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South Korea: backtracking on the protection of rights

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(New York) – In 2021, South Korean President Moon Jae-in weakened civil and political freedoms and cracked down on North Korean human rights activists operating in South Korea, Human Rights Watch said today. today in his Global Report 2022. Nor has Moon’s government passed a comprehensive anti-discrimination law that would protect marginalized groups, including women, the elderly, children, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and sexual minorities.

“President Moon Jae-in should dedicate his final months in office to passing a comprehensive anti-discrimination law that will transform his legacy as a leader who brought about long overdue rights reforms in South Korea. a long time,” said Lina Yoon, senior Korea researcher at Human Rights. Look. “Unfortunately, President Moon has done little for human rights on the Korean Peninsula, limiting civil and political rights in South Korea while making it more difficult for human rights activists to operate. ‘North Korean man in the South.’

Within 752 pages Global Report 2022, its 32nd edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries. Executive Director Kenneth Roth challenges the conventional wisdom that autocracy is bottom-up. Country after country, large numbers of people have recently taken to the streets, even at the risk of being arrested or shot, which shows that the pull of democracy remains strong. Meanwhile, autocrats find it harder to manipulate elections in their favor. Yet, he says, democratic leaders must do a better job of tackling national and global challenges and ensuring that democracy delivers the promised dividends.

Pervasive and widespread discrimination against marginalized groups remains a serious problem in South Korea. The gender pay gap is the widest among member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). South Korea’s #MeToo movement has continued its advocacy, but there has been a social backlash in 2021 with the rise of a “men’s rights” movement. Sexual harassment and abuse of women and girls continued unabated. Human Rights Watch’s June report, “My Life Is Not Your Porn”: Digital Sex Crimes in South Korea, found that there is continued widespread publication of sexually explicit images of women and girls without their consent, for which the government has not taken meaningful action. to prevent. Authorities refuse to accept cases, behave abusively towards survivors, and create barriers for survivors to obtain information about cases or be heard in court.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights movement in South Korea grew but continued to face hostility. A Human Rights Watch report released in September found that LGBT youth experience severe isolation and abuse in schools, including bullying and harassment. There have been repeated instances of discrimination based on gender identity, the exclusion of LGBT issues from school curricula, and the failure of schools to provide mental health support to students.

South Korea has a generally open and democratic system of government, with a relatively free media and a vibrant civil society, but in 2021 the government changed laws and created a chilling effect on free speech. In December 2020, the South Korean government amended the National Intelligence Service Law, which uses broad and vague language, and allows the National Intelligence Service (NIS) to collect information under the abusive and outdated law. on national security, which criminalizes the dissemination of “North Korean propaganda”. or having a relationship with or praising an undefined “anti-government organization”. It also passed the amendment to the Inter-Korean Relations Development Law, known as the Anti-Leaflet Law, which imposes strict limitations and disproportionate penalties on individuals and civil society groups who send unsolicited information. permitted, including tracts, printed materials and computer memory. devices across the border between South Korea and North Korea. In September, the South Korean government, facing serious criticism, shelved amendments to the Press Arbitration Law, which contained vague language and disproportionate penalties for any reporting the government deemed false. .

The South Korean government again refused to co-sponsor annual United Nations resolutions on North Korean human rights at the United Nations Human Rights Council and General Assembly. South Korea has yet to fully implement the North Korean Human Rights Law that came into force in September 2016 and has not established a foundation to support Korea’s rights work. of the North or appointed a roving human rights ambassador to North Korea.