 2010. In light of his visit, Korean human rights social organizations have prepared the ―Report on the Realities of the Freedom of Expression, Two Years into the Lee Myeong-Bak Administration.‖ The Korean human rights social organizations greatly welcome the Special Rapporteur‘s visit of Korea, and support and feel solidarity in his activities to protect human rights.
This is the second time that a UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression has officially visited Korea since Mr. Abid Hussain in 1995. After visiting Korea, Mr. Abid Hussain advised △ abolition of the National Security Act △ release of prisoners incarcerated for their exercise of freedom of expression △ revision of Trade Union Act and Labor Relations Adjustment Act, through the ―Report on the Freedom of Expression in Korea.‖ Notwithstanding the 15 years that have passed since then, the freedom of expression in Korea is at a critical state.
The National Security Act which was advised to be abolished since 15 years ago is still in effect. People who exercise freedom of expression are receiving criminal penalties through alleged crimes of defamation, obstruction of work, and violation of Assembly and Demonstration Act. Also, the government is covertly and tactfully performing censorship online, further repressing the freedom of expression. This is why, in light of Mr. Frank La Rue‘s official visit, Korean human rights social organizations have written the ―Report on the Realities of the Freedom of Expression, Two Years into the Lee Myeong-Bak Administration,‖ in order to spread the word on the realities concerning the freedom of expression. Human rights social organizations hope that this report will assist Mr. Frank La Rue in his investigation. This report will be made public during the general meeting of the report to be held on April 28 in Korea.
Out of the many realms of human rights, the freedom of expression is an important index which crucially influences other freedoms and human rights. The freedom of expression is like a ―messenger‖ that tells us that other human rights are being repressed. We can undoubtedly see that other human rights are in retreat through the limits in freedom of assembly and demonstration in the 2008 candlelight protests, the criminal charges pressed against public officials when they expressed their position on the retreat in freedom of expression, and the tyranny of governmental authority in gagging the internet. This report has tried to include such realities of the retreat in freedom of expression during the two years since the Lee Myeong-Bak administration.
The report consists of 12 chapters: an introduction and 11 fields in the freedom of expression. The first chapter is an introduction which analyzes the general realities of the freedom of expression in the current administration. The second chapter deals with violation of the freedoms of thought and conscience shown in the examples of National Security Act, crime of defamation, and designation of seditious books by the military. The third chapter talks about the violation of the freedom of speech and the freedom of expression through video and literature. Examples include attacks and criminal charges against journalists, destruction of diversity in media through the Media Act‘s change for the worse, and violations of the freedom of expression in films and literature. Chapter four handles the laws, customs, and examples that violate the freedom of assembly and association, and chapter five deals with the realities in violation of freedom of expression for laborers. The sixth chapter talks about how the direct and indirect censorship through strengthened administrative regulations and criminal penalties retreats the freedom of expression on the internet, and the seventh chapter, on the right to know and right of access to information, handles the limits in access to public information and media. The report also deal with the realities for those incarcerated on grounds concerning the freedom of expression (chapter 8), youths (chapter 9), disabled (chapter 10), and sexual minorities (chapter 11). Finally, the twelfth chapter shows how the decreasing independence of the National Human Rights Commission is compromising the role that the Commission plays in protecting the freedom of expression.
The above outline of the report is a summary of whether the Korean government has carried out recommendations that it has received for the past 15 years by the UN Human Rights Council (international agreements on civil and political rights; international agreements on economic, social, and cultural rights; and Final Opinion on the Korean Government Concerning the Ratification of Convention on the Rights of the Child); the ―Report on the Freedom of Expression in Korea‖ by Mr. Abid Hussain; 2008 UPR recommendation to Korea; and the ILO recommendation. Also, the report deals with laws and systems, customs, and examples that constitute violations of rights, and tries to objectify the violation of rights from data collected through public information inquiries.
The official visit of Mr. Frank La Rue has given Korean human rights social organizations a definite opportunity to contemplate what must be done to promote the freedom of expression. During the course of two meetings (March 11 and April 21) where around 30 people attended, the represented social organizations were able to increase understanding of ‗freedom and equality of expression‘ and ‗UN human rights procedures.‘ Also, the organizations sought joint activities such as preparing the Report. We greatly look forward to the promotion of the freedom of expression, and the organization of activities for such promotion during the official visit of the Special Rapporteur.
On the occasion of the Country Visit of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression to the Republic of Korea from 5 May 2010 to 15 May 2010, the Joint Korean NGOs for the Official Visit of Special Rapporteur has been preparing its report in order to not only aid the Special Rapporteur in obtaining a correct understanding of the situation of freedom of opinion and expression in the Republic of Korea, but also to bring the attention of the Special Rapporteur to those issues which Korean NGOs believe should be investigated during the mission of Special Rapporteur.
We sincerely hope that the Special Rapporteur will take into consideration the remarks and recommendations presented in this report prior to the Country Visit to the Republic of Korea.
The 23 NGOs participating in the preparation and submission of this report are as follows:
Joint Action of NGOs on NHRCK ((NHRI Watch-Korea), Catholic Human Rights Committee, Chingusai (Korea Gay Man‘s Human Rights Group), Coalition of Human Rights NGOs in Korea & Human Rights Defenders, Disability Discrimination Act of Solidarity in Korea, GONGGAM (Korean Public Interest Lawyers‘ Group), Information & Culture Nuri for the Disabled Korea, KCTU (Korean Confederation of Trade Unions- Korean Government Employees Union, Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union, National Union of Media Workers, Korean Railway Workers Union, Korean Construction Workers Union), Jinbonet (Korean Progressive Network), Korea Press Consumerism Organization, KOCUN (Korea Center for United Nations Human Rights Policy), MediaACT (The Media Center ‗MediACT‘), MINBYUN (Lawyers for a Democratic Society), Minkahyup (Human Rights Group), PSPD (People‘s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy), SARANGBANG Group for Human Rights, Writers Association of Korea, Youth Human Rights Activists‘ Network, The Center for Freedom of Information and Transparent Society(CFO),Committee to Support Imprisoned workers.
Mr. Dong-Hwa Lee
MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society
Tel: +82 522 7284 / 82 10 9947 9920
Ms. Ka-Won Lee
Korea Center for United Nations human rights policy (KOCUN)
Tel: + 82 2 6287 1210/ 82 10 9408 4881