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Amnesty slams Seoul's gag law

Freedom of expression under threat in country, watchdog says

Amnesty slams Seoul's gag law
Park Jin-ok (far right), senior manager of Amnestry International Korea, is reporting about Korea's human rights situation at a press conference on May 12 in Seoul
Stephen Hong, Seoul

May 13, 2011

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Amnesty International (AI) has strongly criticized the South Korean government for suppressing freedom of expression using the vaguely worded National Security Law. The international human rights watchdog makes the charges in its Amnesty International Report 2011 released today. Park Jin-ok, senior manager of AI Korea, said that the Seoul government "has increasingly used the law, so that people have to refrain from expressions or even thoughts about North Korea." Under the law a person can be arrested and prosecuted for carrying out any activity “praising”or benefiting the “enemy", North Korea. In March 2010, the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy sent a letter to the UN Security Council expressing doubts over the government's report on the sinking of the Cheonan warship, said AI. The watchdog said it feared that prosecutors investigate the NGO with the threat of legal charges. As of last August, 106 people were charged and 13 detained under the law, according to the National Police Agency. Park noted since the current government was inaugurated in 2008, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea has lost its independence and authority after failing to speak out or act on significant human rights issues. He also said thousands of foreign migrant workers continued to be deported, urging the government to let Michel Catuira, the leader of a migrant workers’union who is targeted for deportation, stay in the country. Meanwhile, AI noted that widespread violations of human rights continue in North Korea. These include severe restrictions on freedom of association, expression and movement, arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment resulting in death, and executions. It disclosed the North government operated at least six facilities housing thousands of political prisoners. Citing UNICEF, it also said that each year some 40,000 children under five years old became malnourished in the North, with some 25,000 needing hospital treatment. Related report Korean priests fast to demand repeal of security law KO14193
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