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South Korea

    June 05, 2018

    Three South Korean police officers were spared jail time despite being convicted on Tuesday of neglect of duty in connection with the death of Baek Nam-gi, a farmer who sustained fatal injuries after being hit by a water cannon during a protest in 2015. The sentences demonstrate the need to amend laws in order to better protect the public from reckless police actions that may take the lives of protesters, Amnesty International said.

    "Baek Nam-gi's tragic and completely avoidable death underscores why South Koreans deserve both laws and policing that fully safeguard their human right of peaceful assembly without subjecting them to unnecessary physical risks," said Arnold Fang, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International

    On Tuesday, Seoul District Court fined Shin Yoon-gyoon, former chief of Seoul's fourth riot battalion, 10,000,000 Korean Won (approx. US$9,300). Two officers who operated the water cannon truck, Choi and Han, were fined 7,000,000 Won (US$6,500) and handed eight-month suspended prison sentences.

    February 22, 2018
    Amnesty International publishes State of the World’s Human Rights report for 2017 to 2018 “Last year our world was immersed in crises, with prominent leaders offering us a nightmarish vision of a society blinded by hatred and fear. This emboldened those who promote bigotry, but it inspired far more people to campaign for a more hopeful future,” says Salil Shetty, head of Amnesty International

    The world is reaping the terrifying consequences of hate-filled rhetoric that threatens to normalize massive discrimination against marginalized groups, Amnesty International warned today as it launched its annual assessment of human rights.

    Nevertheless, the organization found that a growing movement of both first-time and seasoned activists campaigning for social justice provides real hope of reversing the slide towards oppression.

    The report, The State of the World’s Human Rights, covers 159 countries and delivers the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights in the world today.

    December 12, 2016

    Today’s appeal court ruling reducing the prison sentence of trade union leader Han Sang-gyun cannot mask the authorities’ intolerance of the right to peaceful assembly in South Korea, Amnesty International said.

    The judges reduced Han Sang-gyun’s jail sentence to three years for public order offences and violations of the problematic Assembly and Demonstration Act, during a series of demonstrations in 2014 and 2015. Han was also held responsible for sporadic clashes with police at a series of anti-government protests he helped organize.

    “Han Sang-gyun should not be held criminally responsible for violent acts taken by a small number of individuals, simply because he was one of the organizers of protests that were largely peaceful,” said Roseann Rife, Amnesty International’s East Asia Research Director. 

    “His prosecution and upheld conviction underlines the authorities’ intolerance of the right to peaceful assembly.”

    Han, who is president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, was originally handed a five-year prison sentence at his initial trial in July.

    October 28, 2016

    The South Korean government must withdraw proposed rules that would increase the penalty for doctors who perform illegal abortions, said Amnesty International, ahead of mass demonstrations planned by women’s rights groups on 29 October.

    On 23 September, the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced a revision of a rule on “inappropriate medical practices” that could increase the penalty for doctors performing illegal abortions from the current one-month suspension of business to a possible maximum of 12 months.

    “This proposal, if enacted, would only perpetuate the existing criminalization of abortion in South Korea and is an obvious regression in the fight for women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights. Decisions about their bodies and health should be made by the women and girls’ themselves, in consultation with their doctors, and not by politicians or officials,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

    July 04, 2016

    The five year prison sentence handed down to a prominent union leader is the latest example of how the government is galvanising its attack on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in South Korea, Amnesty International said today.

    On Monday, the Central District Court in Seoul convicted Han Sang-gyun, the leader of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), for his role as an organizer of a number of demonstrations. The most prominent of which was the largely peaceful ‘People’s Rally’ on 14 November 2015.

    “Han Sang-gyun is the latest victim of South Korea’s increasingly ruthless crackdown on peaceful dissent. His conviction is both unjust and shameful,” said Arnold Fang, East Asia Researcher of Amnesty International.

    “This sentence has a chilling effect on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly by deterring other would-be organizers. Under no circumstances should organizers be held responsible for the acts of those that hijack a peaceful protest.”

    April 17, 2015

    The unnecessary use of force by South Korean police against families of the Sewol ferry tragedy is an insult to the victims and a violation of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International said on Friday.

    Police used pepper spray against participants of a vigil walk in memory of the victims, near Gwanghwamun district in central Seoul on Thursday night according to local media.
    One woman, the mother of a child who died in the accident, is reported to have suffered fractured ribs after a police officer used his shield to push into the crowds.  

    “The clampdown against an overwhelming peaceful protest is totally unjustified, unnecessary and an insult to both the victims of the Sewol ferry tragedy and their families,” said Arnold Fang, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

    The ongoing protests started on Thursday when tens of thousands of people took part in the vigil to mark the first anniversary of the ferry accident in which 304 people, mostly school children, died.

    December 19, 2014

    A decision by South Korea's Constitutional Court to dissolve an opposition political party could have chilling consequences for freedom of expression and association in the country, said Amnesty International.

    The court found that the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) violated the country's "fundamental democratic order" after the government accused the party of supporting North Korea. The ruling also disqualified all sitting UPP lawmakers from representing the party.

    "The ban on the UPP raises serious questions as to the authorities' commitment to freedom of expression and association," said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

    “The dissolution of a political party can have far-reaching consequences and should only be taken with the utmost restraint.”

    The Constitutional Court considered the case against the UPP at the request of the government. This was the first such request from a South Korean government since the end of dictatorial rule in 1987. The last time a party was disbanded was in 1958.

    December 14, 2014

    Released 0:01 GMT on 15 December 2014

    The South Korean authorities must immediately stop the planned shipment of massive amounts of tear gas to Turkey, where the security forces have frequently abused riot control equipment amid repression of peaceful protests, Amnesty International said.

    A credible source has tipped off the organization about a planned export to Turkey of nearly 1.9 million tear gas cartridges and gas grenades manufactured in South Korea. The first batch of riot control equipment is scheduled for delivery by a South Korean company to the Turkish government in mid-January 2015.

    “All shipments of tear gas and other riot control equipment to Turkey must be suspended immediately or they risk fuelling further repression and abuses,” said Marek Marczynski, Head of Military, Security and Police at Amnesty International.

    October 19, 2014

    Released 00:01 GMT Monday 20 October 2014

    The South Korean government must end the exploitation and widespread use of forced labour of migrant agricultural workers, Amnesty International said, as it published a new report that reveals how the country’s farming industry is rife with abuse.

    Bitter Harvest exposes the true face of South Korea’s Employment Permit System (EPS) that directly contributes to the serious exploitation of migrant agricultural workers. The government-run work scheme is designed to provide migrant labour to small and medium-sized enterprises that struggle to hire a sufficient number of national workers.
    “The exploitation of migrant farm workers in South Korea is a stain on the country. The authorities have created a shameful system that allows trafficking for exploitation and forced labour to flourish,” said Norma Kang Muico, Asia-Pacific Migrant Rights Researcher at Amnesty International.
    “If South Koreans were trapped in a similar cycle of abuse, there would rightly be outrage.”

    December 24, 2013

    The South Korean authorities must rein in the police and respect the rights of striking workers, Amnesty International said after a massive police raid on the offices of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) in Seoul on Sunday.

    This police raid violated international human rights and labour standards in many ways – from arresting trade union leaders in retaliation for strike action to the police using unnecessary and excessive force that resulted in workers being injured,” said Polly Truscott, Deputy Asia-Pacific Program Director at Amnesty International.

    “The South Korean authorities must stop unlawful police raids and arrests of trade unionists, and respect the rights of striking workers.”

    Some 130 trade unionists were arrested on Sunday when thousands of police raided the headquarters of the KCTU, in response to a strike by railway workers over fears that large-scale layoffs may be looming. Several workers were injured when police used pepper spray.

    The police raid, which was carried out without a search warrant, was the first on the KCTU’s headquarters since it was given legal status in 1999.

    Children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) inhale toxic dust as they mine the cobalt that powers the batteries we rely on for our phones, tablets and laptops. Yet global electronics manufacturers won’t tell us if their cobalt supply chains are tainted by child labour. They have a responsibility to do so –to check for and address child labour in their supply chains, setting an example for the rest of the industry to follow. Electric vehicle companies also need to ensure that their car batteries do not contain cobalt mined by children.


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