UN expert concerned over threats to democracy in South Korea

"Protests helped make this country great, and openness has long been a tradition. I would urge both the people and Government of this country to cherish that legacy,” stated the UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai after his visit to South Korea last week.

The UN expert is impressed by the strong civil society and tradition of taking to the street speaking once mind in South Korea. He states that the recent regression of the right to peaceful assembly could threaten the entire democratic system.

Mr Kiai is also concerned over the restrictions of the right to freedom of association and urges the Korean government to do more to protect and foster fundamental rights at work.

“Trade unions cannot strike over issues beyond immediate disputes emerging from the terms and conditions of employment. Workers cannot engage in solidarity strikes, and those engaged in what are regarded as “illegal strikes” by the government may be subject to criminal charges of obstruction of business or civil suits for damages,”

The UN representative recommends that South Korea immediately ratifies the International Labour Organization Conventions 87 and 98 to guarantee the right to freedom of association and rescinding the reservation to article 22 of the The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

“The South Korean government is planning very regressive labour reforms and workers must be able to protest when their rights are under attack. Trying to silence their voices simply won’t work and it is unworthy a country that calls itself a democracy,” says Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of the BWI.