Annual Report: South Korea 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: South Korea 2011

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Freedom of assembly

The authorities continued to curb people's right to demonstrate peacefully. A new law, introduced on 1 October in the run-up to the G20 summit, banned demonstrations in "places of security and safety". Riot police, mostly conscript soldiers, were deployed in large numbers prior to the summit. On 7 November, capsaicin liquid, which causes a burning sensation on contact, was used to control one anti-G20 demonstration.

  • In November, seven Filipino activists travelling to Seoul to attend non-governmental preparations for the G20 summit, were barred from entering South Korea and forcibly deported. While detained at Incheon International Airport, immigration officers told them they were on a government blacklist.
  • In November, prosecutors demanded that Park Rae-gun be sentenced to five years and four months' imprisonment and Lee Jong-hoe to four years' imprisonment for "hosting an illegal protest" and "blocking traffic". The protests were calling for justice for those killed in the January 2009 police action against rooftop protests by evicted tenants at a building in the Yongsan district of Seoul. The trial, due in December, was postponed to January 2011.

Conscientious objectors

In November, the Constitutional Court heard oral arguments as they deliberated whether fundamental rights are violated when criminal punishment is imposed on those who, on grounds of conscience, refuse military conscription or reserve force training. They also considered whether failure to provide alternative service options for such conscientious objectors violated their fundamental right to freedom of conscience. As of November, 965 such prisoners of conscience remained in detention.

Migrants' rights

In October, the Constitutional Court heard oral arguments as part of their deliberations on whether it is constitutional to limit job changes for migrant workers under the Employment Permit System. Thousands of migrant workers continued to be deported.

  • In November, Trinh Cong Quan, a 35-year-old undocumented migrant worker from Viet Nam, died after attempting to escape from immigration officers by jumping from the factory building where he was working. Immigration authorities had raided the factory without seeking the employer's permission, as part of a government crackdown on undocumented workers. Trinh Cong Quan had a wife and child in South Korea.

Death penalty

In a five to four ruling, the Constitutional Court in February stated that capital punishment did not violate "human dignity and worth" protected in the Constitution. Three death penalty abolition bills were pending before the National Assembly, one introduced in 2010. Death sentences were imposed, but there were no executions. Sixty-three prisoners were under sentence of death, three of whom were in the process of appeal.