Urgent Action Update: Activist Held In Solitary Confinement (South Korea: UA 20/17)

Urgent Action
February 27, 2017

Lee Jin-young is being held in solitary confinement after being formally charged under the National Security Law (NSL) for the online distribution of materials that are deemed, by South Korean authorities, to ‘benefit’ North Korea. If found guilty, Lee Jin-young could face up to seven years in prison.


Lee Jin-young, labour activist and owner of the online library ‘Labour Books’, was arrested and detained on 5 January 2017, and officially charged on 3 February 2017 for violating Article 7 of the National Security Law (NSL) after distributing materials that allegedly benefit “anti-government organizations”. According to his wife, Lee Jin-young is currently being held in solitary confinement, and is only allowed one hour for exercise and 10 minutes for external visitors per day. There are concerns for his mental health as he has previously been diagnosed with panic disorder. 
In July 2016, six months before Lee Jin-young’s arrest, the police seized more than 100 books, 10 research documents, a hard drive, and other electronic storage devices during an early morning raid at his home. He was searched, and eventually arrested for allegedly violating the NSL, a law that is consistently used by authorities in South Korea to undermine the rights to freedom of expression, opinion, peaceful assembly or association. Although the seized titles were seen to benefit an “anti-government organization”, meaning North Korea, many of the books can easily be found in public libraries and bookstores. If found guilty, he could face up to seven years in prison.
Lee Jin-young, 67, is an activist who was convicted twice in the 1980s and 1990s under the NSL for organizing study groups on political philosophy in South Korea. In 2016 he took part in a 74-day strike, and was suspended from his job prior to being arrested. 
Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:
  • Immediately drop the charges and release Lee Jin-young as he is prosecuted solely for the peaceful exercise of his human right to freedom of expression;
  • Until he is released, immediately end the solitary confinement of Lee Jin-young, and ensure he is allowed meaningful human contact with the outside world as well as adequate medical care;
  • Stop the arbitrary use of, and fundamentally amend or abolish, the National Security Law and ensure that South Korea meets its international obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the rights to freedom of expression, opinion, peaceful assembly and association. 


Contact these two officials by 10 April, 2017:
Chief Inspector, 
Seoul Nambu Detention Center
Park Byeong-yong
865 Geum-o Ro (Cheon-wang dong)
Guro-gu, Seoul 
Fax: +82-2-2105-0220
Salutation: Dear Chief Inspector
Ambassador Ahn Ho-Young
Embassy of the Republic of Korea
2450 Massachusetts Ave. NW, 
Washington DC 20008
Tel: 1 202 939 5600
Salutation: Dear Ambassador
Here's why it is so important to report your actions: we record the number and types of actions taken—letters, emails, calls and tweets—on each case and use that information in our advocacy. 
PDF version: 
Word version: