NHRC head’s second term challenged
Progressive groups are criticizing President Lee Myung-bak for giving another three-year term to Hyun Byung-chul as head of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), saying human rights in South Korea have worsened during his term.
A number of civic activists, laborers and professors have joined forces to demand the resignation of the 68-year-old conservative NHRC head.
More than 90 private human rights groups have decided to form an emergency committee to denounce Lee’s decision to extend Hyun’s term on June 11.
Cheong Wa Dae said that the President granted Hyun another term as he has run the organization “fairly and in an unbiased manner” since July 2009.
The administration recognized Hyun’s efforts to raise global awareness on human rights violations in North Korea.
The progressive groups, on the other hand, have criticized him for being “indifferent and ignorant” toward local human rights issues.
“He has marred the reputation of the NHRC as he has taken regressive, or even repressive measures against local victims for the past three years,” said a member of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a civic group that watches for possible government violations of people’s freedom.
Another civic group echoed a similar view.
“We regard giving another term to Hyun as a challenge toward our people and our civil liberty,” the Human Rights Solidarity for New Society said in a statement. “And we demand President Lee withdraw his irresponsible and reckless decision immediately.” The groups say Hyun failed to recognize the alleged illegal surveillance of the citizens by the Prime Minister’s Office this year.
Speculation has risen that Lee was involved in the scheme to keep an eye on anyone critical of him and his administration.
Hyun said the NHRC will look into the case but the groups claim that he has failed to make efforts to clarify the suspicions.
“All he did was to sit in his office and skim through the documents, proving nothing,” said a professor of Inha University Law School in Incheon.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions also criticized the NHRC for ignoring requests from Kim Jin-sook, an activist who staged a months-long strike on a high-altitude crane until 2011, to investigate labor rights violations at local firms. The female worker at Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction protested the firm’s decision to lay off employees.