RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no reports of arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life committed by the Government or its agents.
The Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths continued to investigate and redress cases of government-sanctioned torture and killing of pro-democracy activists under the military regimes of the past. Since its inception in 2000, the Commission has reviewed 83 cases and confirmed 30 cases of suspicious deaths.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Penal Code prohibits mistreatment of suspects. The Government has ordered investigating authorities to protect the human rights of suspects, and allegations of abuse by authorities of those in custody continued to decline. Nonetheless, police sometimes abused persons in custody. Prosecutors continued to place emphasis on securing convictions through confessions, a focus driven by cultural factors, with confession viewed as a necessary basis for the reform and rehabilitation of convicted defendants. Credible sources reported that in some cases police verbally or physically abused suspects, including beatings, threats, and intimidation in the course of arrest and police interrogation. However, human rights groups reported fewer such cases during the year.
During the year, there were occasions when demonstrators used violent tactics, including firing nuts and bolts with slingshots and throwing Molotov cocktails. The police responded with commensurate force. Although some activists accused the police of brutality, most observers reported that police personnel acted in a disciplined and professional manner.
In recent years, under the National Public Service Law and criminal law, a number of police and security officials accused of abuse or harassment have been punished or disciplined through demotion, pay cuts, and dismissal. No police officials were charged under criminal law during the year for abuses committed while on duty.
The Government continued to investigate past abuses. For example, by year's end, the Commission for the Restoration of Honor and Compensation to Activists of the Democratization Movement, established in 2000 to review cases in which political activists may have been tortured, had reviewed 7,496 of the 11,901 cases submitted to it and determined that compensation was due in 402 of them.
Prison conditions and diets were spartan but met international standards. By year's end, the Government had installed floor heating and cooling systems in 35 of 44 prisons nationwide as part of a multi-year plan to upgrade the entire prison system. Traveling clinic teams visited prisons, and prison clinics were equipped with x-ray machines.
Inmates occasionally criticized guards for using excessive force or needlessly putting prisoners in manacles. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Asian Legal Resource Center (ALRC), in a report to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, criticized prison officials for disciplining prisoners by imposing multiple consecutive solitary confinement sentences. Under prison regulations, offending prisoners may be held in solitary confinement for a period of 2 months, but the ALRC alleged that officials routinely imposed consecutive terms, thus exceeding the 2-month limit. Inmates had access to reading materials, telephones, and television broadcasts. Education in computers and foreign languages, occupational training programs, and an Inmate Employment Center helped inmates prepare to resume normal lives. Most prisoners were allowed to receive up to five visitors four to six times per month. Some prisoners were allowed unlimited visits. Model prisoners who had served more than one-third of their sentences were allowed unsupervised meetings with visitors and were exempt from mail censorship. Some were eligible for overnight leave. Pregnant inmates received special treatment, including supplementary food, for the full term of their pregnancies and for an additional 6 months after giving birth. Pregnant inmates also received prenatal care for the full term of their pregnancies. Female inmates were not searched by male prison guards without the prior consent of the prison warden, and a female guard was present during such searches.
Female prisoners were segregated from male prisoners, and juveniles were segregated from adults.
The National Human Rights Commission monitored prison conditions through a prisoner petition system, in which prisoners could submit suggestions through a petition box in each prison. The Commission also conducted investigations and studies on medical equipment and facilities in prisons, provision of medical services, and conditions in military prisons. According to the Ministry of Justice, human rights NGOs are allowed to visit prisons by appointment and to submit recommendations to prison authorities.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Laws regarding arrest and detention often are vague, and prosecutors have wide latitude to interpret them. For example, the NSL defines espionage in broad terms and permits the authorities to detain and arrest persons who commit acts viewed as supporting North Korea, and therefore deemed dangerous to the country. The NSL permits the imprisonment for up to 7 years of anyone who "with the knowledge that he might endanger the existence or security of the State or the basic order of free democracy, praised, encouraged, propagandized for, or sided with the activities of an anti-state organization." The legal standard for what constitutes "endangering the security of the State" is vague. Thus, a number of persons have been arrested for what appeared to be the peaceful expression of views that the Government considered pro-North Korean or anti-state. Among those arrested under the NSL were persons who praised North Korea, its former leader Kim Il Sung, or North Korea's "self-reliance" philosophy.
Between January and July, 43 persons were arrested for violating the NSL, and 15 persons remained in custody as of September 5. One high-profile case was that of Professor Song Du-yul, a longtime resident of Germany accused of supporting the North Korean regime (see Section 2.d.).
Because of the vagueness of the NSL and the invocation of classified security threat information regarding the Korean Peninsula, the Government is relieved of the burden of proof that any particular speech or action in fact threatened the nation's security.
The U.N. Human Rights Committee has termed the NSL "a major obstacle to the full realization of the rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights." Then?President Kim Dae-jung, who himself narrowly avoided a death sentence under the NSL, acknowledged in 2000 that the law had "problematic areas" and announced his intent to pursue major revisions, particularly in light of improvements in relations between North and South Korea since the June 2000 summit.
The National Police Agency is under the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs. The approximately 93,000?member force has a national headquarters in Seoul, 5 special agencies including the Maritime Police, 13 provincial headquarters, 220 police stations, and 3,389 branch offices. The NPA was considered well disciplined, and corruption and impunity were not major problems.
The Criminal Code requires warrants in cases of arrest, detention, seizure, or search, except if a person is apprehended while committing a criminal act or if a judge is not available and the authorities believe that a suspect may destroy evidence or escape capture if not quickly arrested. In such emergency cases, judges must issue arrest warrants within 48 hours after the suspect is apprehended, or, if a court is not located in the same county, within 72 hours. Police may detain suspects who appear voluntarily for questioning for up to 6 hours but must notify the suspects' families. The police generally respected these requirements.
Authorities normally must release suspects after 30 days unless an indictment is issued. Consequently, detained suspects were a relatively small percentage of the total prison population.
The Constitution provides for the right to representation by an attorney, including during police interrogation. There were no reports of access to legal counsel being denied. There is a bail system, but human rights lawyers said bail generally was not granted for detainees who were charged with committing serious offenses, might attempt to flee or harm a previous victim, or had no fixed address.
The Constitution and law neither provide for nor prohibit forced exile. The Government does not use forced exile, although some persons living abroad could face criminal charges if they returned to the country (see Section 2.d.).