Weekly Brief: Oct. 3rd – 9th

News

NHRCK decides that it’s anti-HIV/AIDS discrimination

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) has finally recommended that the Ministry of Justice end the practice of requiring HIV tests for E-2 visa recipients, after the UN’s CERD called for the same in May last year. As described in detail by the lawyer representing the complainant, the driving motivation behind the policy is one of racial stigmatization, and this certainly impacts the appalling treatment of HIV/AIDS patients that we’ve covered previously. For an even longer version of the policy’s history, read Wagner’s article in The Journal of Korean Law, Vol. 11, No. 2., or the CERD’s full findings.

Mistreatment of professionals on E-7 visas

Recent cases involving abusive working conditions for chefs at Indian restaurants show that enforcement policies for E-7 visas are full of loopholes and opportunities for exploitation, similar to the E-9 visa policies. The Ministry of Employment and Labor, which is responsible for inspecting workplaces for E-9 visa holders, does not have jurisdiction of workplaces of E-7 workers, despite having made requests to the Ministry of Justice. (E-7 visas are for workers who are professionals or experts in their fields, whereas E-9 visas are for unskilled workers, typically in manufacturing or agricultural sectors.)

Sewol commission is treading water

The Sewol commission’s term has officially ended, but the staff are finding ways to stay alive as a civilian commission. They plan to file a suit against the government for prematurely shutting down the commission and proposing an amendment that would allow for the creation of a second commission. For those keeping track, it’s been over two and a half years since the sinking, but Sewol demonstrations continue unabated.

Baek Nam-gi Update

The police investigators have not yet conducted an autopsy on the body of Baek Nam-gi, the activist who died on Sep. 25th after spending 317 days in a coma brought on by police water cannons. Those for and against the autopsy are fighting vigorously, and attacks are getting personal. Opposition parties are calling for a special investigation, the proper legal interpretation of the conditional autopsy warrant is being hotly debated, and Baek’s family is calling for Seoul National University Hospital to revise the official cause of death to be ‘external causes’. The autopsy warrant is valid only until 25 October, so expect this to be down to the wire.

Day of the week

Today (10 October) is Pregnant Women’s Day in the Seoul subways. The Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit, operator of lines 5 to 8, hopes to encourage riders to give up their seats for pregnant women and to emphasize that designated seats at ends of each subway car are not just for the elderly.

In brief

  • Seoul plans to remove advertisements on subway station platforms in favor of more emergency doors (to be used if passengers have to evacuate a train).
  • A reminder that same-sex relations in the military are punishable with two years of imprisonment, despite being legal for the general public.
  • Emergency text messages sent out by the Ministry of Public Safety and Security will now include earthquake warnings, but only to those with 4G service and only in Korean.
  • Only 34.5% of women at private companies make use of the government’s maternity leave system when they become pregnant, compared to 67%-75% for women directly employed by the government or at institutions that are partly government funded. Concerns about being indirectly punished when it comes to career advancement opportunities are often cited by women as the major reason for not taking full advantage of their maternity leave.
  • 1% of cars on Jeju are electric, and the island has plans to increase that amount. One can’t help but see news like this in a different light after reading Amnesty International’s report from last week.

And that was the news from last week. We value your feedback. Send any questions, comments, errors, or omissions to weeklybrief@8d2.359.myftpupload.com.

Weekly Brief is a collection of the must-read articles regarding human rights and social issues in South Korea, produced in collaboration with the Korea Human Rights Foundation (KHRF / 한국인권재단). The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of KHRF.

Daniel Corks is Korea Exposé's human rights editor and a research fellow at Korea Human Rights Foundation.