Human rights watchdog suffers from internal feud

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Human rights watchdog suffers from internal feud

Two of the three standing commissioners at the National Human Rights Commission of Korea said yesterday that they plan to resign in protest of what they called a unilateral decision-making process controlled by the head of the state human rights watchdog group.

This will be the first time top officials resign from the commission since its establishment in 2001.

Some critics were concerned that the right-leaning commission would turn back the clock on human rights in Korea.

The two standing commissioners, Yoo Nam-young and Moon Kyung-ran, informed commission chairman Hyun Byung-chul of their intention to resign at a recent meeting, said an NHRC commission spokeswoman.

If the two submit letters of resignation, the government is expected to finish a formal process of discharging them within two weeks.

Yoo’s and Moon’s three-year terms are to expire on Dec. 23 and Feb. 3, 2011, respectively.

Established by the Kim Dae-jung administration as a human rights bastion, the commission has presided over human rights infringement cases.

The panel’s determinations often have been adopted into state and corporate policies.

Its decision-making process is often attended by its 11 commissioners, including the chairman, three standing commissioners and the seven nonstanding commissioners.

The three standing commissioners, however, have been given the right to make a decision among the three of them on certain issues regarded as urgently needing the intervention of the commission.

The spokeswoman of the commission declined to comment on the reason for the resignations.

But Moon and Yoo later told reporters that they were frustrated with the commission for not living up to its purpose under Hyun’s leadership.

“Hyun cares only about those in power not about human rights,” Moon told reporters.

Observers said Yoo and Moon, both vocal in human rights issues, have confronted Hyun on several human rights issues, including the government’s defamation suit against Park Won-soon, a lawyer and leading human rights figure in Korea.

Park claimed the National Intelligence Service conducted an illegal surveillance against him, and Yoo and Moon claim Hyun prevented them from objecting to the government position in the case. Park won the case in September.

Deepening the confrontation was a plan of revision in the rules on the management of the commission aimed at curtailing the rights of the standing committee.

Hyun proposed the revision on Sept. 25.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joogang.co.kr]

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