Amnesty International Report 1996 - South Korea
|Publication Date||1 January 1996|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1996 - South Korea, 1 January 1996, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a9fe3c.html [accessed 13 December 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Several hundred political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, were arrested during the year. Over 150 others remained in prison from previous years. Most were held under the National Security Law which restricts freedom of expression and association. There were reports of torture and ill-treatment in custody. There were 19 executions and about 50 prisoners remained under sentence of death.
In January the Republic of Korea acceded to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
In December the government introduced special legislation aimed at bringing to justice those implicated in an alleged military coup and subsequent massacre of civilian protesters at Kwangju in May 1980 (see previous Amnesty International Reports). Two former presidents, Roh Tae-woo and Chun Doo-hwan, were arrested and charged under the new legislation. Roh Tae-woo was charged separately with receiving bribes during his term in office.
Trade between the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) increased during the year and a number of South Korean businessmen were authorized to visit North Korea. However, relations between the two governments remained tense.
In November the UN Human Rights Committee decided that trade union leader Sohn Jong-kyu had been convicted for exercising his right to freedom of expression and should be entitled to an effective remedy, including compensation. He had been sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment in August 1991 under the Labour Dispute Mediation Act for "third party" intervention in a labour dispute.
Over 200 people were arrested under the National Security Law, including students, political activists, writers, publishers and academics. Most were held under Article 7 of the law which provides up to seven years' imprisonment for those who "praise", "encourage" and "side with" the activities of an "anti-state" organization. The law defines the Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) as an "anti-state" organization.
Those arrested under Article 7 of the National Security Law included 60-year-old prisoner of conscience Ki Seh-moon. He was sentenced to two years' imprisonment in May for distributing a pamphlet and organizing the funeral of a former political prisoner who had fought for North Korea during the Korean War; his activities were deemed to have "benefited" North Korea. Yu Dok-ryol and Kim Chon-hee of the Han Publishing Company were arrested in July under Article 7 of the National Security Law for publishing books on social sciences and books written by North Koreans, including an autobiography of former North Korean President Kim Il Sung. They were also prisoners of conscience.
Seven members of Minjongryon, Korean Political Alliance of the People, were also arrested under Article 7 of the National Security Law in July for attempting to re-establish the organization Sanomaeng, Socialist Workers' League, which is considered by the authorities to be an "anti-state" organization. Over 60 members of Minjongryon had been arrested on similar charges since July 1993, including prisoners of conscience.
Those arrested under other provisions of the National Security Law included 13 people arrested in September for belonging to an "anti-state" group with alleged links to the North Korean Workers' Party. The 13 former students denied charges of attempting to infiltrate factories and businesses on behalf of North Korea. They were possible prisoners of conscience. Several people were arrested under the National Security Law for making unauthorized visits to North Korea and were prisoners of conscience. They included 75-year-old Park Yong-gil, who was arrested in July upon her return to South Korea. She suffered from heart disease and diabetes and was in very poor health. Park Yong-gil was given a suspended prison sentence and released in December.
Trade union leaders continued to face arrest and imprisonment under Article 13(2) of the Labour Dispute Mediation Act which prohibits a "third party", that is anyone who has no immediate connection with a workplace where a dispute is taking place, from intervening in the dispute. In November Kwon Young-gil, President of Minju Nochong, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, was arrested for violation of the prohibition on "third party" intervention. He was accused of advising workers about industrial action, expressing support for striking workers and criticizing government policy at a series of rallies in May and June 1994. He was a prisoner of conscience. Minju Nochong, inaugurated in November, was declared illegal by the authorities. Soh Son-won, an official of Chongihyop, an unauthorized trade union of national railroad workers, was sentenced to one and a half years' imprisonment after an appeal hearing in June. He was a prisoner of conscience (see Amnesty International Report 1995).
Some prisoners of conscience were treated harshly. In April the authorities at Yongdungpo Prison sealed the window of prisoner of conscience Ahn Jae-ku's prison cell so that he was unable to see sunlight except for a brief period of exercise each day. He was later moved to a different cell with a window. Prisoner of conscience Eun Su-mi was returned from hospital to Kangnung prison in May after undergoing major surgery, although doctors had recommended her transfer to a larger hospital. Amnesty International was concerned that she might have been denied adequate medical treatment.
In August over 1,800 prisoners, including 25 political prisoners, were released in an amnesty. They included prisoners of conscience Kim Sun-myung, aged 70, and Ahn Hak-sop, aged 65, who had been held since 1951 and 1953 (see Amnesty International Report 1995).
At least 25 long-term political prisoners, convicted of espionage under previous governments and believed to have been tried unfairly, remained in prison. Many had been arrested illegally and held incommunicado for long periods. Many claimed to have been forced to confess under torture. For example, Lee Jang-hyong, who was serving a life sentence, was reportedly tortured during 67 days' interrogation by the Security Division of the National Police Administration after his arrest in June 1984. Hwang Tae-kwon, serving a 20-year prison term, was held incommunicado for about 60 days by the Agency for National Security Planning (ANSP) after his arrest in June 1985, during which time he claimed to have been tortured and forced to sign a confession. In July Hwang Tae-kwon and eight other long-term political prisoners filed a joint complaint with Seoul District Public Prosecutor's Office alleging that they were tortured after their arrests. The complaint and two subsequent appeals were dismissed on the grounds that the statute of limitation on public prosecutions had expired.
There were continued reports of torture and ill-treatment. Almost all political suspects claimed to have been deprived of sleep during interrogation by the National Police Administration and the ANSP. Some also said they had been beaten, threatened, intimidated and subjected to long periods of interrogation in an attempt to make them sign a confession.
In February, three men accused of murder were acquitted when a court in Pusan city ruled that their confessions had been extracted under torture. In April Professor Park Chang-hee, aged 63, was interrogated by the ANSP for 19 days after his arrest and claimed to have been deprived of sleep, beaten, threatened and forced to drink alcohol. He also said that he was kicked and threatened during later questioning by the prosecution. In August Park Young-saeng, a street vendor in Seoul, was reportedly stripped, tied up, hung between two tables and beaten with sticks after being arrested by the police.
Nineteen people, all convicted of murder, were executed on 1 November. They included Kim Chol-oh who said he had been beaten and forced to make a confession after his arrest in August 1990. Some 50 others, all convicted of murder, were under sentence of death. They included Mohammad Ajaz and Amir Jamil, both Pakistani citizens who claimed that they had been tortured and forced to sign confessions after their arrest in 1992.
Throughout the year Amnesty International called for the amendment of the National Security Law, in accordance with international standards on freedom of expression and association. It called for the release of all prisoners of conscience and a review of the cases of long-term political prisoners convicted in previous decades after unfair trials. It called for an end to torture and ill-treatment and for better safeguards to protect the rights of suspects after their arrest. It urged that all death sentences be commuted and that the death penalty be abolished. The government sent Amnesty International written statements on several individual prisoners whose cases the organization had raised, but these did not allay the organization's concerns about those prisoners.
In June Amnesty International published a report, Republic of Korea (South Korea): Concerns relating to freedom of expression and opinion. In November it published Republic of Korea (South Korea): International standards, law and practice the need for human rights reform. In November Amnesty International delegates visiting the country discussed the organization's concerns with the Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vice Minister of Justice and Deputy Director of the ANSP.