[EDITORIALS]Body behaving badlyThe sudden resignation of Cho Young-whang, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, has revealed problems with the body. The commission closed its eyes to North Korea’s human rights violations while it caused chaos over sending troops to Iraq. Mr. Cho cited his health problems as the reason for his resignation but inside conflicts seem to be more serious reasons.
Since the commission was launched in 2001, it has worked on irrelevant issues, such as abolishing the National Security Law. Since Mr. Cho entered office in April, chaos was encouraged by the commission promoting people’s rights to refuse mandatory military service for religious convictions.
This year, the commission released a National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights that stated many regulations, including the same treatment for the same labor. The body also released an act that prohibits extreme discrimination, raising resistance from the business sector. The commission also tried to have an operation to switch genders covered by health insurance.
The body put North Korea’s human rights violations on its agenda last September, four years after it was launched, because it has focused on playing along with the Blue House. But it has presented no stance yet on the issue, even though more than a year has since passed. Lately, the commission was found to have rejected a petition to save North Koreans who were about to be publicly shot. Mr. Cho has displayed a vague stance all along but has now reached the limit.
Critics have pointed out the commission’s unreasonable procedure of making decisions. Among the 11 members of the commission, many are from civic groups and only three are law experts. The members of the commission and the staff members have had serious conflicts.
Many of the jobs of the commission overlap with that of the Ombudsman of Korea and another commission to reveal the truth behind questionable deaths in the military. Lately, the Justice Ministry has opened a new department on human rights and the military and the police has introduced an ombudsman system so it can handle cases of human rights violations.
The National Human Rights Commission has contributed to the improvement of human rights of minority groups such as irregular workers and women prisoners. Thus, it should focus on its unique duties, or citizens will become suspicious of whether the taxpayers’ 20 billion won ($22 million) is well-spent on the body.