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 Korea has become a third-rate country in terms of human rights and corruption. The list of failings is long, including sexual harassment in officialdom, repression of the freedom of speech, and ignoring the human rights situation in North Korea. Those are the conclusions of the 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices soon to be released by the U.S. Department of State. According to Voice of America, the report pointed out cases of corruption and sexual misconduct of Korea’s government officials in detail, including citings of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and the late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon.

In the past, the State Department’s report focused on Korea’s National Security Law, conscripts’ refusal to serve their military duty based on conscience, and North Korea’s human rights situation. But the latest report painted a more shameful portrait of us. A citizen said he could not lift his head after reading the report. How can a country that took pride in becoming a free and democratic country after ending long dictatorships and poverty become like this?

The human rights issue the report mentions first involves restriction of the freedom of speech and the press. The report singled out the Moon Jae-in administration’s ban on the dispatch of anti-North Korea propaganda across the border as a case of infringement of the freedom of speech by human rights activists. On freedom of the press, the report raised the issue of a journalist who was sentenced to eight months in jail for an article on former Justice Minister Cho Kuk. The State Department expressed concerns about the harsh sentence given the journalist.

As far as corruption is concerned, the report said that as of October 2020, the prosecution’s investigation into corruption of Cho and his wife continued. The report also mentioned the case of ruling party lawmaker Yoon Mee-hyang, who was indicted for embezzling public donations for former sex slaves for Japan’s Imperial Army. It also referred to the ouster of Rep. Kim Hong-geul from the ruling party after under-reporting the size of his wealth before running in parliamentary elections. The sexual harassment category goes into painful detail. The report states that former Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon had physical contact with his secretary repeatedly and sent her a photo of himself in his underwear.

On Tuesday, the United Nations will adopt a resolution denouncing North Korea’s systematic, broad and grave violations of human rights. The UN also deals with repression of religious freedom and the freedom of speech in North Korea. But the Moon government has shunned each resolution for three consecutive years.

Corruption and human rights restrictions in our society are more serious than thought. The recent inside-information real estate scandal shows the level of corruption among our civil servants — even as the country is led by a human rights-lawyer-turned-president. The government’s arrogance and self-satisfaction have played a big part in the degradation of the country. We hope the government turns the country into an advanced one in human rights.
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