Rights panel head is big disgrace to nation
President Lee Myung-bak appears set not to retract his renomination of Hyun Byung-chul, the controversial head of the National Human Rights Commission.
Lee’s decision will disappoint most if not all Koreans but astonish few. Had the President any intention to listen to the loud outcry from his political opponents and the general public, he wouldn’t have re-designated Hyun in the first place.
The National Assembly’s Steering Committee, which held confirmation hearings for Hyun, couldn’t even adopt a report because of the refusal by opposition parties. The law permits the President to appoint his nominee with or without the Assembly’s endorsement. Lee will do so, and Hyun will gladly continue his work ― disrupting the human rights administration.
Looking back, Hyun’s taking office three years ago and what he has since done has been a tragicomedy demonstrating the consciousness, or lack thereof, of human rights among the nation’s leader and his aides. Back then, the former legal professor embarrassed questioning lawmakers by acknowledging that he had no experience in human rights affairs, and stunned them by saying, ``That (the lack of experience) could be better.”
The public soon learned why: he lacked not just experience but the will or minimal qualifications to conduct the job. The rights panel’s job is to take care of the minority ahead of the majority, the weak ahead of the powerful, and individuals ahead of the state. Hyun has gone in the opposite direction. He has ignored pleas from victims of human rights abuses, including squatters forced to leave their homes, in blind support of the government’s policy.
His only noticeable accomplishment was the activation of a department responsible for human rights abuses in North Korea. Even this, however, was to support the government’s hard-line North Korea policy, considering there is nothing the agency can do to substantively rectify what’s happening in the other half of the divided peninsula.
The human rights body under Hyun has been reduced from the government’s watchdog to its pet. Hyun even asked whether discrimination still remains against women in the nation, and emphasized Korea is now a multicultural country where people are living together, even with ``blackies.” So much so that even Amnesty International has requested the government rethink his renomination.
No less surprising is the ruling Saenuri Party’s decision to endorse Hyun, saying there are few ``decisive” reasons for his disqualification. Little wonder, again, considering how its leading presidential candidate, Park Geun-hye, defends her father’s long dictatorship that trampled on so many Koreans’ human rights, saying, ``Let’s leave it to future historians’ judgment.”
Hyun’s reappointment will completely destroy the human rights administration, antagonize conscientious citizens and pull down Korea’s international reputation in human rights, if any further fall is still possible.
The only genuine accomplishment by Hyun is reminding people that there should never be such a head of important state organs. And this may apply to his appointer as well.