Human rights panel in disarray with resignations

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Human rights panel in disarray with resignations

A commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission of Korea stepped down yesterday following earlier resignations by two standing commissioners at the beginning of the month, causing problems for the current chairman of the commission Hyun Byung-chul.

Cho Kuk, 45, a law professor at Seoul National University, criticized Hyun in his resignation statement yesterday, saying that the commission chairman should stand up against the government. But he added that Hyun’s position on the issue had changed and Cho could not keep from feeling “humiliation and great indignation when thinking of the people who had committed themselves to creating the commission.”

Cho added: “The commission, led by Hyun, has standards that are not based on human rights but on politics. It has abandoned its role to criticize and block government power’s violation of human rights. This is because the chairman has a lack of leadership and communication skills and a lack of self-consciousness on human rights.”

The professor said he was resigning to emphasize the serious state of affairs within the commission. Cho had been recommended for the position by the chief justice of the Supreme Court and his term was to end Dec. 23.

Commission officials are now concerned that Cho’s resignation will lead to other resignations, because he was the third to quit and demanded that the chairman step down.

Hyun, former dean of Hanyang Cyber University, was named to his position last July. He has been frequently criticized for his lack of experience in human rights and for inappropriate actions and remarks since becoming chairman.

Two standing commissioners, Yoo Nam-young and Moon Kyung-ran, resigned on Nov. 1 with roughly three months remaining on their three-year terms at the agency.

The two senior commissioners said Hyun was “undemocratic” and had frequently clashed with the chairman. Yoo and Moon had been frustrated with what they said were the chairman’s unilateral decisions to avoid dealing with sensitive issues.

After the senior officials stepped down, a group of officials at the commission filed an official statement last week accusing Hyun of undermining their morale and independence from the government.

A press conference was held Monday by former and current commission members demanding Hyun’s resignation.


By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

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