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National rights group chief must go: coalition

They say Hyun Byung-chul's chairmanship of national body has silenced dissent

Protesters decry Hyun's rights record in Seoul on Wednesday Protesters decry Hyun's rights record in Seoul on Wednesday
  • Stephen Hong, Seoul
  • Korea
  • July 12, 2012
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Local and international human rights groups have opposed the reappointment of the head of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK), saying he has helped silence opposition to human rights violations across the country.

A coalition of 300 rights groups across the country held a protest rally Wednesday in front of the commission's offices to ask for the immediate resignation of Hyun Byung-chul as chairman of the commission.

The Presidential Office announced in June that Hyun would be reappointed for a three-year tenure, saying his commission has played a leading role in protecting human rights since he was appointed as head in 2009.

The National Assembly will begin his confirmation hearings on July 16.

The coalition, however, says Hyun has limited the NHRCK’s role in watching over government institutions.

Hyun kept rights violation issues from being discussed at the NHRCK, according to protesters.

“He has just wanted to be absolutely faithful to the current government and President Lee Myung-bak, who does not have any human rights policy,” said Myoung Sook, coordinator of the coalition.

She said Hyun is unfit to assume such a responsibility to protect and improve human rights “independently.”

Hyun said that though he was aware of opposition to his re-appointment, he would only speak during the confirmation hearings.

International rights groups, such as the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), have also expressed concern about his reappointment.

The NHRCK, which had been hailed as a model for other countries in the region before his appointment, has significantly deteriorated under Hyun, the AHRC  said.

“If his reappointment is made at the National Assembly, this will indicate that the NHRCK is no longer independent, but performs its work as per government policy and under the will of President Lee,” the Hong Kong-based AHRC said in a statement on Tuesday.

The same day, almost 400 lawyers and law professors held a press conference to say that under Hyun the NHRCK has become an object of ridicule by the international community for ignoring the cry of people whose rights have been abused.

The daily Kyunghyang Shinmun newspaper reported Thursday that Hyun has submitted to the National Assembly a list of the commission's achievements under his tenure that have brought honor to the country in the eyes of the international community.

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