Amnesty International Report 2006 - South Korea
|Publication Date||23 May 2006|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2006 - South Korea, 23 May 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/447ff7ad3e.html [accessed 22 May 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.|
Refugee recognition procedures did not take into account the threats faced by asylum-seekers. A draft bill to abolish the death penalty was introduced. At least 63 prisoners remained under sentence of death. At least eight prisoners of conscience sentenced under the National Security Law (NSL) were released. The NSL, which allowed the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience, remained in use. At least 200,000 irregular migrant workers faced detention and deportation. Despite improved protections for migrant workers, poor working conditions and discrimination in wages and access to justice continued. At least 1,090 conscientious objectors remained imprisoned for refusing to do military service.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Refugee recognition procedures lacked transparency and failed to take into account threats faced by asylum-seekers. Refugee status was granted to as few as 40 applicants between February 2001 – when asylum was granted for the first time under the UN Refugee Convention – and the end of 2005, 15 of them in 2005. Detention policies for asylum-seekers were vague and arbitrary.
In May new guidelines under the Immigration Law required that asylum-seekers who had not possessed valid residence visas for over three years be detained and fined before their applications were considered. Applicants were not informed of the grounds for decisions on their cases. They did not receive sufficient protection or support, including from qualified interpreters, and were not allowed to work.
- In March the authorities rejected asylum applications made by nine Myanmar nationals in May 2000. In April the men were ordered to leave the country within five days. On appeal in July, they were allowed to stay until April 2006. They were reportedly active in opposition political activities in Myanmar and South Korea that put them at risk of serious human rights violations if they returned to Myanmar. Although no interpreters were present during the interviews, applicants' signatures had been added to the transcripts of their testimonies. The lawyers complained that transcripts of their interviews appeared to have been either omitted or distorted.
Basic rights of migrant workers appeared to be strengthened after the Employment Permit System Act came into effect in August 2004. However, migrant workers continued to face widespread discrimination in wages and in access to justice. Many worked in dangerous conditions, were not paid regularly or did not receive severance pay. In December, there were over 200,000 undocumented migrant workers liable to immediate detention pending deportation.
- In May, Anwar Hossain, head of the new Migrants Trade Union that had not been recognized by the government, was arrested by over 30 immigration and police officers and reportedly assaulted. The day before his arrest, he had criticized government policy towards irregular migrant workers in a national newspaper. He was still held at the Chonju Immigration Detention Centre at the end of 2005.
There were no executions. At least 63 prisoners remained under sentence of death. A bill to abolish the death penalty, proposed by 175 members of the 299-member National Assembly in December 2004, was introduced in the Legislation and Judiciary Committee of the National Assembly in February.
National Security Law
Under a presidential amnesty in August, at least eight prisoners of conscience sentenced under the NSL were released. At least two long-term prisoners were serving sentences imposed under the NSL.
- Kang Tae-woon, aged 75, sentenced to six years' imprisonment in August 2003 for espionage, was reportedly in poor health. His sentence was reportedly reduced by half in August.
The NSL, in force since 1948, allowed for long prison sentences or the death penalty for non-violent political activities, including vaguely termed offences such as "benefiting the enemy" or "anti-state" activities. Despite growing support for repeal of the NSL, including from President Roh Moo-hyun and the National Human Rights Commission, the government did not amend or repeal it.
At least 1,090 conscientious objectors, most of them Jehovah's Witnesses, were in prison at the end of 2005 for their refusal to carry out compulsory military service. The government gave no consideration to introducing an alternative civilian service.
Lim Tae-hoon was released in June. He had been arrested in February 2004 and sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment in July 2004 for refusing to perform military service because of his pacifist beliefs and discrimination against gay, bisexual and transsexual people by the military.