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National Human Rights Commission of Korea Recommended Equal Compensations for Foreign Victims of "Samchung Re-education Camp"

      On 21 August 2006, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Korea recommended the speaker of the National Assembly and the Defense Minister to provide for the explicit right of foreigners, who had been the victims of the Samchung Re-education Camp, to claim compensations on an equal footing with Korean citizens. The recommendation [Korean] was made in relation to the Act Concerning the Recovery of Honor of and Compensation Deliberations for the Victims of the Samchung Re-education Camp (the Samchung Compensation Act), which seeks to make compensations for human rights violations done by a former administration.
      The Samchung Re-education Camp refers to cases of human rights abuse under President Chun Doo-Hwan, who came to power in 1980 through a military coup d'etat. Citizens were subjected to organized violence under the name of social cleansing, which aimed at the elimination of social virtues, such as violence, smuggling, drugs and deceptions. They were arrested without proper warrants and given ex parte rankings. Some 42,000 victims, who ranked as B and C, were enrolled in the Samchung Re-education Camp for "purificatory education". More than 60,000 people were arrested in six months between August 1980 and January 1981, including many innocent citizens. They faced violence and hard labour in the Re-education Camp.
      In 1988, the victims rose up for the exposure of the truth and official compensations. Next year, the Ministry of National Defense announced for the first time that there were 54 cases of death in the Re-education Camp. Years of demands from the victims resulted in the enactment of the Samchung Compensation Act in January 2004.
      Although there are assumingly many people who have disappeared through the process or are suffering the aftereffects of the Camp, it is reported that some 2,800 applications have been submitted, as of August 2006, to the Council on the Recovery of Honor of and Compensation Deliberations for the Victims of the Samchung Re-education Camp, set up under the Prime Minister in accordance with the Act.
      There were victims of Taiwanese and Chinese nationalities in the Camp. When two of them applied to the Council for compensations, however, the Council dismissed their applications, stating that the Samchung Compensation Act has no provisions on compensations for foreigners. In February 2006, they complained to the NHRC, arguing that the Council's decision is discrimination on the basis of the country of origin.
      The NHRC found that the Samchung Re-education Camp was a case of large-scale and systematic human rights violations through the exercise of illegal powers by the State. It further stated that the constitutional rights to equality and to freedom of person should apply to foreigners as well and that, under international law, the State has an obligation to provide compensations for the harm done by the State to foreigners.

Source:
· National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Korea [Korean]
· The Hankyoreh, 9 August 2005 [Korean]

See also: Samchung Re-education Camp Human Rights Movement Association [Korean]


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