Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1995 - South Korea, 1 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa0410.html [accessed 10 December 2013]
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KOREA (REPUBLIC OF)
Hundreds of opponents of the government were detained throughout the year, the majority under the National Security Law which restricts the rights to freedom of expression and association. Some 200 other political prisoners arrested in previous years remained in prison, including dozens of long-term prisoners believed to have been convicted after unfair trials. Ill-treatment of political detainees continued to be reported. There were 15 executions and some 50 prisoners remained under sentence of death. A proposed summit meeting between President Kim Young-sam and North Korean President Kim Il Sung was cancelled following the latter's death in July. Tension mounted between the two countries following his death and appeared to be a factor in the increased number of arrests made under the National Security Law during the second half of the year. In October government officials told Amnesty International that the country would soon ratify the UN Convention against Torture. Officials also told Amnesty International that labour legislation would shortly be amended to remove the ban on third-party intervention in labour disputes. A revision to the Code of Criminal Procedure was before the National Assembly but had not been passed by the end of the year. It incorporated some human rights safeguards but failed to bring procedures for arrest and interrogation fully into line with international human rights standards. Hundreds of people were arrested under the National Security Law, especially between June and September. Eight members of a singing troupe, Heemangsae, Bird of Hope, who were arrested in March and April under the National Security Law, were prisoners of conscience. They were accused of trying to stage a musical based on a poem deemed by the authorities to "praise" and "encourage" North Korea and of sending parts of the poem via a computer communications network. They were released after trial with suspended prison sentences. Another prisoner of conscience was Kim Yon-in, owner of Heem Publishing Company, who was arrested in March and sentenced to one year's imprisonment for publishing allegedly pro-North Korean literature. He remained in prison at the end of the year. In June, 23 people were arrested under the National Security Law for their alleged involvement with Kukukchnui, National Front for the Salvation of the Fatherland. The main defendant, 61-year-old Ahn Jae-ku, was accused of establishing this organization in order to spy for North Korea. There was, however, no convincing evidence that Ahn Jae-ku and other alleged members had been involved in espionage activities and he was considered to be a prisoner of conscience. In November Ahn Jae-ku was sentenced to life imprisonment, although the prosecution had asked for the death sentence. Throughout the second half of the year dozens of students, dissidents, writers, publishers, academics and members of socialist organizations were arrested under the National Security Law for allegedly "praising" and "benefiting" North Korea. Many were adopted as prisoners of conscience. Charges against them included attempts to send messages of condolence to North Korea following the death of Kim Il Sung, the publication and distribution of allegedly pro-North Korean material, membership of socialist groups deemed to be pro-North Korean, and participation in demonstrations against the government. Some were accused of being Jusapa (supporters of North Korea's Juche ideology). Prisoners of conscience included four members of Pomminnyon, Pan-National Alliance for the Reunification of Korea, including the 74-year-old Reverend Kang Hui-nam. They were arrested in July at the border village of Panmunjom as they tried to visit North Korea. Others were dissident leaders Lee Chang-bok and Hwang In-sung who were arrested in August and charged with supporting North Korea's views about reunification and expressing sympathy on the death of Kim Il Sung. In December Lee Chang-bok was sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment. Dozens of people belonging to socialist groups, arrested under the National Security Law for their alleged pro-North Korean views, were also considered to be prisoners of conscience. They included nine members of Saminchong, Union of Socialist Youth, arrested in August on charges of spreading leftist and allegedly pro-North Korean ideology among workers and students, and three members of Sam (Spring) youth group, charged in September with spreading Juche ideology among high-school students. Over 100 workers were arrested in the course of industrial disputes, most accused of taking illegal strike action or resorting to violence during confrontations with riot police. In some cases the charges of violence appeared to have been unjustified and the prisoners were held in violation of their right to freedom of association. They included prisoner of conscience Suh Son-won, a trade union official of Chongihyop, an unauthorized trade union of national railroad workers, who was arrested in September during a peaceful sit-in protest at a temple in Seoul, the capital. Prisoner of conscience Kim Sam-sok was given a seven-year prison sentence in February, reduced on appeal to four years. His sister Kim Un-ju was given a suspended sentence and released (see Amnesty International Report 1994). In October a former informer for the Agency for National Security Planning (ANSP) said that he had helped to frame the two prisoners. He also claimed that the ANSP had asked him to make links between alleged pro-North Korean organizations in Japan and several political non-governmental organizations in South Korea, which could be used to incriminate the latter. Members of Sanomaeng, Socialist Workers League, continued to face arrest and imprisonment under the National Security Law as prisoners of conscience. At least 40 members remained in prison at the end of the year, including prisoners of conscience Chon Kyong-hee and her husband Baik Tae-ung, arrested in April 1992 and sentenced to three years' and life imprisonment respectively. Dozens of long-term political prisoners believed to have been convicted after unfair trials under previous governments remained in prison. Most had been arrested during the 1970s and 1980s, held incommunicado for long periods and tortured. They were convicted largely on the basis of their own coerced confessions. They included prisoner of conscience Yu Chong-sik, sentenced to life imprisonment in 1975. He was reportedly in poor health and receiving inadequate medical attention. Lawyers and activists worked to reopen the cases of some prisoners but found it impossible to obtain the evidence required to initiate a retrial. The Republic of Korea continued to hold two of the world's longest-serving prisoners of conscience. Kim Sun-myung, aged 69, was arrested in 1951 and Ahn Hak-sop, aged 64, was arrested in 1953. Their continued imprisonment appeared to be a result of their refusal to sign a statement of "conversion" to anti-communism. In May a lawyer who wished to represent the two prisoners was denied access to them and had still been unable to visit them by the end of the year. Most political suspects claimed to have been deprived of sleep during interrogation by the National Police Administration or the ansp. There were also reports of detainees being subjected to threats, intimidation and beatings during questioning. At his trial in May, Kim Tae-il, a member of the singing troupe Heemangsae, said police investigators had threatened to arrest his fiancée unless he made a confession. At his trial in October Ahn Young-min said that after his arrest in June police officials had deprived him of sleep for 48 hours, beaten him and threatened to arrest other family members if he did not sign a confession. Jong Hwa-ryo, arrested in June, said he was beaten by ANSP officials during three days of interrogation and only permitted to sleep for two hours each day. In October, 15 people convicted of murder were executed in Seoul, Pusan and Taegu prisons. These were the first executions since December 1992, and were carried out by order of the Minister of Justice. At the end of 1994 there were some 50 other people who had been convicted of murder under sentence of death, including Kim Chol-oo who claimed to have been beaten during interrogation by the police and forced to confess to some of the charges against him. Throughout the year Amnesty International called for the release of prisoners of conscience and for a review of the cases of long-term political prisoners said to have been convicted after unfair trials. It called for amendments to the National Security Law and to labour legislation limiting the rights to freedom of expression and association. It sought an end to ill-treatment of detainees and called for impartial investigations into all allegations of ill-treatment. It urged the commutation of all death sentences and abolition of the death penalty. In March the organization published a report, South Korea: Human rights violations continue under the new government, describing human rights violations which had occurred since February 1993 when the administration took office and past violations which the government had failed to address. In October Amnesty International delegates visiting the country met officials of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They were refused meetings with the National Police Administration and the ansp.