Korea has been selected to host next November's 2010 G20 summit. As possible reason for this honour, The French daily Le Figaro has attested that Korea has now joined the list of the world's most advanced nations. Indeed, all Koreans are now wishing to demonstrate its worthiness of selection politically, economically, culturally and diplomatically. "We must seize this opportunity to improve further Korea's international status," announced The Chosun Ilbo.
However, a screening report on Korea released on November 24 by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), has made me doubt whether Korea is ready to be on the list of the world's most advanced nations. CKESCR reports that while South Korea has risen to the world's 12th largest economy, its record on Human Rights has deteriorated over the past several years. In her recent visit to Korea Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty, criticized the government for making too many excuses: "Fame as a global leader is not achieved by being the chair of the G20 summit but by showing leadership in Human Rights all over the world."
On July 31, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) asked the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions (ICC) to lower the degree on Korea's Human Rights. The primary reason - as they claimed - for this degradation is that the National Human Rights Commission of the Republic of Korea is no longer thought to have maintained its independence from the Lee Myoung-bak administration. The disputes over the following issues - inter alia, employment of migrant workers in Korea, skyrocketing university tuition, Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement, including the regulations on importing beef from the USA, the accusation against online critic Minerva, Yongsan Tragedy and the new law on temporary workers - show clearly the true condition of human rights in Korea.
There is a more personal side to this piece on human rights, one that may reveal how important the issue is these days. I have a messenger friend from Canada. Her particular interest lies in talking about Korea. What surprised me most was that she was much more passionate about human rights in Korea (both South and North) than I was. To my shame, I had little to say on the subject; I just wasn't interested enough.
To rephrase the above-mentioned: all countries have a code of conduct regarding human rights. For example, a prerequisite of Global Korea or Global Standard is with educating people on 'How to protect human rights', rather than on 'How to speak English'. Raising the international status of Korea is unlikely if Korea is only interested in fiscal improvement. In this regard, reading the full 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR), on 10 December, the anniversary day for Human Rights, would be a good way to remember one's responsibility as a global citizen.
In Article 2 of the UDHR: "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."
To make a long story short, we ordinary Koreans, along with the government, should realize that we are still a long way behind the human rights' records of the advanced nations. In this upcoming world without borders, human rights will be a vital factor in how the powerful leading countries are countenanced: lines will be drawn between those countries who adhere to human rights and those who don't. I think it is high time that we and the government thought more about human rights. For this will be the true measure for assessing how advanced a country is.
Yun Sang-young .
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