More walkouts follow strife at NHRC over boss

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More walkouts follow strife at NHRC over boss

Seven more members of the National Human Rights Commission resigned Friday to protest the leadership of chairman Hyun Byung-chul, deepening an unprecedented conflict paralyzing the country’s human rights watchdog.

“Today, which marks the 62nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we resign from every title endowed by the National Human Rights Commission following the suit of 61 other members who resigned first,” said the members, either counselors or coordinators, at a press conference on Friday.

On Nov. 15, 61 officials tendered their resignations and demanded the resignation of the chairman. That cut the number of the workforce at the commission by one third.

The 61 officials accused Hyun of failing to investigate any issue that might embarrass the government. Hyun has also been criticized for lack of experience in human rights since he took over the position in July 2009. He was formerly president of Hanyang Cyber University.

The seven members said they reached the conclusion that there is nothing to expect from the NHRC under the current chairman, who they accused of maintaining a “no human rights policy.”

They urged the introduction of a personnel management system within the commission to keep someone with no knowledge of human rights from working as the chairman or members, warning that more people will leave without such measures. “We leave the NHRC to save it,” they said.

The controversy over Hyun’s leadership arose when two of the three standing committee members of the commission -- Yoo Nam-young and Moon Kyung-ran -- resigned early last month. Cho Kuk, a Seoul National University law professor who was one of the seven non-standing members at the commission, resigned afterwards.

Disapproval of Hyun’s leadership also came from outside the organization.

At the NHRC’s annual human rights award ceremony at a Seoul hotel on Friday, Kang Jae-gyeong, the head of a human rights group in Incheon who was honored, declined to receive his award and held up a placard demanding Hyun’s resignation.

Some other recipients of awards, including Kim Eun-chong, a Seoul high school student, did not attend the ceremony.

Jang Hyang-sook, the only standing committee member left, is also criticizing Hyun. She said she does not feel like working with him, although declining to comment on whether she will resign or not.

By Moon Gwang-lip []
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