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National Human Rights Commission of Korea Recommends Prime Minister to Adopt Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Law

      The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of South Korea, which has prepared a draft anti-discrimination law, made a recommendation to the Prime Minister on 24 July 2006 to adopt such a law.
      In the context of various cases of discrimination in Korean society, the NHRC points to the fact that the existing laws on the prevention of discrimination are insufficient in terms of their effectiveness and remedies for victims, who are socially vulnerable in many cases. The NHRC thus finds it necessary to enact a comprehensive anti-discrimination law.
      The draft prepared by the NHRC includes direct and indirect discrimination as well as harassment in the definitions of discrimination. It covers discrimination on the basis of twenty grounds, including gender, disability, race, academic background, medical history, place of birth, employment status and social status, in the following four areas: employment; provision of and access to goods and services; education; and the exercise of governmental power in the enforcement of legislation and policies. In order to ensure effective remedies, it provides for a diversity of remedies, including not only mediations and recommendations for redress but also redress orders and aid in litigation in specified cases. In addition, burden of proof will fall on alleged perpetrators of discrimination.
      In response to the demands from disability organizations in South Korea, the Bill on the Prevention of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities has already been submitted to Parliament. Disability organizations have requested to the NHRC that the present recommendation should not be an obstacle to the adoption of the Bill and that the Commission should allow the promotion of laws against specific issues of discrimination. The NHRC refers to this fact in the recommendation, indicating that the proposed legislation is of a general nature, which will not be able to deal with all cases of discrimination against persons with disabilities, and that it is not intended to exclude the possibility of enacting a specific law against discrimination on the basis of disability.
      On the other hand, the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) has issued a statement and demanded revision of the draft law. While agreeing with the purposes of preventing discrimination and promoting human rights of the socially vulnerable, it considers that the proposal of enforcement fines for non-compliance with redress orders is too drastic. The draft contains, in the opinion of the KCCI, other unrealistic proposals as well.
      The NHRC had presented the first draft in August 2004. The present recommendation was made after case studies in other countries, hearings from experts and public authorities and public hearings. The adoption of the law, however, is not likely to be a smooth process.

· National Human Rights Commission of Korea (Korean)
· Disability Discrimination Acts Solidarity in Korea (Korean)
· Statement of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Korean)

See also: JoongAng Daily, 26 July 2006 (Korean)