The government increasingly invoked the National Security Law to restrict freedom of expression, particularly in the context of discussions pertaining to North Korea. The authorities closely monitored the internet and social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. There were no executions. Migrant workers remained vulnerable following the Constitutional Court’s ruling against job mobility and a government crackdown against undocumented migrants.
As the National Human Rights Commission of Korea celebrated its 10th anniversary, it faced a boycott from local human rights NGOs after it failed to properly consult civil society on recommendations to the Ministry of Justice which was drafting a new National Action Plan.
In August, the Constitutional Court ruled it unconstitutional for the government to make no tangible effort to settle disputes with Japan over reparations for Korean survivors of Japan’s military sexual slavery system (see Japan entry).Top of page
The authorities increasingly used the National Security Law (NSL) to target individuals and organizations perceived to oppose the government’s policy on North Korea. In March, Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, observed that there was a “shrinking space for freedom of expression” in the Republic of Korea (South Korea). He attributed this to the rising number of prosecutions and harassment of individuals critical of the government. By the end of the year, 135 people had been investigated for violating the NSL.
Charges were levelled against those who peacefully expressed their opinions or disseminated information on the internet. By 31 October, the police had deleted 67,300 web posts they believed threatened national security by “praising North Korea and denouncing the U.S. and the government”, a sharp rise from 14,430 posts in 2009.
In March, the UN Human Rights Committee considered the cases of 100 South Korean conscientious objectors, and found that South Korea had violated the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, protected under Article 18 of the ICCPR. The Committee’s decision obliged the state to provide an effective remedy, including compensation, to the 100, and to avoid similar violations in the future. In September, however, the Constitutional Court ruled that refusal to undertake military service was not covered by the “right to freedom of conscience” which is protected in the Constitution. At least 810 conscientious objectors remained in prison as of December.
Protests against the construction of a naval base in Gangjeong village, Jeju island, continued, with many residents and activists facing civil and criminal charges.
Hundreds of migrant workers were arrested and deported, following a crackdown against undocumented migrant workers which began in September.
Draft legislation aimed at abolishing the death penalty was pending consideration by the National Assembly. In September, South Korea observed 5,000 days free of executions. As of December, 60 people remained on death row.Top of page