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북한-군사-위성사진2010. 3. 11. 19:50
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Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 11, 2010

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) is a dictatorship under the absolute rule of Kim Jong-il, general secretary of the Korean Workers' Party (KWP) and chairman of the National Defense Commission (NDC), the "highest office of state." The country has an estimated population of 23.5 million. Kim's father, the late Kim Il-sung, remains "eternal president." National elections held in March were not free or fair. There was no civilian control of the security forces, and members of the security forces committed numerous serious human rights abuses.

The government's human rights record remained deplorable, and the government continued to commit numerous serious abuses. Citizens did not have the right to change their government. The government subjected citizens to rigid controls over many aspects of their lives. There continued to be reports of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, arrests of political prisoners, harsh and life threatening prison conditions, and torture. There were reports that pregnant female prisoners underwent forced abortions in some cases, and in other cases babies were killed upon birth in prisons. The judiciary was not independent and did not provide fair trials. Citizens were denied freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association, and the government attempted to control all information. The government restricted freedom of religion, citizens' movement, and worker rights. There continued to be reports of severe punishment of some repatriated refugees. There were widespread reports of trafficking in women and girls among refugees and workers crossing the border into China.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary and Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were numerous reports that the government committed arbitrary and unlawful killings. Defector and refugee reports indicated that in some instances the government executed political prisoners, opponents of the regime, repatriated defectors, and others accused of crimes with no judicial process. The law prescribes the death penalty for the most "serious" or "grave" cases of "antistate" or "antination" crimes, including: participation in a coup or plotting to overthrow the state; acts of terrorism for an antistate purpose; treason, which includes defection or handing over state secrets; suppressing the people's movement for national liberation; cutting electric power lines or communication lines; and illegal drug transactions. An 2007 addendum to the penal code extended executions to include less serious crimes such as theft or destruction of military facilities or national assets, fraud, kidnapping, smuggling, and trafficking, Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea) NGOs and think tanks reported.

In the past border guards reportedly had orders to shoot to kill potential defectors, and prison guards were under orders to shoot to kill those attempting to escape from political prison camps, but it was not possible to determine if this practice continued during the year. During the year the security forces announced that attempting to cross the border or aiding others in such an attempt was punishable by execution. Religious and human rights groups outside the country alleged that some North Koreans who had contact with foreigners across the Chinese border were imprisoned or killed.

Press and South Korean NGOs reported that public executions were on the rise, but no statistics were available to document the reported trend.

In February two officials from the Ministry of Electric Industry were reportedly executed for "shutting down the electricity supply" to the Sunjin Steel Mill in Kimchaek, North Hamkyung Province (see section 4).

In June the navy allegedly killed three persons fleeing to South Korea on a small boat (see section 2.d.).

Also in June an NGO reported four inmates and a guard at Yodok prison camp were killed following a gas explosion. The incident reportedly occurred while five workers were unloading drums of gasoline. Two of the prisoners reportedly died in the explosion, and guards shot and killed two others. The guard on night duty who survived the accident reportedly was sentenced to death.

An NGO reported that in June four soldiers beat and killed a security guard after he refused to give them the potatoes he was guarding. Security agents reportedly arrested the soldiers. There was no additional information available regarding the soldiers' status at year's end.

It was unknown whether the government prosecuted or otherwise disciplined members of the security forces for killings that occurred in 2008, including the July 2008 shooting by security forces that killed a visiting South Korean tourist who strayed outside the boundary of the Mt. Kumgang Tourism Park.

During the year the brother of Son Jong-nam reported he believed that in December 2008 officials executed Son Jong-nam, who was sentenced to death in 2006 for maintaining contacts with organizations outside the country.

b. Disappearance

Reports indicated the government was responsible for disappearances. In recent years defectors claimed that state security officers often apprehended individuals suspected of political crimes and sent them, without trial, to political prison camps. There are no restrictions on the ability of the government to detain and imprison persons at will and to hold them incommunicado. The penal code states that a prosecutor's approval is required to detain a suspect; however, the government ignored this law in practice.

There were no new developments in the 2008 reported disappearance of 22 North Koreans who were repatriated after floating into South Korean waters.

Japan continued to seek further information about the cases of 12 Japanese nationals whom the Japanese government designated as having been abducted by DPRK government entities. The DPRK did not announce any progress or results of an investigation it agreed to reopen after discussions with the Japanese government in 2008. Japan also hoped to gain answers regarding other cases of suspected abductions of Japanese nationals.

ROK government and media reports indicated that the DPRK government also kidnapped other nationals from locations abroad in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the DPRK government continued to deny its involvement in the kidnappings. The ROK government estimated that approximately 480 of its civilians, abducted or detained by DPRK authorities since the end of the Korean War, remained in the DPRK. The ROK government estimated 560 South Korean prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action also remained alive in North Korea.

In 2008 the media reported South Korean missionary Kim Dong-shik had most likely died within a year of his 2000 disappearance near the China-DPRK border.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The penal code prohibits torture or inhuman treatment; however, many sources continued to report these practices. Methods of torture and other abuse reportedly included severe beatings, electric shock, prolonged periods of exposure to the elements, humiliations such as public nakedness, confinement for up to several weeks in small "punishment cells" in which prisoners were unable to stand upright or lie down, being forced to kneel or sit immobilized for long periods, being hung by the wrists or forced to stand up and sit down to the point of collapse, and forcing mothers recently repatriated from China to watch the infanticide of their newborn infants. Defectors continued to report that many prisoners died from torture, disease, starvation, exposure to the elements, or a combination of these causes.

A 2008 Washington Post article on Shin Dong-hyuk, a defector born and confined in a political prison camp in Kaechon in South Pyongan Province for 22 years, stated that beatings and torture were common within the camp. Shin reported that he was tortured with hot coals while being hung from the ceiling after members of his family tried to escape from the camp.

The North Korean Human Rights Database Center's 2009 White Paper on North Korean Human Rights indicated that officials have in some cases prohibited live births in prison and ordered forced abortions, particularly in detention centers holding women repatriated from China, according to first-hand refugee testimony. In some cases of live birth, the white paper reported that prison guards killed the infant or left it for dead. Guards also sexually abused female prisoners according to the white paper.

Defectors reported that reeducation through labor, primarily through sentences at forced labor camps, was a common punishment and consisted of tasks such as logging, mining, or tending crops under harsh conditions. Reeducation involved memorizing speeches by Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

NGO, refugee, and press reports indicated that there were several types of prisons, detention centers, and camps, including forced labor camps and separate camps for political prisoners. Defectors claimed the camps covered areas as large as 200 square miles and contained mass graves, barracks, worksites, and other prison facilities. The Washington Post reported in July that numerous prison camps can be seen in satellite images and that the camps have been consolidated from 14 locations to five. An NGO reported six major prison camp complexes across the country.

Reports indicated that those sentenced to prison for nonpolitical crimes were typically sent to reeducation prisons where prisoners were subjected to intense forced labor. They stated that those who were considered hostile to the regime or who committed political crimes, such as defection, were sent to political prison camps indefinitely. Many prisoners in political prison camps were not expected to survive. The government continued to deny the existence of political prison camps.

Reports indicated that conditions in the political prison camps were harsh and that systematic and severe human rights abuses occurred throughout the prison and detention system. Detainees and prisoners consistently reported violence and torture. According to refugees, in some places of detention, prisoners received little or no food and were denied medical care. Sanitation was poor, and former labor camp inmates reported they had no changes of clothing during their incarceration and were rarely able to bathe or wash their clothing. An NGO reported that one reeducation center was so crowded that prisoners were forced to sleep on top of each other or sitting up. The same NGO reported that guards at a labor camp stole food brought for inmates by their family members.

The government did not permit inspection of prisons or detention camps by human rights monitors.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but reports indicated that the government did not observe these prohibitions in practice.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

The internal security apparatus includes the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and the State Security Department (SSD). Corruption in the security forces was endemic. The security forces do not have adequate mechanisms to investigate possible security force abuses.

The country has an estimated 1.1 million active duty military personnel, in addition to a reserve force of approximately three million. The military conscripts citizens into military service at age 17, and they serve for four to 10 years.

The formal public security structure was augmented by a pervasive system of informers throughout the society. Surveillance of citizens, both physical and electronic, also was routine.

The MPS, responsible for internal security, social control, and basic police functions, is one of the most powerful organizations in the country and controlled an estimated 144,000 public security personnel. It maintains law and order; investigates common criminal cases; manages the prison system and traffic control; monitors citizens' political attitudes; conducts background investigations, census, and civil registrations; controls individual travel; manages the government's classified documents; protects government and party officials; and patrols government buildings and some government and party construction activities. Border Guards are the paramilitary force of the MPS and are primarily concerned with monitoring the border and with internal security.

In 2008 one South Korean NGO reported that the role of the police increased significantly. The increased responsibility reportedly caused tension between the police and the military.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention

Members of the security forces arrested and reportedly transported citizens suspected of committing political crimes to prison camps without trial. According to one South Korean NGO, beginning in 2008 the People's Safety Agency was authorized to handle directly criminal cases without approval of prosecutors. Previously, once police officers arrested suspects, the preadjudication department examined facts and evidence of the case and passed the case to prosecutors. It was not until the completion of prosecutors' investigation that the court made an official decision on the case. The change was made reportedly because of corruption among prosecutors.

There were no restrictions on the government's ability to detain and imprison persons at will or to hold them incommunicado. Family members and other concerned persons found it virtually impossible to obtain information on charges against detained persons or the lengths of their sentences. Judicial review of detentions did not exist in law or in practice.

In January the Sooseong Reeducation Center reportedly doubled the sentences of inmates near the end of their three- and four-year terms.

In March a ROK national was apprehended at the Kaesong Industrial Complex and detained for four months without being allowed to speak with ROK government officials.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution states that courts are independent and that judicial proceedings are to be carried out in strict accordance with the law; however, an independent judiciary did not exist. The constitution mandates that the central court is accountable to the Supreme People's Assembly, and the criminal code subjects judges to criminal liability for handing down "unjust judgments."

Trial Procedures

The MPS dispensed with trials in political cases and referred prisoners to the SSD for punishment. Little information was available on formal criminal justice procedures and practices, and outside access to the legal system was limited to show trials for traffic violations and other minor offenses.

The constitution contains elaborate procedural protections, providing that cases should be heard in public, except under circumstances stipulated by law. The constitution also states that the accused has the right to a defense, and when trials were held, the government reportedly assigned lawyers. Some reports noted a distinction between those accused of political, as opposed to nonpolitical, crimes and claimed that the government offered trials and lawyers only to the latter. There was no indication that independent, nongovernmental defense lawyers existed. According to a Washington Post report, most inmates at prison camps were sent there without a trial and without knowing the charges against them.

A paper published during the year reported that only 13 of 102 defectors who had been imprisoned said they received a trial.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

While the total number of political prisoners and detainees remained unknown, a 2003 report by the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, The Hidden Gulag, reported an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 persons were believed to be held in a type of political prison camps known as kwan li so. The government considered critics of the regime to be political criminals. Reports from past years described political offenses as including sitting on newspapers bearing Kim Il-sung's or Kim Jong-il's picture, mentioning Kim Il-sung's limited formal education, or defacing photographs of the Kims.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

According to article 69 of the constitution, "[c]itizens are entitled to submit complaints and petitions. The state shall fairly investigate and deal with complaints and petitions as fixed by law." Under the Law on Complaint and Petition, citizens are entitled to submit complaints to stop encroachment upon their rights and interests or seek compensation for the encroached rights and interests. Reports indicated this right was not respected in practice.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The constitution provides for the inviolability of person and residence and the privacy of correspondence; however, the government did not respect these provisions in practice. The regime subjected its citizens to rigid controls. The government relied upon a massive, multilevel system of informants to identify critics and potential troublemakers. Entire communities sometimes were subjected to security checks. Possessing "antistate" material and listening to foreign broadcasts were crimes that could subject the transgressor to harsh punishments, including up to five years of labor reeducation.

In October a South Korean NGO reported that after soldiers in South Pyongan Province found pamphlets with antigovernment messages, counterintelligence and security agents conducted an investigation of organizations and homes with computers in the region to determine the source.

The government monitored correspondence and telephone conversations. Private telephone lines operated on a system that precluded making or receiving international calls; international phone lines were available only under restricted circumstances. Foreign diplomats in Pyongyang stated that the local network was subdivided so telephone use remained a privilege.

During the year a broader range of citizens gained access to an internal mobile phone network with an estimated 120,000 users. The system was segregated from systems used by foreigners and could not be used for international calls. In the border regions with China, an unauthorized mobile phone network was reported to exist for use in making international calls. Those caught using cell phones illegally were arrested and required to pay a fine or face charges of espionage.

The government divided citizens into strict loyalty-based classes, which determined access to employment, higher education, place of residence, medical facilities, and certain stores.

Collective punishment was practiced. Entire families, including children, have been imprisoned when one member of the family was accused of a crime. For example, a decree on cutting electric power or communication lines and conducting illegal drug transactions states that a violator's family shall be "expelled."

In September an international NGO reported that a 76-year-old former security officer was executed for a crime during the Korean War. His two sons, three daughters, and five grandsons were sent to a political detention center.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press; however, the government prohibited the exercise of these rights in practice. There were numerous instances of persons being interrogated or arrested for saying anything that could be construed as negative towards the government.

The constitution provides for the right to petition. However, the government did not respect this right. For example, when anonymous petitions or complaints about state administration were submitted, the SSD and MPS sought to identify the authors, who could be subjected to investigation and punishment.

The government sought to control virtually all information. There were no independent media. The government carefully managed visits by foreigners, especially journalists.

During visits by foreign leaders, groups of foreign journalists were permitted to accompany official delegations and file reports. In all cases journalists were monitored strictly. Journalists generally were not allowed to talk to officials or to persons on the street. For all foreign visitors, including journalists, cell or satellite phones were held at the airport for the duration of the stay.

Domestic media censorship continued to be strictly enforced, and no deviation from the official government line was tolerated. The government prohibited listening to foreign media broadcasts except by the political elite, and violators were subject to severe punishment. Radios and television sets, unless altered, received only domestic programming; radios obtained from abroad had to be altered to operate in a similar manner. Elites and facilities for foreigners, such as hotels, could be granted permission to receive international television broadcasts via satellite. The government continued to attempt to jam all foreign radio broadcasts. The government condemned the activities of a defector-run broadcasting station in South Korea.

Internet Freedom

Internet access for citizens was limited to high-ranking officials and other designated elites, including select university students. This access was granted via international telephone lines through a provider in China, as well as a local connection that was linked with a German server. An "intranet" was reportedly available to a slightly larger group of users, including an elite grade school; selected research institutions, universities, and factories; and a few individuals. The Korean Communication Corporation acted as the gatekeeper, downloading only acceptable information for access through the intranet. Reporters Without Borders reported that some e-mail access existed through this internal network. According to a press report, an increasing number of citizens had e-mail addresses on their business cards, although they were usually e-mail addresses shared among all the employees of an organization. In March Reporters Without Borders named the country an "Internet Enemy" due to its strict Internet restrictions.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

The government restricted academic freedom and controlled artistic and academic works. A primary function of plays, movies, operas, children's performances, and books was to buttress the cult of personality surrounding Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.

According to North Korean media, Kim Jong-il frequently told officials that ideological education must take precedence over academic education in the nation's schools. Indoctrination was carried out systematically through the mass media, schools, and worker and neighborhood associations. Indoctrination continued to involve mass marches, rallies, and staged performances, sometimes including hundreds of thousands of persons.

The government continued its attempt to limit foreign influences on its citizens. According to an NGO, the government warned children that imitating foreign songs and dances would result in detention in a discipline center. Listening to foreign radio and watching foreign films is illegal; however, numerous NGOs reported that Chinese and South Korean DVDs, VCDs, CDs, and videotapes continued to be smuggled into the country. The government intensified its focus on preventing the smuggling of imports of South Korean popular culture, especially television dramas. According to media and NGO reports, in an attempt to enforce the restriction on foreign films, police routinely cut electricity to apartment blocks and then raided every apartment to see what types of DVDs and videos were stuck in the players.

There were numerous examples of the government's crackdown on foreign DVDs. One South Korean NGO reported in March that four university students in Sinuiju were publicly criticized and expelled from school for watching foreign movies. The same NGO reported in April that two persons who sold South Korean dramas were put on public trial and sent to a reeducation center. The NGO reported a crackdown on illegal videos and CDs in South Pyongsung Province in September. Residents caught with any suspicious items were arrested, interrogated, and either sent to a reeducation center or a city discipline center.

One NGO reported that inspectors confiscated televisions, VCRs, and unregistered computers, holding them until a bribe was paid. Tetris was the only foreign computer game allowed in North Korea. However, according to an NGO, children of high-ranking officials could obtain and play foreign films and games on their computers.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of Assembly

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly; however, the government did not respect this provision in practice and continued to prohibit public meetings not previously authorized.

Freedom of Association

The constitution provides for freedom of association; however, the government failed to respect this provision in practice. There were no known organizations other than those created by the government. Professional associations existed primarily to facilitate government monitoring and control over organization members.

c. Freedom of Religion

The constitution provides for "freedom of religious belief"; however, reports indicated that in practice the government severely restricted religious freedom unless supervised by officially recognized groups linked to the government. The law also stipulates that religion "should not be used for purposes of dragging in foreign powers or endangering public security." Genuine religious freedom did not exist.

The personality cult of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il continued to resemble a state religion that provided a spiritual underpinning for the regime. Refusal to accept the leader as the supreme authority was regarded as opposition to the national interest and continued to result in severe punishment.

The Korea Institute for National Unification's 2009 White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea concluded that the regime used authorized religious entities for external propaganda and political purposes and strictly barred local citizens from entering places of worship. For example, funds and goods that were donated to government-approved churches were channeled to the KWP by the government.

According to defector reports, the government reportedly was concerned that faith-based South Korean relief and refugee assistance efforts along the border with China had both humanitarian and political goals, including overthrow of the regime, and alleged that these groups were involved in intelligence gathering. In 2007 Asia News reported that the army published and distributed a pamphlet to soldiers warning them about the dangers of Christianity and urging vigilance against its spread within the armed forces.

There continued to be reports of underground Christian churches. The government repressed and persecuted unauthorized religious groups. Defectors reported that persons engaged in religious proselytizing, persons with ties to overseas religious groups, and repatriated persons who contacted foreigners while outside the country were arrested and subjected to harsh punishment. Defectors asserted that citizens who received help from foreign churches were considered political criminals and received harsher treatment, including imprisonment, prolonged detention without charge, torture, and execution. Former North Korean security agents who defected to South Korea reported intensified police activity aimed at halting religious activity at the border.

According to the Associated Press, authorities publicly executed a woman on June 16 for distributing the Bible and sent her husband and three children to a prison camp.

Religious and human rights groups outside the country continued to provide numerous unconfirmed reports that members of underground churches were beaten, arrested, detained in prison camps, tortured, or killed because of their religious beliefs.

Societal Abuses and Discrimination

There was no information on societal violence, harassment, or discrimination against members of religious groups.

There was no known Jewish population, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

For a more detailed discussion, see the 2009 International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for the "freedom to reside in or travel to any place"; however, the government did not respect this right in practice. During the year the government continued to attempt to control internal travel. The government did not cooperate with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons.

The government continued to restrict the freedom to move within the country. Only members of a very small elite class and those with access to remittances from overseas had access to personal vehicles, and movement was hampered by the absence of an effective transport network and by military and police checkpoints on main roads at the entry to and exit from every town. Use of personal vehicles at night and on Sundays was restricted. An NGO reported that in the provinces along the Chinese border, persons traveling without authorization papers were arrested and fined 100,000 won (approximately $700). (Note: the government revalued its currency on November 30. Approximations in this report are based on the prerevalued rates.)

The government strictly controlled permission to reside in, or even to enter, Pyongyang, where food supplies, housing, health, and general living conditions were much better than in the rest of the country. Foreign officials visiting the country observed checkpoints on the highway leading into Pyongyang from the countryside.

The government also restricted foreign travel. The regime limited issuance of exit visas for foreign travel to officials and trusted businessmen, artists, athletes, academics, and religious figures. Short-term exit papers were available for some residents on the Chinese border to enable visits with relatives or to engage in small-scale trade.

It was not known whether the laws prohibit forced exile; the government reportedly forced the internal exile of some citizens. In the past the government engaged in forced internal resettlement of tens of thousands of persons from Pyongyang to the countryside. Sometimes this occurred as punishment for offenses, although there were reports that social engineering was also involved. For example, although disabled veterans were treated well, other persons with physical and mental disabilities, as well as those judged to be politically unreliable, were sent out of Pyongyang into internal exile.

The government did not allow emigration, and beginning in 2008 it tightened security on both sides of the border, which dramatically reduced the flow of persons crossing into China without required permits. NGOs reported strict patrols and surveillance of residents of border areas and a crackdown on border guards who may have been aiding border crossers. According to an NGO, on February 10, a navy patrol boat captured a fishing boat that crossed into international waters; they arrested the captain and crew for attempting to flee to South Korea. Authorities reportedly beat one crewmember to death during a preliminary hearing. Six crewmembers were released, but five, including the captain, remained in custody.

Substantial numbers of citizens have crossed the border into China over the years, and NGO estimates of those who lived there during the year ranged from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. Some settled semipermanently in northeastern China, others traveled back and forth across the border, and others sought asylum and permanent resettlement in third countries. A few thousand citizens gained asylum in third countries during the year.
The law criminalizes defection and attempted defection, including the attempt to gain entry to a foreign diplomatic facility for the purpose of seeking political asylum. Individuals who cross the border with the purpose of defecting or seeking asylum in a third country are subject to a minimum of five years of "labor correction." An NGO reported that minors over age 14 found crossing the border were tried as adults. In "serious" cases defectors or asylum seekers are subject to indefinite terms of imprisonment and forced labor, confiscation of property, or death. Many would-be refugees who were returned involuntarily were imprisoned under harsh conditions. Some sources indicated that the harshest treatment was reserved for those who had extensive contact with foreigners.
In the past, reports from defectors indicated that the regime differentiated between persons who crossed the border in search of food (who might be sentenced only to a few months of forced labor or in some cases merely issued a warning) and persons who crossed repeatedly or for political purposes (who were sometimes sentenced to heavy punishments). The law stipulates a sentence of up to two years of "labor correction" for the crime of illegally crossing the border.

During the year the government reportedly continued to enforce the policy that all border crossers be sent to prison or reeducation centers.

Protection of Refugees

The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol, nor has the government established a system for providing protection for refugees. The government did not grant refugee status or asylum. The government had no known policy or provision for refugees or asylees and did not participate in international refugee fora.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens do not have the right to change their government peacefully. The KWP and the Korean People's Army (KPA), with Kim Jong-il in control, dominated the political system. Little reliable information was available on intraregime politics. The legislature, the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), meets only a few days per year to rubber-stamp resolutions and legislation presented by the party leadership.

The government justified its dictatorship with nationalism and demanded near deification of both Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung. All citizens remained subject to intensive political and ideological indoctrination, which was intended to ensure loyalty to the leadership and conformity to the state's ideology and authority.

Elections and Political Participation

Elections of delegates to the SPA were held in March. The elections were neither free nor fair, and the outcome was virtually identical to prior elections. The government openly monitored voting, resulting in nearly 100 percent participation and 100 percent approval.

The government has created several "minority parties." Lacking grassroots organizations, they existed only as rosters of officials with token representation in the SPA. The government regularly criticized the concept of free elections and competition among political parties as an "artifact" of "capitalist decay."

Women made up 20 percent of the membership of the SPA as of the 2003 elections. Women consituted approximately 4.5 percent of the membership of the Central Committee of the KWP but held few key KWP leadership positions.

The country is racially and ethnically homogenous. Officially there are no minorities, and there was, therefore, no information on minority representation in the government.

Section 4 Official Corruption and Government Transparency

It was not known whether the law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, whether the government implemented any such laws effectively, or how often officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Corruption was reportedly widespread in all parts of the economy and society.

Reports of diversion of food to the military and government officials and bribery were indicative of corruption in the government and security forces. The government continued to deny any diversion of food, although it hinted that it was combating internal corruption.

An international NGO reported numerous examples of bribery at all levels of government. For example, applicants paid bribes of up to 500,000 won (approximately $3,500) to secure a spot at a professional medical school. Health examiners accepted bribes to evaluate healthy persons as sick so they would be taken off worker attendance sheets.

A South Korean NGO reported that bribes were necessary to obtain a divorce. According to the report, 200,000 won (approximately $1,400) was reported to secure a divorce trial within two months; it takes six months to one year to get a divorce with a smaller bribe.

A South Korean NGO reported that party leaders took advantage of their positions, using them to make money, and that party leaders were exempt from labor mobilization campaigns.

The same NGO also reported several attempts by the government to suppress corruption. It reported that public housing officials in at least five cities were dismissed from their jobs and sent to work camps for living in new or luxurious homes paid for with government funds. It reported that in February authorities publicly executed two senior electricity officials in Pyongsung for overcharging for electricity and diverting electricity from the military to businesses who were bribing them. A public conference was held in Sinuiju to showcase misconduct and bribery engaged in by prosecutors. These examples were illustrative, not exhaustive, and the approximate number of cases of corruption was unknown.

Foreign media reported that the government launched a formal corruption investigation in 2008 specifically targeting the National Economic Cooperation Federation and the North Korean People's Council for National Reconciliation. The federation reportedly accepted bribes to label Chinese-made goods as "Made in North Korea," allowing them to be exported to South Korea duty free. There were no new developments during the year.

It was not known whether public officials are subject to financial disclosure laws and whether a government agency is responsible for combating corruption. There are no known laws that provide for public access to government information.

Section 5 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

There were no independent domestic organizations to monitor human rights conditions or to comment on the status of such rights. The government's North Korean Human Rights Committee denied the existence of any human rights violations in the country.

The government ignored requests for visits from international human rights experts and NGOs. The NGO community and numerous international experts continued to testify to the grave human rights situation in the country during the year. The government decried international statements about human rights abuses in the country as politically motivated and as interference in internal affairs. The government asserted that criticism of its human rights record was an attempt by some countries to cover up their own abuses and that such hypocrisy undermined human rights principles.

The government emphasized that it had ratified a number of UN human rights instruments but continued to refuse cooperation with UN representatives. The government continued to prevent the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, Vitit Muntarbhorn, from visiting the country to carry out his mandate. The government continued to refuse to recognize the special rapporteur's mandate and rejected the offer of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights to work with the government on human rights treaty implementation.

Section 6 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

The constitution grants equal rights to all citizens. However, the government has reportedly never granted its citizens most fundamental human rights in practice, and it continued pervasive discrimination on the basis of social status.

Women

The government appeared to criminalize rape, but no information was available on details of the law and how effectively the law was enforced. Women in prison camps reportedly were subject to rape and forced abortions.

Violence against women has been reported as a significant problem both inside and outside the home.

According to press reports, prostitution is illegal; there was no available information on the prevalence of prostitution in the country. During the year South Korean NGOs reported that prostitution was on the rise. In August an NGO reported that authorities uncovered a prosititution ring in Hyeson, Yangang Province, which included teenage prostitutes. There continued to be reports of trafficking in women and young girls who had crossed into China.

Women who have left the country reported that although "sexual violation" was understood, "sexual harassment" is not defined in the DPRK. Despite the 1946 "Law on Equality of the Sexes," defectors reported that sexual harassment of women was generally accepted due to patriarchal traditions. Defectors reported that there was little recourse for women who have been harassed.

It was difficult to obtain accurate information regarding reproductive rights in the country. According to the country's initial report to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women submitted in 2002, "family planning is mapped out by individual families in view of their actual circumstances and in compliance with laws, regulations, morality, and customs…Women have the decision of the spacing of children in view of their own wish, health condition, and the like. But usually the spacing of children is determined by the discussion between the wife and the husband."

The constitution states that "women hold equal social status and rights with men"; however, although women were represented proportionally in the labor force, few women reached high levels of the party or the government.

Children

Citizenship is derived from one's parents (jus sanguinis)and in some cases birth within the country's territory (jus soli).

The state provides 11 years of free compulsory education for all children. However, reports indicated some children were denied educational opportunities and subjected to punishments and disadvantages as a result of the loyalty classification system and the principle of "collective retribution" for the transgressions of family members.

Foreign visitors and academic sources reported that from fifth grade children were subjected to several hours a week of mandatory military training and that all children had indoctrination in school.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child repeatedly has expressed concern over de facto discrimination against children with disabilities and the insufficient measures taken by the state to ensure these children had effective access to health, education, and social services.

It was not known whether boys and girls had equal access to state-provided medical care; access to health care was largely dependent upon loyalty to the government.

Information about societal or familial abuse of children remained unavailable. There were reports of trafficking in young girls among persons who had crossed into China.

Article 153 of the criminal law states that a man who has sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 15 shall be "punished gravely."

On April 21, a South Korean NGO reported that authorities sentenced middle school students at Osanduk Middle School in Hoeryeong, North Hamgyong Province, to work on collective farms for life because the students refused to sign KPA enrollment petitions.

According to NGO reports, there was a large population of street children, many of them orphans, who were denied entrance to public schools. An NGO provided several reports of homeless children being rounded up from detention centers and welfare institutions and sent to work on collective farms or at construction sites. However, one report indicated that 63 of 80 children sent to work at Mount Baekdu escaped to resume their lives on the street.

Trafficking in Persons

Article 7 of the 1946 Law on Equality of the Sexes forbids trafficking in women and states that licensed or unlicensed prostitution shall be forbidden and offenders shall be punished. It was unclear whether this law was used to prosecute traffickers. The laws reportedly used to prosecute traffickers sought to limit crossborder migration and often harmed trafficking victims. The government claimed crackdowns on "trafficking networks" were a result of its desire to control all activity within its borders, particularly illegal emigration, rather than to combat trafficking in persons. Trafficking in persons and trafficking of women and young girls into and within China continued to be widely reported. According to some estimates, more than 80 percent of North Koreans living outside the country were victims of human trafficking. The government reportedly continued to use forced labor as part of an established system of political repression.

Some North Korean women and girls who voluntarily crossed into China were picked up by trafficking rings and sold as brides to Chinese nationals or placed in forced labor. In other cases, North Korean women and girls were lured out of the country by the promise of food, jobs, and freedom, only to be forced into prostitution, marriage, or exploitive labor arrangements. A network of smugglers facilitated this trafficking. Many victims of trafficking, unable to speak Chinese, were held as virtual prisoners, and some were forced to work as prostitutes. Traffickers sometimes abused or physically scarred the victims to prevent them from escaping. Officials facilitated trafficking by accepting bribes to allow individuals to cross the border into China.

The Department of State's annual Trafficking in Persons Report can be found at www.state.gov/g/tip.

Persons with Disabilities

A 2003 law mandates equal access for persons with disabilities to public services; however, implementing legislation has not been passed. Traditional social norms condone discrimination against persons with physical disabilities. Although veterans with disabilities were treated well, other persons with physical and mental disabilities have been reportedly sent out of Pyongyang into internal exile, quarantined within camps, and forcibly sterilized. According to a report released in 2006 by the World Association of Milal, an international disability NGO, persons with disabilities constituted approximately 3.4 percent of the population, more than 64 percent of whom lived in urban areas. The North Korean Federation for the Protection of the Disabled has endorsed this number. A foreign NGO reported that the North Korean Federation for the Protection of the Disabled allowed them to operate in North Korea. The NGO was allowed to provide support and training at an orthopedic hospital, a school for hearing-impaired children, a coal mine hospital, and a home for elderly persons with disabilities. It was not known whether the government restricted the right of persons with disabilities to vote or participate in civic affairs.

Social Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orienation and Gender Indentity

There are no laws against homosexuality; however, no information was available on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

No information was available regarding discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.

Section 7 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The constitution provides for freedom of association; however, this provision was not respected in practice. There were no known labor organizations other than those created by the government. The KWP purportedly represents the interests of all labor. There was a single labor organization, the General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea. Operating under this umbrella, unions functioned on a classic Stalinist model, with responsibility for mobilizing workers to support production goals and for providing health, education, cultural, and welfare facilities.

Unions do not have the right to strike. According to North Korean law, unlawful assembly can result in five years of correctional labor.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Workers do not have the right to organize or to bargain collectively. Factory and farm workers were organized into councils, which had an impact on management decisions. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, North Korean law does not contain penalties for employers who interfere in union functions, nor does it protect workers who might attempt to engage in union activities from employer retaliation.

There was one special economic zone (SEZ) in the Rajin-Sonbong area. The same labor laws that apply in the rest of the country apply in the Rajin-Sonbong SEZ, and workers in the SEZ were selected by the government.

Under a special law that created the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), located close to the demilitarized zone between South Korea and North Korea, special regulations covering labor issues negotiated with South Korea were in effect for the management of labor in the area. Those regulations did not contain provisions that guarantee freedom of association or the right to bargain collectively.

According to South Korea's Ministry of Unification, a total of 117 South Korean firms were operational at the KIC as of December, and approximately 41,900 North Korean workers were employed at KIC as of November. South Korea's Ministry of Unification reported that the DPRK's Central Special Zone Development Guidance Bureau provided candidates for selection by South Korean companies. Under an inter-Korean agreement, North Korean workers at the KIC reportedly earned a monthly basic minimum wage of $57.88 after social welfare deductions (according to the KIC Labor Law, wages are set in U.S. dollars). Employing firms reported, however, that with overtime the average worker earned approximately $85 per month before deductions. Due to a lack of transparency, it was difficult to determine what proportion of their earned wages workers ultimately took home. Although the special laws governing the KIC require direct payment to the workers, the wages were in fact paid to the North Korean government, which withheld a portion for social insurance and other benefits and then remitted the balance (reportedly about 70 percent) to the workers in an unknown combination of "commodity supply cards," which could be exchanged for staple goods, and North Korean won, converted at the official exchange rate.

Workers at the KIC do not have the right to choose employers. In December 2008 the government restricted border crossings and South Koreans' access to the KIC, protesting what it called the "hostile policies" of the South Korean government. On May 15, North Korea threatened to end operations at Kaesong and cancel all KIC-related inter-Korean agreements. In June North Korea demanded that wages for its workers at Kaesong be increased to $300 per month, with annual increases of 10 to 12 percent. These demands were addressed by the South Korean government with an increase of 5 percent and an agreement to construct a children's nursery. On September 1, North Korea restarted regular border crossings. As of September 11, North Korea abandoned its demands for significant wage increases in 2009.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor. However, the government mobilized the population for construction and other labor projects, including on Sundays, the one day off a week. The penal code criminalizes forced child labor; however, there were reports that such practices occurred (see section 7.d.). The government also frequently gathered large groups together for mass demonstrations and performances. "Reformatory labor" and "reeducation through labor," including of children, have traditionally been common punishments for political offenses. Forced and compulsory labor, such as logging and tending crops, continued to be the common fate of political prisoners.

The penal code requires that all citizens of working age must work and "strictly observe labor discipline and working hours." There were numerous reports that farms and factories did not pay wages or provide food to their workers. According to reports from one NGO, during the implementation of short-term economic plans, factories and farms increased workers' hours and asked workers for contributions of grain and money to purchase supplies for renovations and repairs. According to the penal code, failure to meet economic plan goals can result in two years of "labor correction."

From April to September, numerous reports indicated that the government initiated a "150-day battle" labor-mobilization campaign to boost the economy by increasing work hours and production goals. The 150-day battle campaign exhorted workers to work harder to resolve food shortages and to rebuild infrastructure. The labor drive was part of the country's larger goal of building a "great, prosperous, and powerful" nation by 2012, the birth centennial of Kim Il Sung. Immediately after the 150-day battle the country engaged in a second labor-mobilization campaign, the "100-Day battle," to further increase output.

A South Korean NGO reported that a decision made by the city party in Hoeryung, North Hamgyong Province, to punish absent workers prompted factories to send every worker who was illegally absent for 15 to 20 days during the 150-day battle campaign to the municipal reeducation center. The same NGO reported that youth and housewives in North Hamgyong Province were forced to participate in the 150-day battle without compensation.

d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

According to the law, the state prohibits work by children under the age of 16 years.

School children sometimes were sent to work in factories or in the fields for short periods to assist in completing special projects, such as snow removal on major roads, or in meeting production goals. Children were forced also to participate in cultural activities and, according to academic reports, were subjected to harsh conditions during mandatory training sessions. According to a South Korean press report, the government required high school and college students to participate in unpaid "voluntary work," particularly rice-planting efforts, during their vacation periods. According to a South Korean NGO, in April students were forced to graduate early and join the military. An international NGO reported that students at a middle school in Soonchan, South Pyongan Province, were forced to work as night security guards in the unheated building after new electronic devices were stolen from the school.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

No reliable data was available on the minimum wage in state-owned industries. However, anecdotal reports indicated that the average daily wage was not sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. Since the 2002 economic reforms, compensation underwent significant change, as citizens sought to earn hard currency to support themselves and their families. Workers often had to pay for services, such as housing rental and transportation, that previously had been provided either free or at highly subsidized rates by the state. While education and medical care technically remained free, educational materials and medicines appeared available only for purchase in markets. Foreign observers who visited the country reported that many factory workers regularly failed to go to work, paying a bribe to managers to list them as present, so they could engage in various trading and entrepreneurial activities instead. The same source stated that many government factories were not operating, primarily due to electricity shortages.

Class background and family connections could be as important as professional competence in deciding who received particular jobs, and foreign companies that have established joint ventures continued to report that all their employees must be hired from registers screened by the government.

The constitution stipulates an eight-hour workday; however, some sources reported that laborers worked longer hours, perhaps including additional time for mandatory study of the writings of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. The constitution provides all citizens with a "right to rest," including paid leave, holidays, and access to sanitariums and rest homes funded at public expense; however, the state's willingness and ability to provide these services was unknown. Foreign diplomats reported that workers had 15 days of paid leave plus paid national holidays. Some persons were required to take part in mass events on holidays, which sometimes required advance practice during work time. Workers were often required to "celebrate" at least some part of public holidays with their work units and were able to spend a whole day with their families only if the holiday lasted two days.

Many worksites were hazardous, and the industrial accident rate was high. The law recognizes the state's responsibility for providing modern and hygienic working conditions. The penal code criminalizes the failure to heed "labor safety orders" pertaining to worker safety and workplace conditions only if it results in the loss of lives or other "grave loss." In addition workers do not have an enumerated right to remove themselves from hazardous working conditions.

Citizens suffered human rights abuses and labored under harsh conditions while working abroad for North Korean firms and under arrangements between the government and foreign firms. Contract laborers worked in Africa; Central and Eastern Europe (most notably in Russia); Central, East, and Southeast Asia; and the Middle East. In most cases employing firms paid salaries to the North Korean government, and it was not known how much of that salary the workers received. Workers were typically watched closely by government officials while overseas and reportedly did not have freedom of movement outside their living and working quarters.

Wages of some of the several thousand North Koreans employed in Russia reportedly were withheld until the laborers returned home, making them vulnerable to deception by North Korean authorities, who promised relatively high payments.

북한-군사-위성사진2010. 3. 11. 19:48
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2009 Human Rights Report: Republic of Korea
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 11, 2010

The Republic of Korea (Korea or ROK) is a constitutional democracy governed by President Lee Myung-bak and a unicameral legislature. The country has a population of approximately 48 million. In April 2008 the Grand National Party obtained a majority of National Assembly seats in a free and fair election. Civilian authorities maintained effective control of the security forces.

The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. Women, persons with disabilities, and minorities continued to face societal discrimination. Rape, domestic violence, and child abuse remained serious problems.

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 that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

Official figures indicated that hazing was a factor in many of the 356 suicides by military personnel since 2004.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits mistreatment of suspects, and officials generally observed this prohibition in practice.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards. The government permitted monitoring visits by independent human rights observers, and such visits occurred during the year.

In December 2008 the government passed the Act on Sentence Execution and Treatment of Detainees, a new petition system that better accommodates detainees who want to formally accuse prison officials of abuse. The system provides detainees easier access to petition procedures and assists with the petition process, whereas before, petitioners had to submit their grievances directly to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) with limited support mechanisms. As of October, 449 such petitions were submitted to the MOJ's Human Rights Violations Center. Of those petitions, 166 were dismissed, 226 were referred to other government offices, 31 were rejected, 23 had no action taken, and 53 were pending a decision. As of October there were 297 petitions alleging human rights violations by detention facility officials. Of those cases, 107 were withdrawn, 115 were rejected, and the remaining 75 were under investigation.

The MOJ reported the total of number of prisoners as of December was 48,228. Of that total, 2,603 were female and 472 were juveniles.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions. However, the National Security Law (NSL) grants the authorities powers to detain, arrest, and imprison persons who commit acts the government views as intended to endanger the "security of the state." Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to call for reform or abolishment of the law, contending that its provisions did not define prohibited activity clearly. The MOJ maintained that the courts had established legal precedents for strict interpretation of the law that preclude arbitrary application. The number of NSL investigations and arrests has dropped significantly in recent years.

During the year 34 persons were prosecuted for violating the NSL; of those, 14 were convicted and 20 were awaiting trial. In 2008, 27 persons were prosecuted for alleged NSL violations. Of those, seven were found guilty--two were serving prison sentences, and five received suspended sentences and were on probation. The remaining 20 cases were pending at year's end.

The secondary school teacher indicted in August 2008 for violating the NSL by distributing banned material remained free on bail while awaiting trial. During the year the MOJ reported dropping the portion of the case related to the 1980 Kwangju uprising.

Four members of an NGO detained and charged in September 2008 with illegal contact with Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) agents and distribution of North Korean press material for the purpose of exalting DPRK leader Kim Jong-il were convicted during the year. Two of the members were serving prison sentences, and two members were given suspended sentences and probation. The NGO members appealed the sentences and filed a defamation claim against the government.

A university professor found guilty of violating the NSL in 2007 and sentenced to two years in jail had his sentence reduced to three years of probation. He appealed the conviction; the case was pending before the Supreme Court.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Korean National Police Agency (KNPA), and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption.

On November 24, Amnesty International's secretary general called on the government to put in place mechanisms to improve and monitor policing. She highlighted the need for better police procedures for responding to public protests and arresting/detaining migrant workers.

Local NGOs continued to assert that while hundreds of civilians were convicted of violating the Assembly and Demonstration Act, no riot police were prosecuted for allegedly abusing peaceful protesters.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention

The law 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 arrested quickly. In such cases a public prosecutor or police officer must prepare an affidavit of emergency arrest immediately upon apprehension of the suspect. Police may not interrogate for more than six hours persons who voluntarily submit to questioning at police stations. Authorities must release an arrested suspect within 20 days unless an indictment is issued. An additional 10 days of detention is allowed in exceptional circumstances.

There is a bail system, but human rights lawyers stated that bail generally was not granted for detainees who were charged with committing serious offenses, might attempt to flee or harm a victim, or had no fixed address.

The law provides for the right to representation by an attorney, including during police interrogation. There are no restrictions on access to a lawyer, but authorities can limit a lawyer's participation in an interrogation if the lawyer obstructs the interrogation or divulges information that impedes an investigation. The courts generally observed a defendant's right to a lawyer. During both detention and arrest periods, an indigent detainee may request that the government provide a lawyer.

Access to family members during detention varied according to the severity of the crime being investigated. There were no reports of access to legal counsel being denied.

Amnesty

According to the MOJ, the government granted a special amnesty in August to approximately 1.5 million persons. Nearly all of the pardons were related to driver's license restrictions.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence in practice.

Trial Procedures

The law provides defendants with a number of rights in criminal trials, including the presumption of innocence, protection against self-incrimination, the right to a speedy trial, the right of appeal, and freedom from retroactive laws and double jeopardy. Trials are open to the public, but judges may restrict attendance if they believe spectators might disrupt the proceedings. There is a public jury system, but jury verdicts are not legally binding. Court-appointed lawyers are provided by the government (at government expense) in cases where defendants cannot afford to provide their own legal counsel. When a person is detained, the initial trial must be completed within six months of arrest. Judges generally allowed considerable scope for the examination of witnesses by both the prosecution and the defense. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney. They can confront or question witnesses against them, and they can present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. Defendants have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases. The constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

The MOJ stated that no persons were incarcerated solely because of their political beliefs. The NGO Mingahyup claimed that as of August, the government had imprisoned 129 persons for their political beliefs.

In April a riot police conscript was sentenced to two years in prison for refusing to return to duty. He had ignored orders from his superiors to use violence against protesters during the 2008 beef protests.

The country requires military service for all men, although mandatory service periods vary: 24 months for the army, 26 months for the navy, and 27 months for the air force. The law does not protect conscientious objectors, who can receive a maximum three-year prison sentence. The MOJ has noted that the law does not distinguish conscientious objectors from others who do not report for mandatory military service. The MOJ reported that there were 5,136 cases of Military Service Act violations, with 750 cases referred for trial and 2,123 cases settled out of court.

Watchtower International, a Jehovah's Witness organization that is actively engaged in lobbying the government on this issue, reported that as of April 1, there were 465 Jehovah's Witnesses and a handful of others serving an average of 14 months in prison for conscientious objection to military service.

During the year the Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced that it would not pursue the introduction of alternative service for conscientious objectors. The ministry cited a lack of public support as the primary reason for its decision; an MND-sponsored poll found that 68 percent of the respondents opposed instituting alternative service, but an independent poll taken about the same time found that only 39 percent were opposed. Meanwhile, the Jehovah's Witnesses reported that courts increasingly were sympathetic to conscientious objectors. In September 2008 a district court asked the Constitutional Court to review again the constitutionality of the Conscription Law. The request remained pending approval. The court ruled in 2002 and 2004 that the law is constitutional.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, and there were no problems enforcing domestic court orders. Citizens had access to a court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions in practice. Some human rights groups raised concerns about possible government wiretapping abuse. The law establishes conditions under which the government may monitor telephone calls, mail, and other forms of communication for up to two months in criminal investigations and four months in national security cases. According to a National Assembly audit, the number of wiretappings increased from 608 in 2008 to more than 799 as of July.

The government continued to require some released prisoners to report regularly to the police in accordance with the Security Surveillance Act.

The NSL forbids citizens from listening to North Korean radio in their homes or reading books published in the DPRK if the government determines that the action endangers national security or the basic order of democracy in the country. However, this prohibition was rarely enforced, and viewing DPRK satellite telecasts in private homes is legal.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to ensure freedom of speech and of the press. The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views generally without restriction. However, under the NSL the government may limit the expression of ideas that praise or incite the activities of antistate individuals or groups.

In September Reporters without Borders reported that four producers and one writer from the Munwha Broadcasting Corporation's PD Notebook program were arrested and charged with spreading false rumors about the alleged health risks of eating U.S. beef. The trial was ongoing at year's end.

Internet Freedom

The government blocked violent, sexually explicit, and gambling-oriented Web sites and required site operators to rate their site as harmful or not harmful to youth, based on telecommunications laws that ban Internet service providers from offering information considered harmful to youth. The government also continued to block DPRK Web sites.

The law requires identity verification in order to post messages to Web sites with more than 300,000 visitors per day.

According to 2008 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data, 95 percent of households had access to the Internet through broadband connections. The International Telecommunication Union reported that 76 percent of inhabitants used the Internet in 2008. In addition to Internet access from home, public Internet rooms were widely available and inexpensive.

NGOs from the Korean Network for International Human Rights and the Korea Press Consumerism Organization stated there was a significant increase in the enforcement of regulations on online speech, including criminal punishment for false communication, defamation, and other violations for online writers, particularly related to the 2008 protests against U.S. beef imports.

In January the blogger "Minerva" was arrested on charges of adversely affecting foreign exchange markets and "undermining the nation's credibility" by posting false information on a blog. "Minerva" was acquitted in April. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) asked the government to review the constitutionality of the law used to arrest the blogger.

The MOJ confirmed that the government convicted 15 online bloggers for interfering with local business after encouraging users to boycott the country's top newspapers and that more cases were awaiting trial at year's end. All postings related to the boycott were deleted.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were generally no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

The law bans education workers from engaging in certain political activities. Offenders can serve up to one year in jail and be fined a maximum of 3.6 million won (approximately $3,000).

The Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology prosecuted 96 teachers and 14 government employees from Gyeonggi Province for signing antigovernment petitions and unionizing. In December the head of education for the province was prosecuted for a breach of duty after attempting to postpone the punitive measures brought against the teachers. During the year one of the officials was convicted; the other trials were pending.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of Assembly

The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right in practice. The law prohibits assemblies that are considered likely to undermine public order and requires police to be notified in advance of demonstrations of all types, including political rallies. The police must notify organizers if they consider an event impermissible under this law; however, police routinely approved demonstrations. The police reportedly banned some protests by groups that had not properly registered or that had been responsible for violent protests in the past. NGOs reported that police continued to use excessive force in responding to protests.

In January five squatters and one policeman were killed in a building fire in the Yongsan commercial zone. Local media and NGOs alleged that a police SWAT team used excessive force and neglected to take proper safety precautions while trying to remove 40 protesting squatters from the building.

The MOJ confirmed that none of the 24 riot police accused of excessive violence during the 2008 beef protests were arrested; 16 cases remained under investigation.

Freedom of Association

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right in practice. Associations operated freely, except those seeking to overthrow the government.

c. Freedom of Religion

The law provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.

Societal Abuses and Discrimination

There is a small Jewish population that consists almost entirely of expatriates. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

For a more detailed discussion, see the 2009 International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

Most citizens could move freely throughout the country; however, government officials restricted the movement of certain DPRK defectors by denying them passports. In many cases travelers going to the DPRK must receive a briefing from the Ministry of Unification prior to departure. They must also demonstrate that their trip does not have a political purpose and is not undertaken to praise the DPRK or criticize the ROK government. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

In September NGO leaders reported that Dolksun Isa, secretary general of the World Uighur Congress, was detained at Incheon airport for 42 hours, allegedly at China's request. Although he was later released and safely returned home, the government prohibited Isa from entering the country and attending an NGO conference in Seoul, as he had initially planned. MOJ officials emphasized that Isa was denied entry under the immigration law, not for political reasons.

The law does not include provisions for forced exile of its citizens, and the government did not employ it.

Protection of Refugees

The country is a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol. Its law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The government routinely did not grant refugee status or asylum. In practice the government generally provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Government guidelines provide for offering temporary refugee status in the case of a mass influx of asylum seekers and an alternative form of protection--a renewable, short-term permit--to those who meet a broader definition of "refugee." During the year the government recognized 22 asylum applicants as refugees, dismissed 203 cases, and rejected 994 applicants. A complex procedure and long delays in refugee status decision making continued to be problems. At year's end approximately 523 applications were pending decisions. Asylum seekers who were recognized as refugees received basic documentation but frequently encountered problems in exercising their rights. Like other foreigners, refugees frequently were subjected to various forms of informal discrimination.

In May local NGOs reported that a female Muslim refugee applicant requested to be interviewed by a female asylum officer but was told that the male officer who interviewed her husband also had to interview her. After she and her husband refused due to their religious beliefs, she was asked to sign a form stating that she did not want an interview, thus relinquishing her right to apply for refugee status.

Local NGOs reported that asylum seekers often faced challenges accessing legal assistance because of language barriers. In addition, immigration detention is not subject to judicial review, often leading to arbitrary and prolonged detention. For example, at year's end an Iranian national whose appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court had been in detention for almost four years.

The government continued its longstanding policy of accepting refugees from the DPRK, who are entitled to ROK citizenship. The government resettled 2,952 North Korean refugees during the year.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

The law provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage for all citizens 19 years of age or older.

Elections and Political Participation

National Assembly elections held in April 2008 were free and fair.

Both the majority and the various minority political parties operated without restriction or outside interference.

In general elections, 50 percent of each party's candidates on the proportional ballot must be women, and 30 percent of each party's geographical candidates are recommended to be women. There were 41 women in the 299-seat National Assembly, with three of 16 National Assembly committees chaired by women. Two of 13 Supreme Court justices and two of 15 cabinet ministers were women.

There were no minorities in the National Assembly.

Section 4 Official Corruption and Government Transparency

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and the government generally implemented these laws effectively. The Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption stated that the overall "cleanliness level" of the government for 2008 was 8.17 out of 10 points, a slight decrease from 8.89 in 2007. There were reports of officials receiving bribes and violating election laws. According to the MOJ, 4,067 government officials were prosecuted for abuse of authority, bribery, embezzlement or misappropriation, and falsification of official documents. The National Assembly reported that out of the 250 lawmakers facing indictment, 15 lawmakers were prosecuted for corruption and 12 were awaiting trial.

By law public servants above a certain rank must register their assets, including how they were accumulated, thereby making their holdings public. Among the anticorruption agencies are the Board of Audit and Inspection and the Public Servants Ethics Committee. In February 2008 the Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption, Ombudsman of Korea, and Administrative Appeals Commission were integrated to form the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission.

The country has a Freedom of Information Act; in practice the government granted access for citizens and noncitizens alike, including foreign media.

Section 5 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views. The government also was cooperative with international organizations. For example, UN Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang visited in September, and UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression Frank La Rue visited in October. In addition Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan visited in November.

The NHRC is an independent government body established to protect and promote human rights; however, it has no enforcement powers and its decisions are not binding. The NHRC investigates complaints, issues policy recommendations, and conducts education campaigns. The NHRC largely has enjoyed the government's cooperation, received adequate resources, and was considered effective.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) continued to investigate incidents of possible abuse during the anti-Japanese independence movement, the Korean War, and during the country's former military regimes. As of September the TRC had confirmed 4,387 cases of human rights abuses, 50 incidents of mass killings and located 168 mass graves during its investigation process. Local NGOs expressed concern that the government may not extend the TRC's mandate, which expires in April 2010. On November 26, the TRC claimed that ROK security forces rounded up and executed at least 4,934 individuals suspected of being Communists between June and September 1950, during the opening weeks of the Korean War. The TRC recommended that the government offer an official apology and enact legislation to provide compensation for the alleged killings.

Section 6 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

The law forbids discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, disability, social status, and race, and the government generally respected these provisions. However, traditional attitudes limited opportunities for women, persons with disabilities, and ethnic minorities. While courts have jurisdiction to decide discrimination claims, many of these cases instead were handled by the NHRC. During the year, 1,115 such cases were brought before the commission.

Women

Rape remained a serious problem. Although there is no specific statute that defines spousal rape as illegal, the courts have established a precedent by prosecuting spouses in such cases. The MOJ stated that there were 8,746 reports of rape or sexual violence during the year. Of these cases, 3,858 were prosecuted during the year. The penalty for rape is at least three years in prison; if a weapon is used or two or more persons commit the rape, punishment ranges from a minimum of five years to life imprisonment.

Violence against women remained a problem. During the year the MOJ registered 12,132 cases of domestic violence, and 1,262 persons were prosecuted, while 4,579 were filed as family protection cases and 6,215 were not charged. According to a Ministry of Gender and Equality (MOGE) survey, approximately 40 percent of all married women were victims of domestic violence. The law defines domestic violence as a serious crime and enables authorities to order offenders to stay away from victims for up to six months. Offenders can be sentenced to a maximum five years in prison and fined up to seven million won (approximately $5,985). Offenders also may be placed on probation or ordered to see court‑designated counselors. The law also requires police to respond immediately to reports of domestic violence, and they generally were responsive.

Prostitution is illegal but widespread. The police continued to crack down on alleged prostitution-related establishments. The government allows for the prosecution of citizens who pay for sex or commit acts of child sexual exploitation in other countries. The Act on the Prevention of the Sex Trade and Protection of Victims Thereof, which entered into effect in September 2008, further stipulates that the MOGE complete a report every three years on the status of domestic prostitution in addition to the involvement of citizens in sex tourism and the sex trade abroad. NGOs continued to express concern that sex tourism to China and Southeast Asia was becoming more prevalent.

The law obligates companies and organizations to take preventive measures against sexual harassment, but it continued to be a problem. The NHRC received 165 cases of alleged sexual harassment during the year. According to the NHRC, remedies included issuance of a recommendation for redress, conciliation, mutual settlement, and resolution during investigation. The NHRC lacks the authority to impose punitive measures, which must be pursued through the court system.

The law allows couples and individuals to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children. The Ministry of Gender and Equality reported that there was a strong reluctance to have children due to the high cost of childrearing and the challenges of balancing work-life commitments. Under the Standard Act on Low Birth and Aging Society passed in 2005, the government established various polices to encourage persons to have children, such as medical subsidies for pregnant women, maternity leave for a maximum of one year, and profamily workplace programs.

The law permits a woman to head a household, recognizes a wife's right to a portion of a couple's property, and allows a woman to maintain contact with her children after a divorce. The law also allows remarried women to change their children's family name to their new husband's name. Women enjoy the same legal rights under the constitution as men.

The Ministry of Labor (MOL) reported that 42 percent of newly created jobs in the financial services sector during 2008 were filled by women. In a national poll conducted by the MOL from April through July, 82 percent of the respondents stated that gender discrimination had decreased over recent years. However, 47 percent of those polled stated that discrimination in the workplace remained a problem.

The number of woman in entry-level civil service positions and new diplomatic positions continued to increase. However, women continued to experience pay discrimination for substantially similar work. The MOGE reported that there were a growing number of companies choosing not to hire women because the law requires that they receive maternity leave. Women returning to work after maternity leave often were assigned to low-level, low-paying jobs. Relative to men few women worked in managerial positions or earned more than a median income.

The law penalizes companies found to discriminate against women in hiring and promotions. A company found guilty of practicing sexual discrimination can be fined up to approximately five million won (approximately $4,275).

Children

Citizenship is based on parentage (jus sanguinis), not place of birth, and persons must demonstrate their family genealogy as proof of citizenship. Citizenship is also given in circumstances where parentage is unclear if a person is stateless. The government allows anyone to benefit from public services, regardless of birth registration, if they are legal residents. There were no reports of a denial of public services due to a lack of proper birth registration.

From January through December 2008, a total of 7,219 child abuse cases were reported to the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs. The MOGE maintained four centers that provided counseling, treatment, and legal assistance to child victims of sexual violence.

The law establishes a minimum sentence of 25 years for the brokerage and sale of the sexual services of persons younger than 19. It also establishes prison terms for persons convicted of the purchase of sexual services of youth under age 19. The Ministry for Health, Welfare, and Family Affairs publicizes the names of those who commit sex offenses against minors. The law provides for prison terms of up to three years or a fine of up to 20 million won (approximately $17,100) for owners of entertainment establishments who hire persons under 19. The commission's definition of "entertainment establishment" includes facilities such as restaurants and cafes where children work as prostitutes.

The minimum age for consensual sex is 13 years of age. The law stipulates that punishment for statutory rape of a minor and the sex trafficking of a minor be a maximum of three years in prison and/or a 2.4 million won fine (approximately $20,000); however, the MOJ reported that the punishment for such cases varied.

Trafficking in Persons

The law prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons; however, there were reports that persons were trafficked to, from, through, and within the country. Women from Russia, other countries of the former Soviet Union, China, Mongolia, the Philippines, and other Southeast Asian countries were trafficked to the country for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. They were recruited personally or answered advertisements and were flown to Korea, often with entertainer or tourist visas. Some female workers on E-6 (entertainment) visas, who were recruited as singers, were trafficked by their employers/managers and effectively detained by their employers.

An increasing challenge was the number of women from less-developed countries recruited for marriage to Korean men through international marriage brokers. Some, upon arrival in the country, were subjected to sexual exploitation, debt bondage, and involuntary servitude. In some instances, once these visa recipients arrived in the country, employers illegally held victims' passports.

Local women were trafficked primarily for sexual exploitation to the United States, sometimes through Canada and Mexico, as well as to other countries such as Australia and Japan. Labor trafficking continued to be a problem, and some employers allegedly withheld the passports and wages of foreign workers. Migrants seeking opportunities in the country were believed to have become victims of trafficking as well. The MOL's Employment Permit System (EPS) was used to reduce the role of private labor agencies and recruiters, who may have employed exploitative practices. Nevertheless, some migrant workers continued to incur large debts to pay exorbitant broker fees for work in the country. Migrant workers' residence status was tied to their position with their employers, which in some cases exposed them to exploitation and abuse. There were reports that human traffickers illegally used ROK passports for the purpose of human trafficking. There was no evidence that officials were involved in trafficking.

The law prohibits trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, including debt bondage, and prescribes up to 10 years' imprisonment. Trafficking for forced labor is criminalized and carries penalties of up to five years' imprisonment. February 2008 revisions to the Passport Act allow for restricted issuance or confiscation of passports of persons engaging in illegal activity overseas, including sex trafficking. However, some NGOs believed laws against sex trafficking were not being enforced effectively. During the year authorities reportedly conducted 220 trafficking investigations and prosecuted 31 cases, all for sex trafficking. It was unclear, however, how many of these actually were trafficking cases, since the laws used to prosecute traffickers were also used to prosecute other crimes, and the government does not document adequately the number of trafficking cases. There were no reported prosecutions or convictions for labor trafficking offenses.

The Marriage Brokerage Management Act, which entered into effect in June, regulates both domestic and international marriage brokers and prescribes penalties for dishonest brokers, including sentences of up to three years' imprisonment or fines. There also are laws to protect foreign brides in the country and punish fraudulent marriage brokers, but NGOs claimed the laws needed to be strengthened.

The KNPA and the MOJ were principally responsible for enforcing antitrafficking laws. The government worked with the international community on investigations related to trafficking.

The government maintained a network of shelters and programs to assist victims of abuse, including trafficking victims. Victims also were eligible for medical, legal, vocational, and social support services. NGOs with funding from the government provided many of these services. NGOs reported that there was only one counseling center and two shelters in the country dedicated to foreign victims of sex trafficking, although these victims could access services through other government-funded centers. The MOJ continued to educate male "johns" in an attempt to correct distorted views of prostitution. Some NGOs criticized the fact that women detained for prostitution occasionally were required to attend these rehabilitation seminars along with the male clients. During the year 17,956 individuals participated in the MOJ education program.

The Department of State's annual Trafficking in Persons Report can be found at www.state.gov/g/tip.

Persons with Disabilities

In April 2008 the Anti-Discrimination Against and Remedies for Persons with Disabilities Act (DDA) took effect. The DDA adopts a definition of discrimination encompassing direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, and denial of due conveniences, and it establishes penalties for deliberate discrimination of up to three years in prison and 30 million won (approximately $25,650). The government, through the Ministry for Health, Welfare, and Family Affairs, initiated a five-year plan to implement a comprehensive set of policies, took measures to make homes barrier free, provided part-time employment, established a task force to introduce a long-term medical care system, and opened a national rehabilitation research center to increase opportunities and access for persons with disabilities. During the year the NHRC received 698 cases of alleged discrimination against persons with disabilities in areas such as employment, property ownership, and access to educational facilities.

Firms with more than 50 employees are required by law to hire persons with disabilities, and firms with more than 100 employees are required to contribute to funds used to promote the employment of persons with disabilities if they do not hire persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, the hiring of persons with disabilities remained significantly below target levels, although government officials contended that the employment rate of disabled persons was increasing.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The country is racially homogeneous, with no sizable populations of ethnic minorities. Naturalization required detailed applications, a waiting period, and a series of investigations and examinations. Persons seeking Korean citizenship who are unable to satisfy citizenship requirements through naturalization, family genealogy, place of birth, or statelessness are considered foreign.

The Korea Women Migrants' Human Rights Center confirmed that the government made it easier for foreign wives to obtain citizenship by reducing from four to two the number of years required before a foreign wife is eligible for citizenship. The Korean Immigration Service implemented a written examination for naturalization that reduced the overall waiting period during the screening process by approximately one year. Immigration statistics showed that the number of naturalizations more than doubled from 11,518 cases in 2008 to 24,044 cases during the year.

The local media reported an increase during the year in the number of racially motivated offenses in the country, which has long prided itself on its racial homogeneity, as the number of foreign migrant workers and foreign English-language teachers continued to grow. In November there were reports of local women being harassed for traveling with, dating, or marrying foreign men. There also were reports of employment discrimination against African-American teachers, mixed-race children, and Korean-Americans.

Local NGOs and the media also reported that North Korean refugees, although supported through government-funded resettlement programming, also faced discrimination.

Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but societal discrimination persisted. In November 2008 a military court asked the Constitutional Court to rule on the constitutionality of rules prohibiting sexual activity between male military personnel. At year's end the court had not issued a ruling.

The law does not have specific legislation regarding discrimination or violence against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBTs). The MOJ reported that the equality principles under article 11 of the constitution apply to LGBTs. The government punished perpetrators of violence against LGBTs according to the law. There were no cases of discrimination against LGBTs reported during the year.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

The NHRC reported there were 347 employment discrimination cases filed in 2008. Despite cultural respect for the elderly, there were 83 reports of age discrimination and 85 cases of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Some observers claimed that persons with HIV/AIDS suffered from severe societal discrimination and social stigma.

The law ensures equal access to diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and infections, including HIV/AIDS, regardless of gender. It also protects the confidentiality of persons with HIV/AIDS and protects individuals from discrimination. The government supported rehabilitation programs and shelters run by private groups and subsidized medical expenses from the initial diagnosis. The government operated a Web site with HIV/AIDS information and a telephone counseling service.

The NHRC reported that during the year an HIV/AIDS patient was refused treatment at a local hospital. That patient was later given treatment by a national hospital. The NHRC recommended that the government take steps to guarantee the medical rights of HIV/AIDS victims to ensure that such incidents are avoided.

According to a report by an international NGO, the government continued to require HIV testing for foreigners applying for an E-1 (teaching) visa. The report, citing the Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention, also noted that 521 of 647 foreigners diagnosed with HIV had been forced to leave the country.

Section 7 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The law provides workers with the right to associate freely and allows public servants to organize unions. The government and labor unions continued to postpone the implementation of the 1997 law that authorizes union pluralism.

The ratio of organized labor in the entire population of wage earners in 2008 was approximately 11 percent. The country has two national labor federations: the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU). There are an estimated 4,886 labor unions. The KCTU and the FKTU were affiliated with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Most of the FKTU's constituent unions maintained affiliations with international union federations. The MOL reported that approximately 1.7 million of the country's 15.8 million workers were union members.

The government recognized a range of other labor federations, including independent white-collar federations representing hospital workers, journalists, and office workers at construction firms and government research institutes. Labor federations not formally recognized by the MOL generally operated without government interference.

By law unions must submit a request for mediation to the Labor Relations Commission before a strike; otherwise, the strike is considered illegal. In most cases the mediation must be completed within 10 days; in the case of essential services, within 15 days. Strikes initiated following this period without majority support from union membership are illegal. Striking is also prohibited in cases in which a dispute has been referred to binding arbitration. Among the workers employed at major defense corporations subject to the Defense Industry Act, those working in the areas of electricity generation, water supply, or production of defense products were not allowed to strike. In addition, if striking employees resort to violence, unlawful occupation of premises, or damaging facilities, their actions are deemed illegal. Strikes not specifically pertaining to labor conditions, including wages, benefits, and working hours, are also illegal. The constitution and the Labor Relations Act provide workers the right to strike and exempt them from legal responsibility in the case of a legal strike; however, workers who use violence and/or participate in illegal activities can be prosecuted under the criminal code on charges of "obstruction of business." Striking workers can be removed by police from the premises and, along with union leaders, prosecuted and sentenced.

In March Amnesty International reported that four journalists and union activists from YTN, a 24-hour news channel, were arrested for "interfering with business" for organizing a strike over wage disputes and government interference with the media. The MOJ reported that the journalists were arrested but later released. In December a court fined the journalists and unionists approximately six million won (approximately $50,000) for the strike.

Local media and NGOs reported that the police prevented the delivery of food, water, and medical treatment to 800 union workers who physically occupied a Ssangyong auto plant during a strike against layoffs that were being planned by the bankrupt company. The media reported that police helicopters dropped liquefied tear gas on the workers, conducted surveillance, and allowed the company to play extremely loud music on speakers throughout the day and night in an attempt to stop the strike. MOJ officials contended that while the incident was "unfortunate," the decision to ban food and play loud music was made by the company, not the police. MOJ officials also underscored that the strike was illegal because it was not related to labor conditions and resulted in millions of dollars in property damage. According to the MOJ, of the 94 protesters that were charged in connection with the strike, 72 were fined and the rest were awaiting trial.

In June KCTU President Lee Suk-haeng was convicted and sentenced to two years' imprisonment and three years probation for "obstruction of business" in connection with his role organizing a general strike in July 2008 to protest government plans to resume foreign beef imports. At year's end his case was pending in appeals court.

The law prohibits retribution against workers who conduct a legal strike and allows workers to file complaints of unfair labor practices against employers.

The system requiring labor unions in enterprises determined to be of essential public interest to submit to government-ordered arbitration was abolished legally in 2006. Strikes are prohibited for both central and local government officials.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law provides for the right to collective bargaining and collective action, and workers exercised these rights in practice. The law also empowers workers to file complaints of unfair labor practices against employers who interfere with union organizing or who discriminate against union members. Employers found guilty of unfair practices can be required to reinstate workers fired for union activities. According to the ITUC, employers in some cases levied "obstruction of business" charges against union leaders who were seeking to bargain collectively or engage in lawful union activities.

The law permits public servants to organize trade unions and bargain collectively, although it restricts the public service unions from collective bargaining on topics such as policy-making issues and budgetary matters.

Workers in export processing zones (EPZs) have the rights enjoyed by workers in other sectors, and labor organizations are permitted in the EPZs. However, foreign companies operating in the EPZs are exempt from some labor regulations. For example, foreign-invested enterprises are exempt from provisions that mandate paid leave and paid menstruation leave for women, obligate companies with more than 50 persons to recruit persons with disabilities for at least 2 percent of their workforce, encourage companies to reserve 3 percent of their workforce for workers over 55 years of age, and restrict large companies from participating in certain business categories.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children, and there were no reports that such practices occurred.

d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law protects children from exploitation in the workplace and prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and the government effectively enforced these laws through regular inspections. Child labor was not considered a problem.

The Labor Standards Law prohibits the employment of persons under age 15 without a special employment certificate from the MOL. Because education is compulsory through middle school (approximately age 15), few special employment certificates were issued for full-time employment. To obtain employment, children under age 18 must obtain written approval from either parents or guardians. Employers must limit minors' overtime hours and are prohibited from employing minors at night without special permission from the MOL.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage is reviewed annually. During the year the minimum wage was 4,000 won (approximately $3.40) per hour. The FKTU and other labor organizations asserted that the existing minimum wage did not meet the basic requirements of urban workers.

Persons working in the financial/insurance industry, publicly invested companies, state corporations, and companies with more than 20 employees work a five-day, 40-hour week. Labor laws mandate a 24-hour rest period each week and provide for a flexible hours system under which employers can require laborers to work up to 48 hours during certain weeks without paying overtime (and 52 with approval from the relevant labor union) so long as average weekly hours for any given two-week period do not exceed 40 hours. If a union agrees to a further loosening of the rules, management may ask employees to work up to 56 regular hours in a given week. Workers may work more than 12 hours per day in overtime during a workweek if both the employer and the employee agree. The Labor Standards Act also provides for a 50 percent higher wage for overtime.

The Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA) is responsible for implementing industrial accident prevention activities. The government sets health and safety standards, but the accident rate was high by international standards. During the year there were 1,059 fatalities from industrial accidents. During the year KOSHA established a Process Safety Management System to assist petrochemical factories vulnerable to large-scale accidents, conducted safety checks on dangerous machinery and equipment, and subsidized working environment improvements in small and medium-sized enterprises.

Contract and other "nonregular" workers accounted for a substantial portion of the workforce. According to the government, there were approximately 5.7 million nonregular workers, comprising approximately 35 percent of the total workforce. The MOL reported that in general nonregular workers performed work similar to regular workers but received approximately 87 percent of the wages of regular workers. In addition 53 percent of nonregular workers were ineligible for national health and unemployment insurance and other benefits, compared with 6 percent of regular workers.

The law on nonregular workers allows companies with more than 300 workers to use temporary worker contracts valid for a maximum of two years. However, labor groups alleged that employers used a loophole in the law to avoid their obligation to hire part-time workers as regular workers after the two-year time limit.

The MOL reported that the total number of illegal foreign workers was estimated to be approximately 9,200.

The government continued to use the EPS to increase protections and controls on foreign workers while easing the labor shortage in the manufacturing, construction, and agricultural sectors. Through the EPS, permit holders may work in certain industries only and have limited job mobility but generally enjoy the same rights and privileges as citizens, including the right to organize. Foreign workers are limited in their freedom to change jobs. Before changing jobs, the employee's place of work must close down or the worker must have proof of physical abuse by the employer. Unless the MOJ grants an extension on humanitarian grounds, workers lose their legal status if they do not find a new employer within two months.

In September the National Assembly passed amendments to the EPS Act to strengthen human rights protections for foreign workers. The amendments allow more flexibility in the length of contracts, ensure that job changes that are not the fault of migrant workers are excluded from their three allowable job changes, and increase from two to three months the allowable time in between contracts.

During the year 63,323 foreigners entered the country under the EPS. The government implemented a variety of social services and legal precedents to address complaints about the working conditions of foreigners. In April local authorities implemented a variety of programs to ease the difficulties of living and working in the country, including free legal advice programs, free translation services, and the establishment of several "human rights protection centers for foreigners." In July the MOL announced improved health measures that allow migrant workers to receive health checkups in their native language.

In December local authorities approved a request from five foreign lecturers to form a union in the country. Past attempts by foreign migrant workers to unionize had been denied because of their desire to include nondocumented workers in their membership. Local human rights groups complained that the EPS system does not ensure equal rights to migrant workers, alleging that fear of reprisals, limited employment alternatives, and cumbersome grievance processes limited their ability to exercise their rights and increased their vulnerability to exploitation.

In an October review of the migrant worker situation, Amnesty International reported that despite "considerable progress made in the management of migrant labor, first by providing migrant workers regular status as trainees and second by protecting them under labor laws as workers...migrant workers in South Korea are still subjected to human rights violations and exploitative practices."

NGOs and local media reported that irregular workers were at a greater risk for discrimination because of their status and foreign laborers sometimes faced physical abuse and exploitation from employers. The NGO Korea Migrant Center received reports of abuse of female entertainment visa holders.

The MOJ reported that, as of October, foreign workers filed 8,074 complaints related to unpaid wages.

Foreign workers employed as language teachers continued to complain that the institutes for which they worked frequently violated employment contracts. However, employers countered that there were a large number of foreign teachers who did not fully honor their work contracts.