Seoul calls off human rights charter

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Seoul calls off human rights charter

The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced Sunday that it won’t accept a charter for human rights for Seoul residents suggested by a Citizens Committee, which couldn’t agree on gay rights. “We have demanded the committee determine all 50 clauses by consensus because clauses that were decided by a vote can evoke social conflicts,” said Jeon Hyo-gwan, the chief of the Seoul Innovation Bureau.

“But some of them were determined by a vote and we consider that a failure. As we reject the committee’s decision, we won’t be able to announce the charter by World Human Rights Day on Dec. 10 as we planned,” Jeon added.

The Seoul government gave its last effort to finalize the charter in a committee meeting Friday, but in the end the members could not make unanimous decisions on five clauses. Many of 180 members of the committee either didn’t show up or left the meeting midway through apparently because they were disappointed by the way the negotiations were proceeding.

The most controversial issue was a clause stipulating that all forms of discrimination be abolished. Some people, including sexual minority groups, insisted the clause be very explicit. They proposed: “Seoul citizens have a right to oppose any legally prohibited discrimination regardless of their sex, religion, disability, age, social class, birthplace, nationality, ethnic group, appearance, physical condition, marital status, pregnancy, family condition, ethnicity, skin color, ideology, political opinions, crime records, sexual orientation, sexual identity, education and disease status.”

But some other committee members, including Christian anti-homosexuality organizations, preferred a simpler version. They proposed: “Seoul citizens have a right to oppose any discrimination.”

The issue was put to a vote and the first group won. The two sides even staged protest rallies at City Hall in central Seoul while the last meeting was ongoing. The announcement on Sunday was criticized by the committee. The Citizens Committee released a statement later that day that read, “The Seoul government is responsible for declaring and implementing the charter as it promised before.”

The committee also claimed that the rejection by the local government means a restriction on the people’s decisions and some clauses had to be decided by votes. “There is no public policy that can be determined unanimously,” read the statement. “Citizens made the charter on Friday with enough discussions for a long time, and it is a false claim that we have failed to finalize the charter.” The city government is now planning to come up with another way to develop a charter.

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