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amnesty international's Briefing to the UN Human Rights Committee on Korea's Third Periodic Report  Amnesty_International_briefing_on_South_Korea.doc
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amnesty international

Republic of Korea (South Korea)

Briefing to the Human Rights Committee on Republic of Korea’s Third Periodic Report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

October 2006

IX. Article 21 and 22   Freedom of peaceful assembly and association

Amnesty International notes with concern that South Korea has not yet withdrawn its reservation to Article 22 as recommended by the Human Rights Committee in its concluding observations on South Korea’s second periodic report. The organization also notes the Committee’s view as expressed in General Comment No 24 that reservations must be specific and transparent, which does not appear to be the case for South Korea’s reservations to the ICCPR. [1]

IX.1 Actions against striking workers

Amnesty International is concerned at reports that trade union leaders who organized strikes and demonstrations to protect their basic rights have been harassed and arrested. In 2004, at least 121 striking workers were reportedly arrested. The law enforcement agencies are known to use excessive force to control strikes and there have been many instances when the leaders of the strike have been arrested.

             The South Korean government employs vaguely worded clauses such as Article 314 of the Criminal Act (Interference with Business clause) and other laws   such as the Law on Assembly and Demonstration   to arrest trade union leaders. This is despite the repeated recommendation by the ILO to the South Korean government to refrain from using the Interference with Business clause to impose criminal punishment on trade union activists.

IX.1.a Continued repression and arrests of KGEU officers and activists            

Since 2002, the ILO has called on the South Korean government to recognize the Korean Government Employees’ Union (KGEU) but the government steadfastly refuses to do so, stating that the KGEU is an illegal organization under the existing labour laws. The South Korean government has reportedly beaten, arrested and imprisoned, or dismissed from government service numerous national and regional leaders and activists of KGEU who have been campaigning against The Law on the Establishment and Operation of Public Officials’ Unions.

As of 10 October 2006, 125 out of 251 KGEU chapters have been forcefully closed down by the South Korean government. Reports reaching Amnesty International suggest that 101 members from KGEU and solidarity organizations were arrested and several of them were severely beaten up and hospitalized. They are expected to be charged under clauses on obstructing the performance of official duties as provided by the Criminal Act. In cases of government employees, violation of Public Officials’ Act could be included in their charges.

12 KGEU leaders have been reportedly summoned by the police for leading and being involved in ‘illegal activities of illegal organizations’ and charged of violating the Public Officials Acts and National Security Law. Those summoned includes KGEU President KWON Seung Bok, General Secretary KIM Jeong Soo, vice presidents and other leaders. Some of those have reportedly been summoned only because they were reciting a resolution in front of participants at a mass rally.

[1] The Government of South Korea merely declared “that the provisions of paragraph 5 [...] of article 14, article 22 [...] of the Covenant shall be so applied as to be in conformity with the provisions of the local laws including the Constitution of the Republic of Korea.” While Germany interpreted this declaration to mean that, South Korea did not intend to restrict its obligations under article 22; in the opinion of the Government of the Netherlands it followed from the text and the history of the ICCPR that South Korea’s reservations with respect to articles 14, paragraphs 5 and 7 and 22 of the Covenant were incompatible with the object and purpose of the Covenant.


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