Annual Report: South Korea 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: South Korea 2010

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Freedom of expression


  • In January, blogger Park Dae-sung or "Minerva" was arrested for violating the Framework Act on Telecommunications after he posted gloomy economic forecasts. He was accused of spreading malicious rumours to destabilize the economy. In April, Park Daesung was acquitted, but the prosecutor's office appealed.


  • In March 2009, four journalists and union activists from Yonhap Television Network (YTN), a 24-hour news channel, were arrested for "interfering with business". The journalists had been calling for guarantees of editorial independence after the appointment of Ku Bon-hong, formerly an aide to President Lee Myungbak, as YTN president.
  • In June, four producers and one writer at the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation were indicted on charges of defaming the former Agriculture Minister and negotiator on US beef imports. Prosecutors accused them of distorting facts, deliberately mistranslating and exaggerating the dangers of US beef in their television programme, PD Notebook, aired in April 2008. The government blamed the programme for sparking the 2008 candlelight protests against US beef imports.

Conscientious objectors

At least 696 conscientious objectors, mostly Jehovah's Witnesses, were in prison for refusing to serve in the military. The average sentence was one and a half years.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

Eighteen individuals were arrested for offences under vague provisions of the National Security Law (NSL).

Thirty-four people charged under the NSL were prosecuted, resulting in 14 convictions. The trials of the remaining 20 were pending at the end of the year.

Death penalty

In June, the Constitutional Court heard the case of Oh, a death row inmate, who claimed that the death penalty violated human dignity and values under the Constitution. No executions took place. Fifty-seven people remained on death row.

Institutional developments

The CESCR expressed deep concern about the independence of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) and its 21 per cent downsize. It recommended allocating adequate human and financial resources, and allowing individuals to file complaints of violations of economic, social and cultural rights directly to the NHRCK.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Three hundred and twenty-four individuals applied for asylum and 321 applications were pending with the Justice Ministry. A total of 994 applications were rejected, and only 74 individuals were granted refugee status. The CESCR remained concerned that state recognition of asylum-seekers was extremely low. In June, certain asylum-seekers were given the right to work, but delays in implementation left many with no source of livelihood.