U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - South Korea
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - South Korea, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1c1c.html [accessed 27 March 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
REPUBLIC OF KOREAThe Republic of Korea is governed by a directly elected president and a unicameral legislature selected by both direct and proportional voting. Kim Dae Jung was elected president in a free and fair election in December. The judiciary operates independently of the executive branch. Responsibility for maintaining internal security lies with the National Security Planning Agency (NSP), the Korean National Police (KNP), and the Defense Security Command (DSC). Legislation passed in 1993 restricts the NSP and DSC from interfering in domestic politics and grants the NSP investigative authority only in cases involving terrorism, espionage, and international crime organizations. The Government revised this law in 1996 to allow the NSP to investigate members of domestic organizations that are viewed as supporting the North Korean Government. There continued to be credible reports that some members of the security forces were responsible for occasional human rights abuses. After a period of sustained growth averaging about 9 percent per year, the economy slowed somewhat, with 1997 growth in gross domestic product projected at around 6 percent. By the end of the year the country had entered into a severe financial crisis as foreign exchange reserves were inadequate to meet short term obligations, and a number of major private sector conglomerates went into bankruptcy. At year's end, an international assistance effort led by the International Monetary Fund was underway to shore up Korea's reserves and foster structural economic reform. The Government generally respects the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. The use or threatened use of the National Security Law (NSL) continued to infringe upon citizen's civil liberties, including the right to free expression. There was no progress toward reform of the NSL, but judges continued to demonstrate their independence. The standards for issuing detention warrants were made more stringent, substantially reducing the number of suspects detained before they were indicted. However, in November, following complaints from prosecutors that the new system was administratively cumbersome, the National Assembly voted to amend these rules to ease standards for issuing warrants. The Ministry of Justice continued to implement guidelines requiring that suspects be told at the time of arrest of their right to remain silent and their right to a lawyer. Nevertheless, credible sources reported instances in which police subjected detainees to verbal and physical abuse. Women continued to face legal and societal discrimination. Violence against women and physical abuse remain serious problems. There is still insufficient legal redress for these problems. Ethnic minorities face legal and societal discrimination. Although labor statutes were revised to expand freedom of association, they remained below international standards in some respects. The Government continued to require released political prisoners to make regular reports to the police under the Social Surveillance Law, and it still has not authorized independent investigations of the cases of some prisoners who received sentences on charges believed to have been fabricated by previous governments. Some of these prisoners reportedly were subjected to torture to extract confessions and received trials that did not meet international standards of fairness.