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                       REPUBLIC OF KOREA

The Republic of Korea is governed by a directly elected 
president and a unicameral national assembly selected by both 
direct and proportional election.  The ruling Democratic 
Liberal Party continued its efforts to reform the political 
system and the economy but still has not been able to eliminate 
some vestiges of its authoritarian past.

Responsibility for maintaining internal security lies with the 
National Security Planning Agency (NSP), the Korean National 
Police (KNP), and the Defense Security Command (DSC).  In July 
the National Assembly created an intelligence oversight 
committee to serve as an independent watchdog on security 
agencies.  According to legislation passed in 1993, the NSP is 
restricted from interfering in domestic politics and has 
investigative authority only in cases involving terrorism, 
espionage, and international crime organizations.  Although the 
1993 legislation was intended to prevent human rights abuses by 
these security agencies, there continued to be some credible 
reports of such abuses.

Korea has become a major industrial power and achieved rapid 
economic growth despite a lack of natural resources.  After an 
economic slowdown in 1993, production rose in 1994 with an 
increase in the gross national product exceeding 8 percent.  
However, a number of problems remain, including high levels of 
rural migration to the cities, labor shortages, unbalanced 
regional development, an inefficient agricultural sector, and 
inadequate infrastructure.

The Government took some steps to strengthen judicial 
independence and increase awareness of human rights by 
appointing new judges, prosecutors, and police.  However, it 
slowed the pace of reform in response to increased tensions 
with North Korea over the nuclear issue, a rise in violent 
student demonstrations, and labor unrest, and it shelved 
planned reform of labor laws.  Korea's labor statutes and 
practice continued to fall short of international standards.  
There continued to be credible reports that the police deprived 
some suspects of access to counsel and subjected some suspects 
to verbal threats and sleep deprivation during interrogation.  
There was also one confirmed case in which authorities 
physically abused a suspect under interrogation.  Women 
continued to face legal and societal discrimination and 
widespread physical abuse, and there is still no effective 
legal redress for these problems.

The Government continued to subject released political 
prisoners to surveillance and required them to make regular 
reports to the police under the Social Surveillance Law.  The 
Government has not addressed the issue of amnesty or redress in 
some of the cases of prisoners who are serving long sentences 
on charges believed to have been fabricated by previous 
governments.  Some of these prisoners were reportedly subjected 
to torture to extract confessions and to trials that did not 
meet international standards of fairness.  Although direct 
government control over the news media has virtually 
disappeared, the wide latitude provided judges in determining 
the motive behind the production, sales, and distribution of 
"pro-North Korean" or "pro-Communist" literature and the 
possibility of arrest under the National Security Law (NSL) 
have curtailed press freedom.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or extrajudicial killings by 
the police or military.  In August a bystander at a radical 
student rally was interrogated and assaulted by a group of 
demonstrators who suspected him of being a government 
informant.  The man died shortly afterwards, and one of the 
students has been indicted in this case.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Government has ordered investigating authorities to protect 
the human rights of suspects, and allegations of abuse by 
authorities of those in custody for questioning continued to 
decline.  Nonetheless, prosecutors continued to place much 
emphasis on extracting confessions from suspects.  In spite of 
government directives discouraging sleep deprivation as a 
technique for obtaining confessions, there continued to be 
credible reports of police questioning suspects through the 
night, of suspects being denied the right to talk to a lawyer 
for several days after arrest, and, in at least some instances, 
of physical abuse.  The Government has confirmed that police 
physically abused murder suspects under interrogation in one 
particular case in Pusan.  Also, dissidents Kim Sam Sok and his 
sister Kim Un Ju, who were arrested in September 1993 under the 
NSL, claimed that they had been abused while in detention.  
Both charged that the police had used sleep deprivation, verbal 
threats, and beatings to extract confessions from them.  Kim 
Sam Sok also charged that he had been sexually abused by 
authorities, while his sister cited threats of rape (see 
Section 1.e.).  An investigation of these allegations is 
ongoing, but evidence has not yet surfaced to substantiate 
their claims of sexual abuse.

There were also reports of verbal abuse and threats during 
questioning.  These reports were particularly frequent during 
the mass arrests of students following the upsurge of violent 
protests over the summer.

The Government continued to investigate and consider cases in 
which former detainees argued that they deserved redress for 
torture suffered in the past.  However, the Government has 
failed to provide an effective mechanism for redress, such as 
an independent body to investigate complaints of human rights 
violations.  It remained relatively rare for officials accused 
of abuse or harassment of suspects to be prosecuted.

Prison diets are adequate, but the prisons offer little 
protection against cold in winter and heat in the summer.  
Consequently, some prisoners claim that the conditions have 
damaged their health.  There have been a few claims that prison 
guards have used excessive force or have needlessly put 
prisoners in manacles.  Prisoner access to reading materials 
has improved significantly in recent years.  There is little 
independent monitoring of prison conditions, although 
representatives of human rights groups may see certain 
prisoners if approved by the prison warden.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Korean law is vague with respect to detention, and prosecutors 
have wide latitude to interpret the law.  The NSL defines 
espionage in broad terms and permits the authorities to detain 
and arrest persons who commit acts viewed as supportive of 
North Korea and therefore dangerous to the Republic of Korea.  
Authorities arrested not only persons spying on behalf of North 
Korea but also those who exercised their freedom of speech to 
criticize the Government or to praise North Korea, its leader 
Kim Il Sung, or Kim Il Sung's "self-reliance" ("juche") 
political philosophy.  The United Nations Human Rights 
Committee termed the NSL "a major obstacle to the full 
realization of the rights enshrined in the International 
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."  The Government 
arrested over 200 dissidents under the NSL during the year, 
more than twice as many as in 1993.

Article 7 of the NSL permits the imprisonment for up to 7 years 
of anyone who "with the knowledge that he might endanger the 
existence or security of the State or the basic order of free 
democracy, praised, or encouraged, or propagandized for, or 
sided with the activities of an antistate organization."  The 
legal standard for knowing that one might endanger the 
existence of the State is vague.  Consequently, a number of 
Koreans have been arrested for what appears to be simply 
expressing leftwing views.  In February the police arrested 
members of Heemangsae, a singing group whose song lyrics 
express support for "juche" philosophy, under the NSL's 
provisions.  In May the police arrested students in Kwangju who 
built an altar honoring Kim Il Sung during a demonstration and 
charged them with violating the NSL.  The police also 
investigated university professors at Kyongsang University 
under the NSL because a textbook they had written several years 
ago used Marxist jargon and echoed some of the ideology of Kim 
Il Sung (see Section 1.e.).

The Government's rationale for keeping the NSL is that North 
Korea is actively trying to subvert the South Korean Government 
and society and that special circumstances call for limiting 
some forms of expression to block the greater danger to freedom 
and democracy posed by totalitarianism.  The effect is to 
relieve the Government of the burden of proving in a court of 
law that any particular speech or action does, in fact, 
threaten the nation's security.

The law requires warrants to be issued by judges in cases of 
arrest, detention, seizure, or search, except if the person is 
apprehended while committing a criminal act, or if a judge is 
not available and the authorities believe that the suspect may 
destroy evidence or escape capture if not quickly arrested.  In 
such emergency cases, judges must issue arrest warrants within 
48 hours after apprehension, or, if a court is not located in 
the same county, in 72 hours.  Police may detain suspects who 
voluntarily come in for questioning for up to 6 hours but must 
notify the suspects' families.  However, they do not always 
respect these legal requirements.

Upon issuance of an arrest warrant, the security services 
normally must release suspects after 30 days unless an 
indictment is made.  Hence, detainees are a relatively small 
percentage of the total prison population.  Article 19 of the 
NSL gives judges the power to approve requests to extend the 
detention period an additional 20 days, making detention legal 
for up to 50 days.  The Constitutional Court, however, ruled 
that, while the authorities may extend detention beyond the 
legal limit of 30 days for those suspected of "serious" 
violations, such as spying or organizing an antistate group, 
they may not do so in cases in which the suspects are charged 
only with praising North Korea or failing to report NSL 

The Constitution specifically provides for the right to 
representation by an attorney.  However, prosecutors prohibit 
attorneys from accompanying their clients during 
interrogation.  The Government began to permit suspects during 
the investigative phase to consult with "duty lawyers," a new 
system set up by a nongovernmental association of lawyers.  
However, there were numerous complaints that access to a lawyer 
was restricted during this phase.  There is a functioning 
system of bail, but human rights lawyers say that bail is 
generally not granted in cases involving serious offenses, and, 
even when the offense is relatively minor, bail often will not 
be granted unless the victim of the alleged crime agrees to the 
bail request.

There were no cases in 1994 of political dissidents being 
exiled without due process.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides defendants a number of rights in 
criminal trials, including presumption of innocence, protection 
against self-incrimination, freedom from retroactive laws and 
double jeopardy, the right to a speedy trial, and the right of 
appeal.  When a person is physically detained, the initial 
trial must be completed within 6 months of arrest.  These 
rights are generally observed.  Trials are open to the public, 
but the judge may restrict attendance if he believes spectators 
may seek to disrupt the proceedings.

The President appoints the Chief Justice and most justices of 
the Constitutional Court.  Although judges do not receive life 
appointments, in recent years the judiciary has shown 
increasing independence, and that trend continued in 1994.  
Judges cannot be fired or transferred for political reasons. 
Judicial officials generally considered committed to the 
independence and integrity of the judiciary were appointed to 
important positions in 1994.

In July Chief Justice Yoon Kwan nominated six new justices to 
the Supreme Court, including a lawyer previously active in the 
human rights movement.  In a notable instance of judicial 
independence, prosecutors who sought to arrest Kyongsang 
University professors in September under the NSL for writing a 
Marxist textbook were thwarted by a judge who denied the 
warrants, arguing that prosecutors had not provided evidence of 
the professors' pro-Communist activities.  Similarly, in the 
case of Kim Sang Sok and Kim Un Ju, the Supreme Court limited 
the kind of evidence that could be deemed a "state secret."  
The Kims, who were convicted on charges of working with North 
Korean agents overseas, were cleared on appeal of passing a 
"state secret" (a South Korean newspaper), thus reducing their 
sentences by from 1 to 3 years.

Judges generally allow considerable scope for examination of 
witnesses by both the prosecution and defense.  Cases allegedly 
involving national security and criminal cases are tried by the 
same courts.  Although convictions are rarely overturned, 
appeals often result in reduced sentences.  Death sentences are 
automatically appealed.  The Constitutional Court, which began 
operation in 1988, continued to grow in its role of 
interpreting the Constitution.

The courts continued to investigate allegations of past abuse 
of political dissidents.  Human rights groups believe that many 
of these prisoners were sentenced to long prison terms on 
trumped up charges of spying for North Korea during the 1970's 
and 1980's.  Furthermore, they had been held incommunicado for 
up to 60 days after their arrest, subjected to extreme forms of 
torture, forced to make "confessions," and convicted after 
trials that did not conform to international standards for a 
fair trial.  Human rights groups allege that some of these 
political prisoners have been denied early parole because they 
refused to renounce real or alleged communist beliefs.  Those 
political prisoners who have been released continue to be 
subjected to police surveillance and requirements to report 
their activities regularly to the police.

In a celebrated case, the families of 65 prisoners sued the 
Government, arguing that these dissidents had been imprisoned 
arbitrarily by past regimes.  Human rights groups claim that 
this case and others like it have received only perfunctory 
investigation and that those who received unfair trials in the 
past still languish in prison.

It is difficult to estimate the number of political prisoners, 
i.e., those jailed for exercising their political rights 
unaccompanied by violence, because it is not clear whether 
particular persons were arrested for merely exercising the 
right of free association or were detained for committing or 
planning acts of violence or espionage.  Because of a wave of 
violent protests in 1994 over such issues as government trade 
policy and the attendant government clampdown on dissidents, 
the number of Koreans arrested for politically related crimes 
increased substantially.  Some human rights monitors estimate 
that the number of political prisoners in Korea increased to 
more than 500 in 1994.  However, their definition of political 
prisoner generally includes all persons imprisoned for acts 
that were politically motivated, without distinction as to 
whether the acts themselves included violence or other criminal 
behavior.  The number of political prisoners and detainees as 
defined by international standards appears to number under 200.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

In general, the Government honors the integrity of the home and 
family.  In the past, the security services conducted varying 
degrees of surveillance, including wiretaps, of political 
dissidents.  The Antiwiretap Law and the law to reform the NSP 
were designed to curb government surveillance of civilians, and 
appear largely to have succeeded.  The Antiwiretap Law lays out 
broad conditions under which the monitoring of telephone calls, 
mail, and other forms of communication are legal  It requires 
government officials to secure a judge's permission before 
placing wiretaps, or, in the event of an emergency, soon after 
placing them, and it provides for jail terms for those who 
violate this law.  Some human rights groups argue that a 
considerable amount of illegal wiretapping is still taking 
place and say the lack of an independent body to investigate 
whether police have employed illegal wiretaps hinders the 
effectiveness of the antiwiretapping law.

South Koreans are not allowed to listen to North Korean radio 
in their homes or read books published in North Korea if the 
Government determines that they are doing so for the purpose of 
helping North Korea.  Student groups make plausible claims that 
government informants are posted around university campuses.  
Persons with backgrounds as political or labor activists may 
find it difficult to obtain some forms of employment or advance 
in such fields as government, broadcast media, and 

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

While most political discourse is unrestricted, under the NSL 
the Government limits the expression of ideas that the 
Government considers Communist or pro-North Korean.  The 
Government's definition is so broad that it often includes the 
nonviolent views of persons, which the Government opposes.  
Although most radio and television stations are state 
supported, the stations maintain a large degree of editorial 
independence in their news coverage.  The censorship board, 
which screens movies for sexual or violent content before they 
are released, followed more liberal guidelines in 1994.  
Consequently, a broader range of films was released to the 

While the Government has abandoned direct control over the news 
media, it continues to exercise considerable indirect influence 
on the media.  Because many former journalists hope to become 
government officials, journalists and editors often practice 
self-censorship, avoiding or softening criticism of the 
Government in order to advance their careers.  Moreover, while 
the Government's anticorruption campaign curtailed government 
payments of money to reporters, it did not eliminate them.

The libel laws sometimes allow the Government or other 
complainants to win judgments against publications for articles 
that are unflattering but not necessarily untrue.  In March Kim 
Hyon Chol, President Kim Young Sam's son, sued the Hangyoreh 
Sinmun newspaper after being the subject of an unflattering 
article.  This case has not yet been adjudicated.  In a 
celebrated case, some Ewha University students sued Newsweek 
magazine after it published an article describing many Ewha 
students as materialistic "slaves to money."  The magazine was 
ordered to pay $25,000 to each of three Ewha undergraduates 
whose photographs were used to illustrate the story.

Prosecutors continued to indict dissidents under the NSL for 
producing, selling, or distributing pro-North Korean or pro-
Communist materials.  Court precedents allow Koreans to possess 
these kinds of publications for purely academic use, profit, or 
curiosity, but not with the intent of subverting the State.  
Prosecutors sometimes abuse the discretion allowed them in 
determining motives for possessing or publishing such material.
In 1994 it led to a number of arrests of publishers and writers.
In one such case, police arrested Park Chi Kwan, Chief Editor 
of Il-Teo publishing, for possessing and publishing a novel 
about laborers in steel mills originally published in North 
Korea.  In September police asked prosecutors to seek an 
indictment of Cho Chung Rae, author of "Taebek Mountain," a 
novel published several years ago that depicts Communist 
partisans in South Korea in the 1940's in a sympathetic light.

The Government continued to allow, within its guidelines, an 
increase in media coverage of North Korea.  South Korean 
television networks continued to broadcast edited versions of 
North Korean television programs.  The media extensively 
reported on U.S. and South Korean talks with North Korean 
officials, sending reporters to cover U.S.-North Korean talks 
in New York and Geneva.

In July the authorities began investigating eight Kyongsang 
University professors whose textbook on Korean society was 
deemed by prosecutors to endorse North Korean ideology.  This 
investigation caused an outcry in the scholarly community as 
being a serious infringement of academic freedom.  Prosecutors 
who sought to arrest several of the professors under the NSL 
were denied warrants by a judge who argued that the prosecutors 
had not provided evidence of the professors' pro-Communist 

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Law on Assembly and Demonstrations prohibits assemblies 
considered likely to undermine public order.  It forbids 
outside interference in peaceful assemblies approved by the 
authorities.  The law requires that the police be notified in 
advance of demonstrations of all types, including political 
rallies.  Police must notify organizers if they consider the 
event impermissible under this law.  Associations, except those 
whose aim is deemed by the Government to be the overthrow of 
the State, operate freely.

In general, police showed restraint and discipline in the face 
of severe provocation during violent demonstrations in 1994.  
During the first part of the year, authorities issued 
demonstration permits with few restrictions.  However, because 
of an upsurge in violent protests, which increased more than 
fourfold in the first quarter of 1994, authorities became more 
restrictive.  Such universities as Konguk and Sogang forbade 
rallies on campus.  In the past, Korean universities 
traditionally had been a safe haven for virtually all forms of 
political protest.  Unlike in 1993, the Government did not 
support the "South-North Human Chain for Peace and 
Reunification" organized by the National Council of Churches in 
Korea (KNCC), and authorities limited the scope of the human 
chain rallies.  The Government also blocked other Liberation 
Day demonstrations organized by student groups and by a 
dissident coalition representing "Pomminnyon" (Pannational 
Alliance for Unification), arguing that the rallies would lead 
to violence.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the 
Government respects this provision in practice.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

For most citizens, there is universal freedom of movement 
within the country.  However, police may restrict the movements 
of some political prisoners who were released from prison.  
Foreign travel is generally unrestricted, but travel to North 
Korea is allowed only with government approval.  One of the 
conditions is that the trip must not have a political 
purpose--that is, to praise North Korea or criticize the South 
Korean Government.  Travelers to North Korea who do not meet 
this criterion are likely to be punished upon their return to 
South Korea.  For example, authorities revoked the publishing 
license of Park Bo Hi, President of a newspaper in Seoul, after 
he made an unauthorized trip to North Korea.  Police also 
arrested Pomminnyon leaders Reverend Kang Hee Nam and Ahn Hee 
Chan who planned to enter North Korea through Panmunjom to 
attend Kim Il Sung's funeral.

Between August 1989 and August 1992, 539 South Koreans in 18 
different groups visited North Korea, and another 2,247 
contacted North Koreans with government approval.  In 1994, 
however, the two sides had few exchanges because of renewed 
tensions caused by North Korea's refusal to allow complete 
International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of its nuclear 

In the past, the Government has forbidden some Koreans 
convicted of politically related crimes from returning to 
Korea.  In September the NSP lifted the entry ban on composer 
Yun I Sang, a dissident who has been living in Berlin for a 
number of years.  However, the Government required that he 
refrain from any political activity while in Korea and that he 
give an accounting of his political activities overseas before 
authorities would allow him into the country.  (Yun refused 
these conditions and decided against returning to South Korea.)

The Government cooperates with the office of the U.N. High 
Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations 
in assisting refugees, and there were no reports of forced 
expulsions of those having a valid claim to refugee status.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

The Korean people have the right to elect their own 
government.  The Constitution, as amended in 1987, provides for 
the direct election of the President and for a mixed system of 
direct and proportional election of legislators to the 
unicameral National Assembly.  The President serves a single 
5-year term and may not be reelected.  The National Assembly's 
term is 4 years.

There is universal suffrage for all citizens aged 20 or above, 
and elections are held by secret ballot.  Kim Young Sam, who 
took office in February 1992, is Korea's first civilian chief 
executive in nearly 30 years.

Because of cultural traditions and discrimination, women occupy 
few important positions in government.  In past governments, 
the only woman in the Cabinet had been the second minister for 
political affairs, whose portfolio was Women's Affairs.  
Currently there are two women in the Cabinet, holding 
portfolios of Women's Affairs and Education.  In addition, a 
woman was appointed mayor of Kwangmyong City, and a female 
legislator was appointed to chair one of the special committees 
of the National Assembly.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Several nongovernmental private organizations are active in 
promoting human rights, and they operate without government 
restriction.  Chief among these groups are the Lawyers for a 
Democratic Society, Sarangbang, the Human Rights Committee of 
the National Council of Churches in Korea, the Korean Bar 
Association, and "Mingahyup," an association of the families of 
political prisoners.  These groups publish reports on the human 
rights situation in Korea and make their views known both 
inside and outside the country.  Government and ruling party 
officials generally have been willing to meet with 
international human rights groups.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


A conservative Confucian tradition has left women subordinate 
to men socially, economically, and legally.  In some companies 
women are expected to resign upon marriage or no later than the 
birth of their first child.  There has been some limited and 
gradual change in social mores and attitudes affecting women; 
for example, women have full access to education, and a few 
have become government officials and hold elected office.

The Government has not effectively enforced equal employment 
opportunity legislation dating to 1988.  As a result there are 
very few women who work as company executives or leading 
officials in government.  While women account for just over 40 
percent of the economically active population, the average 
female worker's wage remained a little over half of that of the 
average male worker.

The traditional preference for male children continues in Korea 
today, although it is less pronounced among people in their 
twenties and thirties.  Korean law bans sex testing and 
abortions except when the woman's life is in danger, a 
hereditary disease would be passed along, or in case of rape or 
incest.  However, fetal sex testing and abortion of female 
fetuses remain common, and it is estimated that when today's 
children reach marrying age there will be 400,000 "surplus 

Violence against women remains pervasive, and the law does not 
provide adequate protection.  Spouse abuse is common, and some 
women's rights groups maintain that it has worsened in the past 
few years.  The Amended Family Law, which went into effect in 
1991, permits women to head a household, recognizes a wife's 
right to a portion of the couple's property, and allows a woman 
to maintain greater contact with her offspring after a 
divorce.  Although the revisions helped abused women, divorce 
still remains a social taboo, and there is little government or 
private assistance for divorced women.  These factors, plus the 
fact that divorced women have limited employment opportunities 
and have difficulty remarrying, lead some women to stay in 
abusive situations.  The Government has created some shelters 
for battered women and increased the number of child care 
facilities, which gives women in abusive situations more 
options, but women's rights groups say they fall far short of 
effectively dealing with the problem.

Korea has an extremely high rate of reported rapes.  A 1992 
report by the National Police Agency estimated that 9.8 women 
per 1,000 are raped in South Korea.  Since that time, the 
number of reported cases may well have risen.  The activities 
of a number of women's groups in Korea have increased awareness 
of the importance of reporting and prosecuting rapes as well as 
less serious offenses such as sexual harassment in the 
workplace.  In a precedent-setting case this spring, a female 
researcher at Seoul National University who alleged sexual 
harassment by a professor was awarded approximately $40,000 in 
damages.  The award received wide and favorable media coverage, 
but such cases remain the exception to the rule.  According to 
women's rights groups, cases involving sexual harassment or 
rape generally go unprosecuted, and perpetrators, if convicted, 
often receive very lenient sentences.


Children's human rights and welfare have not been prominent 
social policy issues.  The Government continued to devote an 
increasing share of the overall budget to social expenditures, 
which includes those related to the welfare of children.

Child abuse has not been studied extensively, and statistics on 
such abuse are limited.  Reported cases of child abuse have 
generally numbered less than 50 in recent years.  Although 
experts believe that a number of cases go unreported, instances 
of child abuse still appear to be relatively rare.  According 
to official statistics, the number of runaway children each 
year has dropped from about 7,000 in the past to approximately 
1,000.  The Seoul metropolitan government runs a children's 
counseling center, which investigates reports of abuse, 
counsels families, and cares for runaway children.  In the 
absence of a specific law against child abuse, however, it is 
difficult to prosecute and punish child abusers unless they 
commit a crime punishable under a separate law.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Republic of Korea is a racially homogeneous country with no 
ethnic minorities of significant size.  Nonetheless, regional 
rivalries exist.  Persons from the southwestern region (North 
and South Cholla provinces) have traditionally faced 
discrimination.  Many Koreans believe that successive 
governments led by figures from the southeastern region (North 
and South Kyongsang provinces) have deliberately neglected the 
economic development of the Cholla provinces for political 
reasons.  President Kim attempted to alleviate longstanding 
regional grievances, such as the violent suppression of the May 
1980 Kwangju uprising, through more evenhanded government 
spending and appointments.  Centuries of isolation and a 
history of foreign invasion and occupation engendered a 
tradition of xenophobia in Korea.

Citizenship in Korea is based on blood, not location of birth, 
and Koreans must show as proof their family genealogy.  Thus, 
Korean-born Chinese residents cannot obtain Korean citizenship 
or become public servants and are unlikely to be hired by major 
corporations.  Due to legal as well as societal discrimination, 
many Chinese residents in Korea have emigrated to other 
countries since the 1970's.  Amerasian children are usually 
able to obtain Korean citizenship, and no legal discrimination 
against them exists.  Informal discrimination, however, is 
prevalent and makes it more difficult for Amerasians to succeed 
in academia, business, or government.

     People with Disabilities

Community and social organizations have begun to consider the 
rights and treatment of people with physical and mental 
disabilities.  Although there are public displays of concern 
for the disabled, such as the Special Olympics and television 
documentaries, public facilities for their everyday care and 
use remained inadequate, and their general treatment by society 
discriminatory.  The Government lacked adequate educational 
programs and schools for severely disabled people.  The 
Government did not discriminate officially against the disabled 
who were capable of attending regular schools, but societal 
pressures and cultural biases have a negative impact on that 
access.  The Government has introduced guidelines encouraging 
businesses to reserve a portion of jobs for the diasbled. 
Beginning in 1995, new public buildings will be required to 
include facilities for the handicapped such as a ramp access to 
entrances, a wheelchair lift, and parking spaces for the 

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution gives workers, with the exception of public 
service employees and teachers, the right to free association.  
There are some blue-collar public sector unions in railroads, 
telecommunications, the postal service, and the national 
medical center.  The Trade Union Law specifies that only one 
union is permitted at each place of work and that all unions 
are required to notify the authorities when formed or 
dissolved.  About 16.4 percent of all Korean workers are 
members of a union.

In the past, the Government did not formally recognize labor 
federations which were not part of or affiliated with the 
country's two legally recognized labor groupings--the 
Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) and the independent 
Korean Federation of Clerical and Financial Workers.  In the 
past several years, however, the Labor Ministry officially 
recognized some independent white-collar federations 
representing hospital workers, journalists, and office workers 
at construction firms and government research institutes.  
Korean courts ruled in 1992 that affiliation to the FKTU is not 
required in order to be registered as a legal labor 
federation.  In practice, labor federations not formally 
recognized by the Labor Ministry existed and worked without 
government interference, unless authorities considered their 
involvement in labor disputes disruptive.

The Government, however, did arrest unionists it viewed as 
acting as third parties in instigating or prolonging labor 
disputes.  The number of workers arrested for labor-related 
activities increased to over 60, compared with 11 in 1993.  
About 30 workers were still in jail as of year's end.  During 
the summer, for example, authorities arrested more than 20 
members of Chongihyup, an unregistered union of railway 
engineers, for leading an illegal railroad strike in June that 
paralyzed the transportation network for several days.  Other 
unionists whom authorities alleged had entered the labor 
movement to foment social unrest were also arrested.  In 
September police detained five members of the Songnam area 
workers' association and charged them under the NSL with trying 
to indoctrinate workers with Kim Il Sung's "juche" ideology.

The Government continued the ban on labor union activities by 
public and private schoolteachers, arguing that the teachers' 
union (Chonkyojo) is an essentially political organization with 
radical aims.  The Government continued its program of 
reinstating some of the 1,500 fired teachers if they resigned 
from Chonkyojo.

No minimum number of members are required to form a union, and 
unions may be formed without a vote of the full prospective 
membership.  Election and labor laws forbid unions from 
donating money to political parties or participating in 
election campaigns.  However, trade unionists have circumvented 
the ban by temporarily resigning their union posts and running 
for office on the ticket of a political party or as an 

Strikes are prohibited in government agencies, state-run 
enterprises, and defense industries.  By law, enterprises 
determined to be of "public interest," including public 
transportation, utilities, public health, banking, 
broadcasting, and communications must submit to 
government-ordered arbitration in lieu of striking.  The Labor 
Dispute Adjustment Act requires unions to notify the Labor 
Ministry of their intention to strike, and it mandates a 10-day 
"cooling-off period" before a strike may legally begin.  (This 
period is 15 days in public interest sectors.)  Labor laws 
prohibit retribution against workers who have conducted a legal 
strike and allow workers to file complaints of unfair labor 
practices against employers.

The FKTU is affiliated with the International Confederation of 
Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).  Most of the FKTU's 20 constituent 
federations maintain affiliations with international trade 
secretariats, as do KCIIF white-collar federations and the KTUC 
Metalworkers Council.  In response to freedom of association 
complaints lodged by Korean dissident and independent unions, 
the International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee on Freedom 
of Association again issued a report in 1994 which recommended 
that the Government bring Korean labor law and policy up to 
international worker rights standards in accordance with the 
principle of free association.

The Government under President Kim continued to cultivate a 
more neutral stance in labor disputes.  For example, the 
Government refused to intervene in the strike at Hyundai Heavy 
Industries (HHI), the first time since 1987 that a strike at 
HHI did not lead to state intervention.  Police intervention in 
labor disputes was relatively rare.  During the summer, 
however, the Government deployed police to arrest workers 
conducting sitdown demonstrations connected with the railroad 
and subway strikes.  Riot police also dispersed striking 
workers who had occupied buildings at Kumho and Daewoo 

There were no reports of employer-hired squads assaulting 
workers in 1994.

Since July 1991, South Korea has been suspended from the U.S. 
Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) insurance 
programs because of the Government's infringements on freedom 
of association and other worker rights.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Constitution and the Trade Union Law provide for the right 
of workers to collective bargaining and collective action.  
This law also empowers workers to file complaints of unfair 
labor practices against employers who interfere with union 
organizing or practice discrimination against unionists.  
Employers found guilty of unfair practices can be required to 
reinstate workers who were fired for union activities.

Extensive collective bargaining is practiced, even with unions 
that are not legally recognized by the Government.  Korea's 
labor laws do not extend the right to organize and bargain 
collectively to government employees, including employees of 
state or public-run enterprises, defense industries, and public 
and private schoolteachers.

Workers in Korea's two export processing zones (EPZ's), 
designated by the Government as public interest enterprises, 
whose rights to organize were formally restricted, have now 
been given all the rights enjoyed by workers in other sectors 
of the economy.

Korea has no independent system of labor courts.  The central 
and local labor commissions form a semiautonomous agency of the 
Labor Ministry that adjudicates disputes in accordance with the 
Labor Dispute Adjustment Law.  Each labor commission is 
composed of equal representation from labor (represented by the 
FKTU), management, and "the public interest."  Local labor 
commissions are empowered to decide on remedial measures in 
cases involving unfair labor practices and to mediate and, in 
some situations, arbitrate labor disputes.  Arbitration is 
compulsory in sectors of the economy (e.g., utilities and 
transportation) that are deemed essential to public welfare.

The Trade Union Law and Labor Dispute Adjustment Law forbid 
third-party intervention in union and labor disputes by 
federations not recognized by the Government (such as 
Chonnohyup and KCIIF), but they allow recognized labor 
federations, principally the FKTU, its affiliates, and some 
independent white-collar federations, to assist member unions.  
The ban on third-party intervention also exempts mediation 
efforts by lawyers, experts, and others who have the consent of 
both labor and management, a policy much criticized by non-FKTU 
labor leaders.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution provides that no person shall be punished, 
placed under preventive restrictions, or subjected to 
involuntary labor, except as provided by law and through lawful 
procedures.  Forced or compulsory labor is not condoned by the 
Government and is generally not practiced.  There were reports, 
however, of illegal foreign workers who were not paid back 
wages by their employers but who continued to work for their 
employers or who lacked the funds to return to their home 

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Labor Standards Law prohibits the employment of persons 
under the age of 13 without a special employment certificate 
from the Labor Ministry.  Because there is compulsory education 
until the age of 13, few special employment certificates are 
issued for full-time employment.  Some children are allowed to 
do part-time jobs such as selling newspapers.  In order to gain 
employment, children under 18 must have written approval from 
their parents or guardians.  Employers may require minors to 
work only a limited number of overtime hours and are prohibited 
from employing them at night without special permission from 
the Labor Ministry.  Child labor laws and regulations are clear 
and usually enforced when violations are found, but the 
Government employs too few inspectors to carry out regular 

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government implemented a minimum wage law in 1988.  The 
minimum wage level is reviewed annually.  As of September, 
1994, the minimum wage was raised to $12.00 (9,360 Won) per 
day.  Companies with fewer than 10 employees are exempt from 
this law.  Due to Korea's tight labor market, however, most 
firms pay wages well above the minimum in order to attract and 
retain workers.  The FKTU and other unions continue to claim 
that the current minimum wage does not meet the minimum 
requirements of urban workers.  In fact, a worker earning the 
minimum wage would have some difficulty in providing a decent 
standard of living for himself and his family, despite the 
fringe benefits such as transportation expenses with which 
Korean companies normally supplement salaries.  (The Government 
notes that the money an average Korean blue-collar worker takes 
home in overtime and bonuses significantly raises the total 
compensation package.)  According to the Ministry of Health and 
Social affairs, 5.2 percent of the population lived below the 
poverty level in 1992.

Employers continue to discriminate against foreign workers, 
most of whom come from China, the Philippines, Bangladesh, 
Nepal, and Pakistan to work, often illegally.  The Government 
has sought to alleviate the problem of illegal workers by 
initiating a pilot program whereby 20,000 foreign workers are 
allowed to enter Korea legally to work at established wages and 
with legal safeguards.  Illegal foreign workers, however, who 
probably number more than 60,000, still suffer significant 
hardships at the workplace, and employers often provide them 
substandard living accommodations.  It is difficult for illegal 
workers to seek relief for loss of pay or unsatisfactory living 
and working conditions because they are always under the threat 
of being deported.

Amendments to the Labor Standards Law passed in 1989 brought 
the maximum regular workweek down to 44 hours, with provision 
for overtime to be compensated at a higher wage, and also 
provide for a 24-hour rest period each week.  However, labor 
groups claim that the Government does not adequately enforce 
these laws, especially with regard to small companies.

The Government sets health and safety standards, but South 
Korea suffers from unusually high accident rates.  The accident 
rate continues to decline gradually, due to public and union 
pressure for better working conditions.  However, the number of 
deaths resulting from work-related accidents remains very high 
by international standards.  The Labor Ministry has improved 
enforcement of safety standards but still lacks enough 
inspectors to enforce the laws fully.  The Industrial Safety 
and Health Law does not guarantee security for workers who 
remove themselves from dangerous work environments.


[end of document]


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