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韓国：人権ＮＡＰ勧告案確定 SRSに国民健康保険負担 1
Human rights plan sparks controversy (Korea Herald 2006/01/11)
A presidential advisory panel's proposal to better protect human rights is stirring new controversy as the main opposition party and business groups oppose what they call "ideologically biased and politically motivated" guidelines.
The National Human Rights Commission on Monday announced a set of policy recommendations that touched upon highly contentious issues including the National Security Law, political activities of public servants and teachers, and labor rights for nonregular workers.
Under an international convention in 1993, the Korean government is required to submit its action plan for improving human rights to the United Nations by June. The government is supposed to implement the guidelines over a period of five years from 2007.
The ruling Uri Party yesterday pledged support for the panel's draft in the course of formulating new human rights policies.
"Enhancing the nation's human rights should be one of our priorities. The panel has suggested the principles and direction that the nation should follow on human right issues," said Rep. Jun Byung-hun of the Uri Party.
But the opposition Grand National Party sharply criticized the action plan for supporting left-leaning groups and the incumbent government in a number of contentious issues.
"It is regrettable that the commission is approaching the universal issue of human rights from their biased perspective," said Rep. Lim Tae-hee of the GNP.
"I doubt whether the commission is entitled to address human rights in this nation while remaining silent on human right abuses in North Korea," he said.
A business lobby also expressed concern about the proposed expansion of labor rights of nonregular workers.
The panel proposed the government set up measures for nonregular workers including removing wage gaps between regular workers and temporary employees and guaranteeing labor rights for short-term contract workers.
The Korea Employers Federation demanded the panel reconsider the proposal saying that such measures would increase the burden of cost for businesses and will thus negatively affect the national economy.
In the report titled "National Action Plan," the commission advised the government to grant teachers and public servants freedom to engage in political activities.
Currently, school teachers and government officials are banned from joining political parties and conducting election campaigns. Progressive teachers called for the abolition of the law but the nation's highest court supported the prohibition as constitutional.
Conservative groups criticized that the panel is risking damaging the political neutrality of public servants and teachers.
"If teachers' political activities are allowed, that may result in teachers influencing their students with their political views," said Choi Dae-kyu, an official of the organizing committee of the Liberal Teachers' Union, a new union to be established in March in opposition to the left-leaning progressive teacher's union, Jeongyojo.
Jeongyojo, or the Korean Teachers and Education Workers' Union, has recently been incurring public criticism for practicing ideologically biased education.
The government also worries that the public servants' union with a 140,000 strong membership, the largest of any single unions in Korea, may emerge as a formidable force if public servants are allowed to engage in political activities.
The once unlawful public workers' union will be legalized this year.
The human rights body also recommended the government abolish the anticommunist law, drawing an instant protest from the main opposition Grand National Party.
The ruling and opposition parties have long been at odds over the draconian National Security Law.
The ruling Uri Party has been trying to scrap or dramatically revise the law which was often used to repress democratic activists by military dictators in the past. But the GNP is firmly against the move, saying the law is the "last fortress of national security."
The panel also recommends that health insurance apply to sex change operations and employers be prohibited from discriminating against job-seekers who are HIV-positive or carrying the hepatitis B virus.
The human rights watchdog said such concerns will be eased as society changes over time while the nation introduces such measures gradually.
"The commission acknowledges that some of the issues touched on are thorny issues. But this would be a groundbreaking point in efforts to improve the nation's human rights situation," said Kwak No-hyun, president of the commission.
By Cho Chung-un