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Department Seal


Title:  Republic of Korea Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996

                      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
voting.  The judiciary operates independently of the executive branch.
The Government continued to reform the political system in 1995, holding
fair local elections in June.  As a result, control of local government
administration in major cities such as Seoul and in several provinces
passed into the hands of opposition parties.

Under the law, responsibility for maintaining internal security lies
with the National Security Planning Agency (NSP), the Korean National
Police, and the Defense Security Command.  There is an independent
intelligence oversight committee.  Legislation passed in 1993 restricts
the NSP from interfering in domestic politics; it has investigative
authority only in cases involving terrorism, espionage, and
international crime organizations.  There continued to be credible
reports of some NSP infringements of suspects' rights during the
interrogation process.

As a result of strong growth in 1994, Korea has one of the world's
largest economies as measured by gross national product.  Continued
strong growth in 1995 was expected to push annual per capita income past
$10,000.  In the near term, economic growth is expected to remain robust
due to high exports, investment in plant and equipment, and,
increasingly, consumer spending.  However, labor shortages, an
inefficient agricultural sector, and inadequate infrastructure continue
to constrain the performance of an otherwise extremely successful,
market-based economy.

The Government generally respects the human rights of its citizens;
however, problems remain in some areas.  The use or threatened use of
the National Security Law (NSL) continued to infringe upon citizens'
civil liberties, including the right to free expression.  There was no
progress toward reform of the NSL, although in some instances court
decisions limited the NSL's application in order to protect free speech.
Labor practices in Korea remained below international standards.  There
continued to be credible reports that in some instances police deprived
suspects of timely access to counsel and subjected detainees to threats,
physical abuse, and sleep deprivation during interrogation.  Women
continued to face legal and societal discrimination; violence against
women and physical abuse remained serious problems.  There is still no
effective legal redress for these problems.  However, judges continued
to demonstrate their independence by blocking the prosecution of
dissidents under the NSL, and the Ministry of Justice implemented new
guidelines requiring that suspects be told at the time of arrest of
their right to remain silent and their right to a lawyer.

The Government continued its surveillance of some released political
prisoners and required some of them to make regular reports to the
police under the Social Surveillance Law.  In August the Government
issued amnesty and pardons to a number of political dissidents,
including some prisoners who had been incarcerated since the Korean War.
However, the Government did not authorize independent investigations of
the cases of prisoners who had received sentences on charges believed to
have been fabricated by previous governments.  Some of these prisoners
had reportedly been subjected to torture to extract confessions and
received trials that did not meet international standards of fairness.


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

   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.  In
an effort to punish past abuses, prosecutors investigated former
President Chun Doo Hwan and other former high-ranking military officials
for their alleged role in the army's suppression of demonstrations in
Kwangju in 1980, which resulted in the death of several hundred
civilians.  At year's end, prosecutors were in the process of
determining whether criminal charges should be filed against Chun and
other officials for ordering the use of excessive force.

   b.   Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

The Government has ordered authorities to protect the human rights of
suspects and investigate allegations of abuse while in custody.
Nonetheless, prosecutors continued to place much emphasis on extracting
confessions from suspects.  In spite of government directives
discouraging sleep deprivation as an interrogation technique, there
continued to be credible reports of police use of sleep deprivation and
verbal or physical abuse.  There also continued to be reports that
police denied suspects timely access to an attorney.  For example,
Professor Park Chang-Lee was reported to have been deprived of sleep,
beaten, and threatened after his April arrest under the NSL.  In March
courts acquitted three persons on murder charges because of evidence
that police had in 1994 tortured the defendants in order to extract

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 failed to provide an effective
mechanism for redress, such as an independent body to investigate
complaints of past human rights violations.  It remained relatively rare
for officials accused of abuse or harassment of suspects to be
prosecuted.  In February the Government ratified the United Nations
International Convention on Torture, which will allow the U.N. Committee
Against Torture to bring cases of human rights violations to the
International Court of Justice.

Prison conditions are Spartan.  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 manacled prisoners.
Prisoner access to reading materials has improved significantly in
recent years, and they have been granted permission to receive
television and radio broadcasts.  There is little independent monitoring
of prison conditions, although representatives of human rights groups
may visit certain prisoners at the discretion of 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 praised North Korea, its former
leader Kim Il Sung, or the DPRK's "self-reliance" ("juche") political
philosophy.  (See also the North Korea report.)  The U. N. 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.

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
citizens have been arrested for what appeared to be the peaceful
expression of opposing views.  For example, in March Professor Kim Mu
Yong, a 34-year-old history lecturer, was arrested under Article 7.  He
was accused of supporting North Korea through conclusions he had reached
and published about the Korean guerrilla movement of the 1940's and

The Government's rationale for keeping the NSL is the claim 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 sometimes relieve the Government of
the burden of proof in a court of law that any particular speech or
action does, in fact, threaten the nation's security.  Citizens
continued to be arrested for unauthorized travel to North Korea (see
Section 2.d.).

The Criminal Code 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 present themselves
for questioning for up to 6 hours but must notify the suspects'
families.  The police generally respected these legal requirements.

Upon issuance of an arrest warrant, the security services normally must
release suspects after 30 days unless an indictment is issued.  Hence,
detainees are a relatively small percentage of the total prison

The Constitution specifically provides for the right to representation
by an attorney, but attorneys are not allowed to be present during a
police interrogation.  The Government began in 1993 to permit suspects
to consult with "duty lawyers" during breaks in the interrogation.  The
Justice Ministry also in 1995 issued guidelines requiring police to
inform suspects at the time of arrest about their right to be
represented by a lawyer.  In at least one case, prosecutors refused to
issue an arrest warrant because the police had not read the suspect his
rights when subdued by police.  Despite these regulations, there
continued to be complaints that access to a lawyer was restricted.
There is a functioning bail system, 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

Exile is not used as a means of political control.

   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary.  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 1995.  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 1995.

The judicial system has local courts presided over by judges who render
verdicts in all cases.  There is no trial by jury.  Defendants can
appeal a verdict to a district appeals court and to the Supreme Court.
Constitutional challenges can be taken to the Constitutional Court.  The
Constitutional Court, which began operation in 1988, continued to expand
its role of interpreting the Constitution.  The Constitution provides
defendants a number of rights in criminal trials, including  the right
to a speedy trial, the right of appeal, presumption of innocence,
protection against self-incrimination, and freedom from retroactive laws
and double jeopardy.  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

In a notable instance of judicial independence, in April a Seoul
appellate court acquitted Lee Chang Bok, a leader of the National
Alliance for Democracy and Reunification of Korea, after he had been
sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment by a lower court.  In reversing the
conviction, the appeals court ruled that the simple coincidence of a
citizen's political views with North Korean policy cannot be used as
grounds for prosecution.  The NSL conviction of Park Chi Kwon, an editor
of the monthly magazine "Man and Workplace," was also reversed by the
courts; Park had been convicted after publishing a book by a North
Korean author.  The appeals court ruled in May that the NSL should not
be interpreted to make publishing the novel a criminal offense.

Judges generally allow considerable scope for examination of witnesses
by both the prosecution and defense.  The same courts try cases
involving national security and criminal cases.  Although convictions
are rarely overturned, appeals often result in reduced sentences.  Death
sentences are automatically appealed.

The courts continued to investigate allegations of past abuse of
political dissidents.  Human rights groups believe that many of these
dissidents were sentenced to long prison terms during the 1970's and
1980's on trumped up charges of spying for North Korea.  Furthermore,
they reportedly 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.  The Government granted
amnesty to a number of these prisoners in 1995, including long-term
prisoners Kim Son Myong and Ahn Hak Sop.  Human rights groups allege
that other political prisoners have been denied early parole because
they refused to renounce real or alleged Communist beliefs.  Some
political prisoners who have been released are subjected to police
surveillance and are required to report their activities regularly to
the police.

It is difficult to estimate the number of political prisoners, 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.  Despite an extensive amnesty
announced by President Kim Young Sam in August, some human rights
monitors estimate the number of political prisoners in Korea to be as
high as 400.  However, these monitors' 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
be 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 telephone monitoring, 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
assert that the lack of an independent body to investigate whether
police have employed illegal wiretaps hinders the effectiveness of the
Antiwiretap Law.

Citizens are not allowed to listen to radio broadcasts from North Korea
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 education.

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.  Broad interpretations of the NSL allow
for restrictions on the peaceful expression of dissenting views.
Although most radio and television stations are state supported, the
stations maintain a large degree of editorial independence in their news

While the Government has abandoned direct control over the news media,
it continues to exercise considerable indirect influence.  Journalists
and editors practice some degree of self-censorship, avoiding or
softening criticism of the Government in order to advance their careers.
Moreover, while the Government's anticorruption campaign curtailed
politicians' payments of money to reporters, it did not eliminate these
payments.  Nevertheless, press criticism of the Government is
widespread, and the Government did not use heavy-handed or repressive
measures to influence media reporting.

The Government or other complainants sometimes use libel laws to win
judgments against publications for articles that are unflattering.  In
1994 Kim Hyon Chol, President Kim's son, sued the Hangyoreh Sinmun
newspaper after being the subject of an unflattering article.  At the
end of 1995, the case had not yet been adjudicated.

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.  Because prosecutors are allowed wide latitude
in determining motives for possessing or publishing such material,
people continued to be arrested for such NSL violations.  For example,
Moon Ki Seh and Lee Kyung Ryol were arrested in March for producing and
distributing a pamphlet at the funeral of a former political prisoner
who had fought for North Korea during the Korean War.  The pamphlet was
alleged to have praised the political prisoner's past exploits.  Both of
the dissidents involved in this case received suspended sentences.

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.

The Government censorship board, which screens movies for sexual or
violent content before release, has followed more liberal guidelines in
recent years.

Beginning in 1994, authorities began investigating eight Kyongsang
University professors whose textbook on Korean society was deemed by
prosecutors to endorse North Korean ideology.  This investigation
triggered extensive criticism in the scholarly community as constituting
a serious infringement on academic freedom.  Prosecutors attempted to
arrest several of the professors under the NSL but were denied warrants
for insufficient evidence.  At year's end, it did not appear that
further action would be taken against the professors, but they remained
under formal investigation.

   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.  The Government did not generally interfere with
rallies in 1995.

   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 former
prisoners.  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 receive government permission are
likely to be arrested upon their return to South Korea.  For example,
authorities arrested Park Yong Kil, the 75-year-old widow of Reverend
Mun Ik Hwan, in July.  Like her deceased husband, Park visited Pyongyang
without government authorization, and reportedly met with high-level
North Korean officials.  In addition, Ahn Ho Sang and Kim Son Jok,
leaders of the Korean folk religion Daejonggyo, were arrested when they
returned from an unauthorized 5-day trip to North Korea in April.

In the past, the Government forbade some Koreans convicted of
politically related crimes from returning to Korea, and some citizens
would face sanctions upon return.  In 1994 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

Citizens 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.  All citizens aged 20 or above have the
right to vote, and elections are held by secret ballot.

Kim Young Sam, who took office in February 1992, is Korea's first chief
executive in nearly 30 years not to have a career military background.
In June the Government held local elections deemed to be free and fair.
The elections also resulted in increased representation for opposition

Because of cultural traditions and discrimination, women occupy few
important positions in government.  In the current and past governments,
the only woman in the Cabinet has been the second minister for political
affairs, whose portfolio is Women's Affairs.  In addition, a woman was
elected mayor of Kwangmyong City, and a female legislator chairs 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

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

The Constitution and equal opportunity statutes forbid discrimination on
the basis of race, sex, religion, disability, or social status, and the
Government respects these provisions.  However, traditional attitudes
sometimes limit opportunities for women and the disabled.  Ethnic
minorities face both legal and societal discrimination.


Violence against women remains a problem and some women's rights groups
maintain that it has worsened in the past few years.  The law does not
provide adequate protection to victims of abuse.

Rape remained a serious problem, with 6,173 cases reported in 1994 (the
last year for which statistics are available).  Many incidents of rape
go unreported because of the stigma associated with being a rape victim.
The activities of a number of women's groups have increased awareness of
the importance of reporting and prosecuting rapes as well as offenses
such as sexual harassment in the workplace.  However, in July a Seoul
appellate court overturned a landmark 1994 sexual harassment decision by
ruling that evidence that a professor coerced or damaged the alleged
victim was insufficient.  A female researcher at Seoul National
University had been awarded approximately $40,000 in damages for being
sexually harassed.  According to women's rights groups, most cases
involving sexual harassment or rape go unprosecuted, and perpetrators,
if convicted, often receive very lenient sentences.

Spousal abuse is a continuing problem and has reportedly increased in
recent 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 children after a divorce.  Although the revisions
helped abused women, divorce 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 environments more options, but women's rights groups say they
fall far short of dealing effectively with the problem.

As a result of conservative Confucian tradition, women are subordinate
to men socially, economically, and legally.  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.  Despite the passage of
equal employment opportunity legislation in 1988, few women work as
company executives or leading officials in government.


Children's human rights and welfare have not been prominent social
policy issues, although the Government has demonstrated a commitment to
promote children's health and welfare.  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 per year 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 not possible to
prosecute and punish child abusers unless they commit a crime punishable
under a separate law.

The traditional preference for male children continues, although it is
less pronounced among younger generations.  Although the law bans such
practices, fetal sex testing and abortion of female fetuses are still
believed to occur frequently; hard evidence to support this conclusion
is unavailable.

   People With Disabilities

Community and social organizations have begun to consider the rights and
treatment of people with physical and mental disabilities.  Although
there were 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.  The Government did not
discriminate officially against the disabled who were capable of
attending regular schools, but societal pressures and cultural biases
influenced parents to send disabled children to special schools.

After a dramatic suicide in the spring by a wheelchair-bound street
vendor who claimed that the Government's crackdown on unlicensed vendors
deprived him of the chance to make a living, the Government stepped up
efforts to help the disabled.  President Kim announced in late April
that his Government would expand job training programs, medical
benefits, and welfare facilities for disabled citizens.  Since 1991
Korean firms with over 300 employees have been required by law either to
hire disabled workers or pay a fee.  After human rights groups
publicized a recent survey indicating that 89 percent of such companies
either paid the fee or evaded the law, the Labor Ministry announced it
would increase the subsidies provided to companies that hire the
disabled.  In 1995 new public buildings were required to include
facilities for the disabled such as a ramp access to entrances, a
wheelchair lift, and parking spaces for the disabled; these requirements
were generally met.

   National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Republic of Korea is a racially homogeneous country with no ethnic
minorities of significant size.  Citizenship in Korea is based on blood,
not location of birth, and Koreans must show as proof their family
genealogy.  Ethnic Chinese born and resident in Korea cannot obtain
citizenship or become public servants, and sometimes have difficulty
being hired by some major corporations.  Due to legal as well as
societal discrimination, many ethnic Chinese once resident 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 difficult for Amerasians to succeed in academia, business, or

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 10 percent of Korean workers are members of a union.

In the past, the Government did not formally recognize labor federations
which were not 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.  The 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 functioned 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 labor disputes.  By year's end, 30 workers
had been arrested for violating the labor laws according to Ministry of
Labor statistics, and 21 of them remained in prison.  This statistic
does not include workers who were charged with violating other laws
during a labor disturbance.  In the spring, for example, authorities
issued arrest warrants for about 20 unionists at the Korean telephone
company, Korea Telecom, who police said had committed provocations such
as disrupting board of directors meetings and assaulting company

The Government continued the ban on labor union activities by public and
private schoolteachers, arguing that the teachers' union (Chonkyojo) is
essentially a political organization with radical aims.  The Government
continued its program of reinstating those among the 1,500 fired
teachers who agreed to resign from Chonkyojo.

No minimum number of members is required to form a union.  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 from 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, unions in enterprises determined to be
of "public interest," including public transportation, utilities, public
health, banking, broadcasting, and communications, can be ordered to
submit to government-ordered arbitration instead 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.

Kwon Yong Kil, Chairman of the dissident Korean Council of Trade Unions
(KCTU), was arrested in November for labor law violations stemming from
his involvement in disputes such as the 1994 railway workers' strike.
The authorities charged that he had fomented illegal strikes in the
public sector.  Human rights groups argued that Kwon was arrested for
attempting to exercise the legitimate functions of a leader of a trade
union federation in consulting with unions involved in a dispute.  His
case had not been adjudicated at year's end, and Kwon remained in

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 does 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 issued a report in 1994 recommending 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.  Nevertheless, police were dispatched to the
Hyundai automobile factory in Ulsan in May when workers there who
opposed the policies of their union president staged a wildcat work
stoppage that paralyzed the plant.  Also, authorities served arrest
warrants and took into custody Korea Telecom unionists for disrupting
board of directors meetings and committing other provocations.  There
were no reports of employer-hired squads assaulting workers.

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

   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.  The 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.

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
can be made 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 the dissident federation, Minjunochong), 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

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 gradually been given
all the rights enjoyed by workers in other sectors of the economy.

   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 not practiced.

   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 hold part-time jobs such as selling
newspapers.  In order to gain employment, children under age 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 inspections.

   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government implemented a minimum wage law in 1988.  The minimum wage
level, which applies to all firms with 10 or more employeees, is
reviewed annually.  As of September, the minimum wage was raised to
approximately $1.65 (1,275 won) per hour.  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

Foreign workers, most of whom come from China, the Philippines,
Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan, often face difficult working
conditions.  The Government has sought to ameliorate the problems of
illegal workers by initiating a program whereby 50,000 foreign workers
were allowed to enter Korea legally to work at established wages and
with legal safeguards.  In March the Government also announced its
intention to ratify ILO conventions concerning foreign workers.  Illegal
foreign workers, who probably number more than 60,000, still suffer
significant hardships at the workplace.  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.  The Government has, however, established counseling centers
that will hear complaints from illegal foreign workers facing
deportation about such issues as overdue wages and industrial accidents.

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 the law also provides 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

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 job security for workers who remove
themselves from dangerous work environments.


[end of document]


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