SOUTH KOREA: Children's Rights in the UN Special Procedures' Reports

Summary: This report extracts mentions of children's rights issues in the reports of the UN Special Procedures. This does not include reports of child specific Special Procedures, such as the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which are available as separate reports.

Please note that the language may have been edited in places for the purpose of clarity

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Report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Migrants


Country visit: 5 – 12 December 2006

Report published: 14 March 2007

Migrant Children: The deportation of irregular migrants’ children is also an issue of particular concern. On 21 August 2006 the Ministry of Justice released a new policy regarding undocumented migrants’ children. Undocumented migrants’ children who are enrolled in elementary school are required to report their irregular status within the reporting period from 1 September 2006 to 30 November 2006 and will be given special stay permission. Those who reported their irregular status are allowed to stay until the end of February 2008. However, those who are supposed to graduate in February 2007 may stay until 30 days following the graduation date of the elementary school. This special permission will not be given to those who do not report and will therefore be deported. Under the current Nationality Act which is based on jus sanguini, the children of foreigners residing as workers in the Republic of Korea are prohibited from obtaining Korean nationality even if the children were born in the Republic of Korea. (para 31)

The situation of undocumented children of migrants is another matter of concern. Children’s rights to education are not addressed appropriately in accordance with relevant human rights standards, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. (Para 56)

The Korean Government should mitigate the requirements to apply for naturalization for the victims of domestic violence. Migrant women who have a child with Korean men should be entitled to residency rights regardless of their marriage status. (para 62)

With regard to migrant children. As foreseen in the CRC, the best interests of the child should govern all regulations

or decisions taken to govern their status. In particular, all efforts should be made to allow them to enjoy all their human rights notably with regard to access to education and health services. (para 66)

Law and Regulation: The [social integration] programme would mainly focus on the following issues:

(a) Unlawful international marriages through brokers;

(b) Legal status of foreign spouses;

(c) Support for children’s education;

(d) Support for adjustment and integration. (para 48)


Report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right ot Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Frank la Rue


Country visit: 25 – 30 June 1995

Report published: 21 March 2011

Mr. la Rue identified the following concerns:

Protests: However, despite the progress made over the decades, the Special Rapporteur notes that the space for freedom of expression in the Republic of Korea has been shrinking in recent years, in particular since the candlelight demonstrationsof 2008. On the weekend of 2 May 2008, more than 12,000 people, mostly middle- and high-school students, gathered in central Seoul to hold a candlelight vigil against the resumption of beef imports from the United States of America, due to fears over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BCE, or “mad cow disease”). Through Internet discussion boards such as Agora and online community sites such as Cassiopeia, “netizens” were able to mobilize people quickly, and the protests took place almost on a daily basis in the evening throughout the months of May and June, and during the first week of July. Although the initial focus of the candlelight. (para 18)

Internet: At the same time, the Special Rapporteur is cognizant of the fact that the Internet can be used as a means to facilitate the commission of a crime, such as child pornography, and the responsibility of the Government to ensure that the Internet remains a safe place and responsible persons behind such criminal conduct are brought to account. However, he is concerned that in the Republic of Korea, peaceful expression of opinion or dissemination of information, which are considered to be de famatory or insulting, constitute crimes under domestic law, punishable by imprisonment or a fine. (para 30)

In addition to the above-mentioned types of content regulated by intermediaries, article 44-7(1) of the Network Act prohibits any individual from circulating information via the Internet which contains:


(e) Content that falls within an unwholesome medium for juveniles under the Juvenile Protection Act;

(…) (para 43)

NGOs: In addition, on 26 April 2010, the National Election Commission (NEC), responsible for controlling all aspects of elections in the country, issued a guideline entitled “Announcement on the activities of various organizations with respect to election issues”, which prohibits organizations, including NGOs and religious groups, from installing, posting or distributing advertisements, posters, photographs, documents “or the like” on main election issues, as an extension of the prohibition to support or oppose a political party or candidate. Consequently, some of the activities of NGOs and religious groups have been restricted, as they are not permitted to disseminate information or hold a rally on key election issues such as the “Four Major Rivers Restoration Project” and “Free School Meals”. (para 55)

Education: In the Republic of Korea, public officials, including Government officials and teachers of public schools, are prohibited from expressing their opinions on the basis that they should remain politically neutral in accordance with the State Public Officials Act. The Special Rapporteur is particularly concerned about members of the Korea Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU, or “Jeon Gyo Jo”), who have been subjected to investigation, dismissal, suspension without pay, harassment and surveillance for signing peaceful statements on matters of interest to the public. (para 76)

On 18 June 2009, 17,147 teachers signed a statement requesting the withdrawal of education policies designed to drive students into fierce competition at the expense of quality education. In response, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced that the teachers who signed the statement would receive disciplinary sanctions, including dismissal of 22 KTU central executive members from their teaching posts, and suspension of 67 KTU provincial leaders and full-time unionists. On 29 June 2009, the Seoul Prosecutor’s Office reportedly launched an investigation into 89 KTU Executive Committee members who had signed the statement, and police forces raised the KTU’s offices in Seoul, during which computer hard drives and documents were seized. (para 77)

On 19 July 2009, the KTU issued a second statement entitled “Teachers’ Statement for the Protection of Democracy”, which inter aliacalled for schools to be run democratically and teachers’ freedom of expression to be respected, and was endorsed by 28,637 teachers across the country. Consequently, the Government again filed a complaint against 89 KTU leaders to the Prosecutor’s office, and initiated disciplinary procedures against 22 KTU central-committee members and 67 other full-time union officials. (para 78)

The Special Rapporteur has been informed that at least eight teachers have been expelled, 21 suspended, and one has received a salary cut as a result of their involvement in the above mentioned statements. Additionally, many have reported that they cannot lead normal lives, as they are subjected to harassment and surveillance. (para 79)

While the Special Rapporteur recognizes the influential role of civil servants to shape views and opinions and thus their responsibility to behave in an objective and fair manner, they are also entitled, as individuals, to their right to freedom of opinion and expression, particularly when it is exercised outside of their official duties and on matters of public interest, such as educational policies. Moreover, the Joint ILO and UNESCO Recommendation by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Recommendations Concerning Teaching Personnel states that “teachers should be free to exercise all civic rights generally enjoyed by citizens and should be eligible for public office”. It also provides that “the participation of teachers in social and publiclife should be encouraged in the interests of the teacher’s personal development, of the education service and of society as a whole”. Furthermore, in its decision of 29 May 2008, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Korea also ruled that even though civil servants are required to be politically neutral, they cannot be an exception to the guarantee of freedom of expression, a view that has also been endorsed by the NHRCK. (para 80)

While the Special Rapporteur recognizes the influential role of public school teachers to shape the views and opinions of their students, he recommends that the Government guarantee their right to freedom of expression, to which they are entitled as individuals, particularly when it is exercised outside of their official duties and on matters of public interest, such as educational policies. (para 100)


Requested visits

Visits accepted

  • Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders (29 May – 7 June 2013)


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