Suppression of Fundamental Freedoms, and Oppression of Human Rights Activists and North Korean Defectors

August 4, 2020

His Excellency Moon Jae-in
President of the Republic of Korea
The Blue House
Seoul, Republic of Korea

RE: Suppression of Fundamental Freedoms, and Oppression of Human Rights Activists and North Korean Defectors

Your Excellency:

Our coalition is deeply concerned over the actions taken by your administration to suppress fundamental freedoms in South Korea which has included oppression of North Korean defectors, human rights activists, and organizations. Your actions are eroding the rule of law and undermining democracy and human rights in South Korea, while further emboldening a regime in North Korea which is committing“unspeakable atrocities” and “crimes against humanity” “whose gravity, scale and nature” have “no parallel in the contemporary world.” (Conclusion of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the People’s Republic of Korea, February 2014).

We write to request your administration take the following five actions:

  1. End your suppression of freedom of expression for South Korean journalists and authors
  2. Stop threatening religious freedom and the rule of law
  3. Cease your oppression and intimidation of North Korean defectors and North Korea human rights organizations
  4. End your repatriation of North Korean defectors
  5. Be the voice for the freedom and human rights of ALL Koreans as you are constitutionally and morally obligated to do

We include details below on why we are requesting that you take these five actions.

1) End Your Suppression of Freedom of Expression for South Korean Journalists and Authors

We are gravely concerned over the increase in violations of freedom of expression for journalists and authors under your administration’s policies. For instance, veteran-journalist Woo Jong-chang was jailed on July 17, 2020 after a judge sentenced Mr. Woo to eight months imprisonment for “defaming” former Senior Secretary to the President and former Justice Minister Cho Kuk.[1] It is shocking and shameful that a journalist could be imprisoned for libel, especially in such an advanced country as South Korea. This follows the indictment of four journalists from Media Watch, two of whom – journalists Byun Hee-Jai and Hwang Ui-won – were jailed for libel in 2018 for countering JTBC’s “tablet PC” story. Journalist Sung Sang-hoon of Global Defense News was arrested on May 13, 2020 for suggesting that the recent death of a Chinese man may have been due to the Coronavirus.[1] Further suppression of free expression has occurred under your administration by making it a “grave crime” for journalists reporting on “fake news” about the Coronavirus and prohibiting any reference that China was the source of the global pandemic.

This trend of suppressing freedom of expression is alarming, especially at a time when citizens must be able to receive information about the global pandemic. While information should be accurate, such suppression is a form of censorship and is inconsistent with a free, liberal, democratic society such as South Korea.

In addition, author Lee Ju-seong, who escaped from North Korea, wrote a book called “Purple Lake” and was subsequently sued for libel. His book was about North Korean special forces involvement in Gwangju in May 1980. He was found guilty and sentenced to 3 years of probation.[1] If the “history distortion” bills introduced at the National Assembly passed before his trial, then he would have had to go to jail for up to 7 years for writing the book, as any mention of North Korean special forces related to the Gwangju incident would become a “crime.” Dr. Ji Man-won, who has been prosecuted for decades for writing about North Korean special forces involvement and other facets of the Gwangju incident, would also face up to 7 years of imprisonment if this bill passes. Understanding history is through fact-based discussions and debates, not silencing all the citizens by criminalizing their research and opinions.

This suppression of freedom of expression is contrary to Article 21 of South Korean Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We strongly urge your administration to cease its suppression of free expression to uphold South Korea’s commitments to protect citizens’ right to impart and receive information.

2) Stop Threatening Religious Freedom and the Rule of Law

Additionally, the rule of law and religious freedom have been under attack through the treatment of churches and religious members under the pretext of preventing the spread of COVID-19. We are alarmed by your government’s decision to prevent Protestant churches from holding Bible classes, choir practices, or singing or praying loudly.[2] There are also reports that individuals have been investigated by the police for attending a church service, supposedly in violation of a law on infectious disease management.[3]

Most churches have been taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID through sanitation, masks, checking temperatures, keeping social distance while inside, reducing service times held inside and/or holding services outside. Nevertheless, services have been disrupted in multiple ways. For instance, worship at a Seoul Church was interrupted when the Prime Minister sent over 500 government officials, including clinic workers, police officers, and local district authorities, to disrupt and end the gathering.[4] Ironically, the government officials were greater in number than the worshipers and did not take health precautions, while the worshipers were taking health precautions! This blatant inconsistency in standards regarding COVID – punishing worshipers that were taking steps to prevent the spread while government officials disregarded such care – is religious persecution and a violation of freedom of religion. It is also deeply troubling that your government is requiring churches to keep a record of who attends services, a possible violation of privacy rights and a tactic that could be used to intimidate or target individuals on account of their religion.

This is in contrast to public facilities, such as the subway system used by millions of people on a daily basis. Users of public transportation have not been treated to the same harassment as church members and religious institutions even though they pose a greater risk of spreading COVID. In addition, and even more problematic, is the lack of restrictions placed on other public gatherings that are secular in nature. Other large, face-to-face gatherings – including political rallies, entertainment attractions, movie theaters, amusement parks, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, karaoke rooms, and more recently sports venues, to name a few – have not been subjected to the same invasive restrictions or public ridicule suffered by churches and their members, despite having proven to be transmission vectors for the Coronavirus.[5]

While we recognize the importance of addressing the potential spread of COVID, the need for preventing the spread of COVID must not be a pretext for restricting and stifling the exercise of freedom of religion. We urge you, as president of a democratic and free nation, to cease the restriction of religious freedom and unfair treatment given to religious meetings and organizations, in violation of South Korean and international law.

3) Cease Your Oppression and Intimidation of North Korean Defectors and North Korea Human Rights Organizations

The oppression of North Korean defectors and human rights organizations has become a pattern of your administration. In July, prominent human rights activists and organizations wrote to you and your government and spoke out publicly regarding the announced decision to revoke the licenses of North Korean human rights organizations, Fighters for Free North Korea and Kuensaem. Despite this public outcry, your administration carried out this plan and revoked their licenses. This action violated South Korean human rights activists’ free expression, but also added to the list of violations suffered by the North Korean people. The right to receive information, even across borders, is enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Your actions preventing organizations from disseminating information to the people of North Korea interferes with those rights and freedoms. We are disheartened that a liberal democratic country, such as South Korea, would choose to act in such an oppressive manner towards individuals and organizations seeking to uphold the human rights of the world’s most oppressed people.

Continuing this trend of action against human rights organizations, it was announced that the Ministry of Unification plans to conduct office inspections and investigations of the internal records of twenty-five North Korean human rights and resettlement organizations.[6] An additional sixty-four organizations, which work to address North Korean human rights and resettlement, have also recently been required to submit documents to prove that they meet the requirements of not-for-profit civil society organizations.

The targeting of these organizations is not new. In fall of 2017, prosecutors conducted searches and seizures affecting approximately a dozen human rights organizations in South Korea.[7] The prosecutors did not bring any charges suggesting there was no evidence of wrongdoing, but they did leak the names of the organizations to the public, which undermined their reputations and  resulted in their losing donations. As a result, at least one organization had to close, the North Korean Human Rights Youth Organization. Separately, your government investigated the bank accounts of donors and employees of a human rights organization, without any prior notification by the government. It was only discovered through a bank notice after the fact. Such acts created an atmosphere of fear, driving donors away and further suppressing free expression. No reason or explanation was given for these government actions.

We echo the concerns raised by others that these inspections lack transparency, are aimed at stifling civil society organizations – particularly North Korean human rights organizations — and are harmful to liberal democracy.[8] While the examination of organizations by the Ministry of Unification by itself is not necessarily suspect, the targeting of North Korean human rights organizations combined with what is fast becoming a long list of efforts to suppress the voices of human rights activists and defectors by your administration is disturbing and is part of a pattern of suppression by your administration. This includes the investigation of North Korean human rights organizations, the targeting of defectors through filing criminal complaints, the surveillance of individuals, detaining and physically blocking activists, and raiding the offices of defector organizations.[9] Furthermore, human rights organizations have been cut off from government support, the budget of the Committee for the Democratization of North Korea has been cut, balloon launches have been banned at the request of the North Korean government, the North Korean Human Rights Foundation has been shut down, and school textbooks have been changed to support North Korea’s false claims that South Korea started the Korean War.

The North Korean Human Rights Record Center, created in September 2016 under the Ministry of Unification with the mission of creating official records on human rights conditions in North Korea, has not published any report on the state of human rights in North Korea.[10]

4) End Your Repatriation of North Korean Defectors

In November 2019, your government repatriated two North Korean men who had sought to defect from North Korea.[11] This case of repatriation illustrates that your government was willing to violate South Korean law and your international commitments regarding North Korean refugees as the Republic of Korea is a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relation to the Status of Refugees and Its 1967 Protocol and the United Nations Convention against Torture, which in Article 3, prohibits the return of a person to another State where there “are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subject to torture.” North Korea has a lengthy and well documented history of torturing and killing defectors who are repatriated to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Your government sent these two men, constitutionally South Korean citizens, back to such fate.

Most alarming is the justifications given by your government for its disregard for the fate of these two men. The Unification Ministry reportedly stated that the reasons for reparation were, “[f]irst, they didn’t become South Korean nationals since we didn’t see their sincere intentions to defect. Hence, our local laws didn’t apply to them. Second, the accused escapees posed a threat to our people’s safety, which led us to the decision to expel them.”[12] Ministry spokesman Lee Sang-min further justified the repatriation to North Korea by stating that, “[w]e also assessed that if they were accepted into our society, they would pose danger to our people’s lives and safety as vicious criminals who cannot be recognized as refugees under international law.”[13] This decision and justification by your government is alarming for many reasons, especially because these men were never formally indicted or convicted of the crimes they were accused of and little, if any, investigation was performed by your government before they were deported.[14]

5) Be the Voice for the freedom and human rights of ALL Koreans as you are constitutionally and morally bound to do

As the democratically elected President of the Republic of Korea you have both a constitutional and a moral obligation to uphold the freedom and human rights of all Koreans.  Your  actions suggest instead that you are advocating for what is desired by the Kim Jong Un dictatorship.  South Korea has been and should remain a voice and beacon of hope for the oppressed, especially those in North Korea. The failure of South Korea to end its co-sponsorship of an annual resolution in the United Nations General Assembly condemning North Korea’s human rights record is a chilling example of the shift towards supporting the Kim dictatorship rather than being a voice for Koreans who live under one of the world’s worst regimes.[15] Through this action, South Korea has ended a decade-long commitment to speak up for the horrific oppression of the North Korean people and now instead aligns itself with North Korea. No one in the world has a greater responsibility to speak out against North Korea’s horrific human rights record than you, President Moon, please find the voice to do so.

In addition to the instances of oppression listed in this letter we have included below a non-exhaustive list of individuals and organizations below who have been silenced or oppressed through your administration’s actions. We hope that your administration will desist from these acts of oppression and return to its commitment, and obligation, to protect and defend freedom and human rights for both South and North Koreans.

Respectfully submitted by,

Respectfully Submitted,

Suzanne Scholte, Chairman
Pastor Heemoon Lee, Vice Chairman
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Vice Chairman
Jason West, Vice Chairman
Ann Buwalda, Treasurer
Sue Yoon Logan, Administrator
Teresa Ost, Secretary

Partial List of Violations, Arrests, and Harassment of Individuals

Byun Hee-jae, journalist, of media outlet Media Watch was jailed for libel in 2018.[16]
Rev. Chun Gwang-hun, pastor, was jailed for violating the Election Law by making a public statement in support of a particular political party.[17]
Hwang Ui-won, journalist, jailed for libel in 2018 for countering JTBC’s “tablet PC” story[18]
Hu-Kwang-il, defector human rights activist, arrested in October 2019 for crossing a police line at a protest.[19]
Eric Foley, pastor and leader of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, was reported to the police for sending Bibles to North Korea.[20]
Jeong Chang-o, human rights activist, was arrested by the police for throwing a shoe towards president Moon and calling him a communist.[21]
Dr. Ji Man-won, researcher, was charged with libel and dissemination of information using information and communications networks, carrying a possible sentence of 4 years.[22]
Kim Sang-jin, human rights, charged with threatening the life of Yoon Sek-yeol with 2 eggs in May 2019.
Kim Se-ui,journalist, indicted in October 2016 for uploading a cartoon on an internet site and for writing posts on a social media account.[23]
Koh Young-ju, journalist, was charged with damages for the crime of libel and spreading “false facts,” because he called President Moon a communist. He was found not guilty, but on June 2, 2020, the prosecutor asked for a 1 ½ year jail sentence on appeal.[24]
Park Jung Oh, defector human rights activist and leader of Kuensaem, has been under police surveillance and has been interrogated by the police.[25]
Park Sang Hak, defector human rights activistand leader of Fighters for a Free North Korea, has been under surveillance by the police under the guise of protecting him from North Korea and has also been questioned by the police. [26]
Shin In-kyun, defense analyst, was prevented from appearing on Channel A’s program.[27]
Son Sang-dae, journalist, charged with libel carrying a possible sentence of 1 year.[28]
Sung Sang-hoon, a journalist who runs the Global Defense News, was arrested in May 2020 for suggesting a Chinese man who had died had possibly died of the Coronavirus.[29]
Woo Jong-chang, journalist, was jailed in South Korea after being convicted of the “crime” of “libel” for announcing “false information.”[30]
Yoon Seo-in,cartoonist, was indicted in October 2016 for uploading a cartoon on an internet site and for writing posts on a social media account.[31]

List of Organizations That Have Been Targeted

Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights
Transitional Justice Working Group
North Korea Strategy Center
Nochain for Northern Korea
Lawyers for Human Rights and Unification of Korea
National Development Institute (NDI)
Unification Media Group
Korean War Abductees’ Family Union
Unification Academy
Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights
Open North Korea (ONK)
1969 KAL Abductees’ Families Association
Free North Korea Radio
Citizens’ Coalition for Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees
Association of the North Korean Defectors
NK Intellectuals Solidarity (NKIS)
Center for Liberty and Reunification
Committee for the Democratization of North Korea
NK People’s Liberation Front
Unification Future Solidarity
Pen International North Korean Writers in Exile Center
New Korea Women’s Union
Justice for North Korea
Improving North Korean Human Rights Center

[1] Seo Min-sun, A Defector Author Found Guilty for Writing “Kim Dae-jung Requesting North Korean Special Forces Deployment”, No Cut News, 3 June 2020.

[2] Protestant community protests government’s ban on church gatherings, Korea Herald, 9 July 2020.

[3] Kim Moon-Soo, A Young Energetic IT attorney, Will Fraud in South Korea’s 2020 Election be Uncovered?, Kim Moon-Soo TV, Translation by East Asia Research Center, 2 June 2020.

[4] Id.

[5] Steve Price, South Korea Has Flattened The Curve, But ‘Normal’ Is Still Some Way Off, Forbes, 1 April, 2020; Coronavirus: Seoul’s full cafes, Apple store lines show mass testing success, The Straits Times, 18 April 2020.

[6] NKHR nonprofits reject unilateral “office inspections” by MOU, DailyNK, 24 July 2020.

[7] Choi Bo-sik, North Korean Human Rights Organizations Pegged as ‘Deep Rooted Evil,’ Searched and Seized…Scared, All Kept Silent, Chosun, September 16, 2019.

[8] Non-Governmental Organizations Reject Unilateral “Office Inspections” by the Ministry of Unification, Translation by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, 22 July 2020.

[9] William Gallo, South Korea Faces Criticism for Crackdown on Leaflet Launchers, Voice of America, 22 July 2020.

[10] “North Korea Human Rights Records Center Established to Officially Record Human Rights Conditions in North Korea,” YTN, September 28, 2016.

[11] Dr. Yeosang Yoon, Two North Korean Defectors Who Have Been Forcefully Repatriated from South Korea Must Be Protected, Database Center for North Korean Human Rights News (NKDB), 11 November, 2019.

[12] Choi Si-young, Due process ignored in deporting North Korean fishermen, Korea Herald, 2 December 2019.

[13] Hyonhee Shin, South Korea expels two North Koreans suspected of killing 16 fishermen, Reuters, 6 November 2019.

[14] See NKDB, n.11.

[15] South Korea: Stand with North Korean Victims, Human Rights Watch, 3 March 2020.

[16] Dr. Tara O, Journalist preemptively jailed for libel in South Korea, a prosperous OECD country, One Free Korea, 31 May 2018.

[17] Kim Moon-Soo, A Young Energetic IT attorney, Will Fraud in South Korea’s 2020 Election be Uncovered?, Kim Moon-Soo TV, Translation by East Asia Research Center, 2 June 2020.

[18] See One Free Korea, n.16.

[19] NPK Statement on South Korean Police Arresting North Korean Defector Hu Kwang-il, PennMike, Translated by East Asia Research Center, 12 October 2019.

[20] An American pastor reported to police for attempting balloon launch across inter-Korean border, Hankyoreh, 21 July 2020.

[21] A Citizen Yelled “Moon Jae-in is a Communist,” Threw a Shoe After South Korean President Moon After He Left the National Assembly, Sisa Focus, Translation by East Asia Research Center, 17 July 2020.

[22] 4 Years Jail for Libel Regarding 5.18 Gwangju Incident? Freedom of Speech to be Set Back Again in South Korea, East Asia Research Center, 2 February 2020.

[23] More Libel Suits to Silence Critics: Cartoonist Yoon Seo-in, Journalist Kim Se-ui, East Asia Research Center, 15 September 2018.

[24] South Korean President Moon Jae-in Sued Mr. Koh Young-ju for Libel for Calling Him a Communist; the Prosecutor Wants to Jail Him; Suppression of Free Speech via Lawfare, East Asia Research Center, 6 June 2020.

[25] Choi He-suk, Ministry seeks police probe of leafleting NGOs, Cheong Wa Dae warns of ‘stern’ measures, Korea Herald, 11 June 2020.

[26] Jeongmin Kim, Activist Renounces South Korean police protection from North Korean “threats”, NK News, 9 July 2020.

[27] Freedom of the Press Muzzled Again in South Korea: Shin In-kyun, a Youtuber and a Defense Analyst, Prevented from Appearing on Channel A, East Asia Research Center, 2 December 2018.

[28] 4 Years Jail for Libel Regarding 5.18 Gwangju Incident? Freedom of Speech to be Set Back Again in South Korea, East Asia Research Center, 2 February 2020.

[29] The Arrest of Yet Another Journalist (Sung Sang-hoon) for Saying “Maybe He Died of Coronavirus”; More Suppression of YouTubers Expected, East Asia Research Center, 13 May 2020.

[30] Another Journalist, Woo Jong-chang, Jailed for Libel, Judge Says Cho Kuk Defamed, Rule of Law Continues to Crumble in South Korea, East Asia Research Center, 19 July 2020.

[31] See East Asia Research Center, n.22.




대한민국 대통령
문재인 각하
서울, 대한민국

근본적인 자유에 대한 탄압과, 북한 탈북민, 그리고 인권운동가 들에 대한 억압에 관련하여,


저희 연합은 현 정부의 북한 탈북민, 인권 운동가 그리고 그들의 단체에 대한 탄압을 포함해 현 대한민국에 존재하는 근본적인 자유를 억압하기 위한 행동들에 관하여 심히 우려를 표합니다. 현 정부의 행동은 “그 어느 나라와도 비교해도 그 무게와, 규모, 그리고 본성이 비교가 되지 않는”, “형언 할 수 없는 참혹한 행위”와 “인도에 반하는 죄”를 저지르는 북한에 있는 정권을 더욱 대담하게함과 동시에, 법치주의와 대한민국에 존재하는 민주주의와 인권을 약화 시키고 있습니다 (유엔 북한인권조사위원회 보고서 결론 2014.02).

저희는 이 서신을 통해서 현 정부가 이 5가지 행동을 취해 주실 것을 요청하는 바입니다:
1) 대한민국의 저널리스트와 작자에 대한 표현의 자유에 대한 탄압을 멈추어 주십시오.
2) 종교에 대한 자유와 법치주의에관한 위협을 멈추어 주십시오.
3) 북한탈북민과 북한인권단체에 대한 억압과 위협을 멈추어 주십시오.
4) 북한탈북민의 북송을 멈추어 주십시오.
5) 각하의 헌법과 도덕적 의무에 입각하여 남 북한 사람들의 자유와 인권을 위하여 소리내어 주십시오.

저희가 왜 위에 제시된 5가지 행동을 취해 주실것을 요청 하는지 아래에 상세하게 적혀있습니다.

1) 대한민국의 저널리스트와 작자에 대한 표현의 자유에 대한 탄압을 멈추어 주십시오.

저희는 현 정부의 정책 아래에서 증가하고 있는 저널리스트와 작자에대한 표현의 자유가 위반되어 오고 있다는 점에 깊은 염려를 표합니다. 실 예로, 오랜기간 저널리스트로 활동해온 우종창기자가 2020년 7월 17일 대통령비서실 민정수석과 법무부 장관으로 재직 했던 조국 전 장관을 “비방” 하였다는 이유로 8개월동안 감옥에 보내졌습니다.특히 대한민국처럼 발전한 나라에서 언론인이 명예훼손으로 감옥에 갔다는 것은 정말로 충격적이고 부끄러운 일입니다. 이후 4명의 미디어와치 저널리스트들이 기소장을 받았으며 그 중 변희재, 황의원 언론인은 지난 2018년 JTBC의 “테블릿 PC” 이야기를 반박하였다는 이유로 명예훼손죄가 적용되어 감옥에 보내졌습니다. Global Defense News기자 성상훈씨는 지난 2020년 5월 13일 최근 한 중국남성의 죽음이 코로나바이러스와 관련이 있을수 있다고 제시 하였다가 체포 되었습니다. 더 나아가, 특히 이러한 상황처럼, 대한민국 시민들이 전세계적으로 유행하는 질병에 관하여 정확한 정보를 받아야 하기에 최근 이러한 표현의자유를 억압하는 추세에 경각심을 가져야 합니다. 정보의 전달이 정확해야 함과 동시에, 이러한 억압은 즉 검열을 나타내며 대한민국과 같이 자유롭고 억압이 없는 민주적인 사회와는 정반대 입니다.

추가로, 탈북작가 이주성씨는 “보랏빛 호수”라는 책을 집필 하였고 차후 명예훼손으로 고소를 당하였습니다. 그의 책은 북한특수부대 요원들이 1980년 광주에서 어떻게 개입을 하였는 지에 관한내용으로 이루어져 있습니다. 그는 유죄가 인정되어 3년 집행유예를 선고 받았습니다. 만약 “역사왜곡처벌법”이 이주성 작가의 선거공판전에 국회에 소개되어 통과가 되었다면 이주성 작가는 이 책이 북한특수부대요원들이 광주에서 일어난 사건과 관련이 되어있다라는 내용이 “죄”가 되므로 이 작가는 이 책을 집필 하였다는 이유만으로 최대 7년을 감옥에서 투옥생활을 했을수도 있었습니다. 지만원 교수 또한 지난 수십년간 북한특수부대가 광주에서 일어났던 사건들에 연루되어 있다고 글을 써온것에 대해서 기소를 당해오고 있는데, 만약 역사왜곡처벌법이 통과가 된다면 지만원 교수 또한 최대 7년을 투옥생활을 할수도 있습니다. 시민들의 연구와 의견들을 불법화하며 그들을 입막음 하는것이 아닌, 제대로 역사를 이해하기 위해서는 사실에 근거한 토론과 논쟁을 통해 가능하다는 점을 알아 주시기를 바랍니다.

이 표현의자유에 대한 억압은 대한민국 헌법 제 21조, 세계인권선언, 그리고 시민적 및 정치적 권리에 관한 국제규약에 반대합니다. 저희는 현 정부가 대한민국 시민들의 정보를 듣고 전하는 권리를 지키는 의무를 다하기 위하여 표현의자유에 대한 억압을 멈추어 주실 것을 간곡히 요청합니다.

2) 종교에 대한 자유와 법치주의에관한 위협을 멈추어 주십시오.

부가적으로, 법치주의와 종교의자유가 코로나19가 퍼지는 것을 막아야 한다는 구실아래 교회들과 종교인 들에 대한 처우를 통해 크나큰 위협을 당하고 있습니다. 저희는 현 정부가 기독교 교회들이 성경공부, 성가대 연습, 찬송 부르기, 기도 크게 소리내어 하기 등을 하지 못하게 결정을 내린점에 대해서 상당히 경각심을 나타냅니다. 최근 보고서에 의하면, 전염성 질병관리에 대한 법을 위반한다는 가정하에, 경찰이 교회예배에 참석하는 사람들을 조사하고 있다는 사실이 밝혀졌습니다.

대다수의 교회들은 공중위생, 마스크, 체온 검사, 실내 사회적 거리두기, 교회예배 시간 줄임과 동시에 야외예베 열기 등 예방조치를 해오고 있습니다. 그럼에도 불구하고, 교회예배들은 여러가지 방법에 의하여 방해를 받아오고 있습니다. 실예로, 한 서울에 있는 교회의 예베는 국무총리가 보낸 병원에서 일하는 사람들을 포함해, 경찰관, 지방 정부에서 나온 사람들을 포함한 약 500여명의 정부 관리들에 의해서 방해를 받고 모임을 마쳐야 했습니다. 이상하게도, 그 예배에 참석한 사람들이 건강 안전수칙을 준수 하는동안, 그 정부관리들은 예베애 참석한 사람들보다 더 수가 많았으며, 그 어떠한 건강 안전수칙을 따르지 않았습니다.안전수칙을 따르지 않았던 정부 관리들에 비하여 건강 안전수칙을 준수하며 교회 예베애 참석한 사람들은 처벌하는 이러한 코로나 관련 노골적인 모순된행동은 종교에 대한 탄압이며 종교의 자유를 무시하는 행동입니다. 또한, 현 정부가 누가 예베에 참석했는지 기록을 남기라는 것 또한 상당히 큰 문제점을 나타냅니다. 개인의 사생활이 침해를 당할 수 있으며 이러한 방법은 그들의 종교에의해서 개개인에게 위협이 가해질 수 있습니다.

이러한 점들은 하루에도 수십만이 이용하는 지하철등 공공시설과 비교 하였을때 비교가 되는 부분입니다. 대중교통을 이용하는 사람들은 코로나바이러스를 퍼뜨릴 위험이 더 큼에도 불구하고 교회신도나 종교기관들 이 당했던 부당한 대우를 받지 않았습니다. 더 나아가, 더 심각한 문제는, 다른 공공모임 들에 관하여는 충분한 제지가 가해지고 있지 않다는 점입니다. 정치집회, 오락 시설, 영화관, 놀이공원, 식당, 술집, 나이트클럽, 노래방, 그리고 최근 스포츠 경기등, 다른 큰 규모의 모임등은 코로나바이러스의 전염에 있어서 크나큰 위험이 있음에도 불구하고 교회들과 교회 신도들이 겪었던 똑같은 자유의 침해와 대중의 손가락질을 받지 않았습니다. 저희는 코로나바이러스의 잠재적 확산을 다루는 것의 중요성을 인지하고 있지만, 그 바이러스의 확산을 막는다는 구실아래에 종교의자유를 제한하고 억압 해서는 안됩니다. 저희는 자유로우며 민주적인 나라의 대통령으로써, 대한민국과 국제법에 반대하는 종교의자유애 대한 탄압을 멈추고 종교적모임과 단체에 대한 불합리한 처우를 중단하여 주실 것을 간곡히 요청합니다.

3) 북한탈북민과 북한인권단체에 대한 억압과 위협을 멈추어 주십시오.

북한탈북민과 인권단체에 대한 탄압은 현 정부의 경향이 되었습니다. 지난 7월, 저명한 인권운동가들과 단체들은 각하와 현 정부가 북한 인권단체 큰샘과 자유북한운동연합의 라이센스를 취소시키는 결정에 관하여 공개적으로 성명서를 발표하고 서신을 각하께 전달하였습니다. 대중의 반발에도 불구하고, 현 정부는 이 단체들의 라이센스를 취소시키는 계획을 실행하였습니다. 이 행동은 대한민국 인권운동가들의 표현의 자유를 침해하였으며 북한주민들이 겪은 위반에도 더해 집니다. 국경을 초월한 정보취득의 권리는 시민적 정치적 권리에 관한 국제규약에 보호되어 있습니다. 단체들의 북한주민들을 위한 정보전파를 막는 현 정부의 행동은 그러한 권리와 자유를 침해합니다. 저희는 대한민국과 같은 자유주의 국가가 세계에서 가장 탄압받고 있는 사람들의 인권을 지키기위한 개인과 단체의 노력에 관하여 억압적인 행동을 취하고 있는 것에 관하여 크게 실망감을 느끼고 있습니다.

이러한 인권단체들에 대한 탄압이 계속 됨과 동시에, 통일부는 25개 북한인권 단체의 내부기록에 관한 조사를 실시하겠다고 발표하였습니다. 또 다른 64개 북한인권과 그들이 대한민국에서 잘 정착할수 있도록 도와주는 단체들이 비영리 시민단체의 요건을 충족한다는 것을 증명하는 서류들을 제출하도록 요구하였습니다.

이러한 단체들에 대한 탄압은 이번이 처음이 아닙니다. 2017년 가을, 검찰은 약 12개의 인권단체에 관하여 압수수색을 하였습니다. 검찰은 법에 위반되는 그 어떠한 증거도 찾지 못하였지만, 그 단체들의 이름을 공개함으로써 그들 단체들의 명성을 훼손하고 기부금을 잃게 하였습니다. 그 결과, 북한인권청년단체는 문을 닫아야했습니다. 이와는 별개로, 현 정부는 사전 통보없이 인권단체의 기부자들과 직원들의 은행계좌를 조사하였습니다. 이 조사는 나중에 은행 공고를 통해 밝혀졌습니다. 이러한 행동들은 공포 분위기를 조성하며 기부자들을 몰아내고 표현의자유를 더욱더 억압하였습니다. 이러한 정부의 조치들에 대해서 그 어떠한 설명도 있지 않았습니다.

저희는 다른 많은 사람들의 생각처럼 이러한 조사들은 투명성이 결여 되며 시민단체들을 억압하기 위한데에 목표를 두고 있고 자유민주주의 사회에 큰 피해를 입힌다는 우려를 표합니다. 통일부에 의한 단체들에 대한 조사자체가 꼭 의심스러운 것은 아니지만, 북한 탈북민과 북한인권단체들이 빠르게 현 정부의 표적이 되어가고 있다는 점은 상당히 걱정스러운 점이며 현 정부는 지금까지 이러한 방법들을 통해서 억압을 해오고 있습니다. 이러한 현 정부의 탄압의 방법은 지금까지 북한인권단체 조사, 형사고발을 통한 북한 탈북민 표적, 개인 감시, 인권운동가들에 관한 물리적 신체적 방해, 탈북자 단체 습격등 으로 나타나고 있습니다. 나아가, 인권단체들에 대한 국가의 지원은 단절 되었으며, 북한민주화위원회 예산도 감축 되었고, 북한인권재단도 폐쇄되었으며, 학교 교과서도 대한민국이 한국전쟁을 시작했다는 북한의 허위주장을 뒷받침 하도록 바뀌었습니다.

2016년 9월 북한인권상황에 관한 보고서를 만들기 위해 만들어진 통일부 산하 북한인권기록센터는 북한인권상황에 대한 보고서를 전혀 만들지 않고 있습니다.

4) 북한탈북민의 북송을 멈추어 주십시오.

2019년 11월경, 현 정부는 두 명의 탈북민을 북한으로 돌려 보내었습니다. 이점은 현 정부가 대한민국의 법, 대한민국이 서명국으로 있는 1951년 난민 지위에 관한 협약, 1967 유엔 고문방지 협약, 특히 제 3항, 그 사람이 “고문에 처할 수 있다고 믿는 실질적인 근거가 있는” 나라로 다시 돌려보내는 것을 금지한다, 등을 위반했다는 점을 보여 줍니다. 북한은 조선민주주의인민공화국으로 송환되는 탈북민들을 고문하고 살해하는 등 이러한 과거 역사가 잘 기록되어 있습니다. 현 정부는 이 두 탈북민을 헌법상 대한민국시민임에도 불구하고 이러한 참혹한 상황으로 돌려보내었습니다.

가장 우려되는 부분은 이 두 탈북민을 다시 북한으로 돌려보낸 현 정부의 정당성입니다. 통일부는 “첫번째로, 그들의 탈북에 관련한 진의를 완전하게 파악하지 못하였기에 대한민국 시민이 되지 않았다. 그러므로, 우리 법이 이들에게는 적용이 되지 않았다. 두번째로, 이 두 탈북민은 대한민국 시민들의 안전에 위협을 가하였기에, 추방결정이 내려졌다.” 라고 발표 하였습니다. 이상민 통일부 대변인은 더아나가 “만약 우리가 이 두 탈북자를 받아들였다면 국제법에 적용된 난민의로 볼 수 없는 범죄자로서 대한민국 시민들에 크나 큰 위험을 가해을 것이다”라고 발표하였습니다. 현 정부의 결정과 내놓은 정당성은 여러가지 이유로 인해 매우 심각함을 나타내고 있습니다. 특히 이 두 탈북민들은 그전에 정식으로 고발을 당한 죄가 없고 기소가 되거나 유죄 판결을 받지 않았습니다. 또, 현 정부는 이들을 북송하기 전에 충분한 조사또한 진행 하지 않았습니다.

5) 각하의 헌법과 도덕적 의무에 입각하여 남 북한 사람들의 자유와 인권을 위하여 소리내어 주십시오.

민주적인 방법으로 선출된 대한민국의 대통령으로서, 각하는 전 한국사람들의 자유와 인권을 수호할 헌법적, 도덕적 의무를 지니고 있습니다. 현 각하의 행동은 그와 반하게 오히려 김정은 독재정권을 지지하고 그들이 원하는 것을 지지하고 있다는 점을 보여주고 있습니다. 대한민국은 특히 북한에서 억압받고 있는 사람들을 위한 소리를 높여야 하며 그들에게 희망이 되어 주어야 합니다. 대한민국이 매년 있는 북한의 인권탄압에 관해서 규탄하는 유엔총회 결의안의 공동발의안을 멈추었다는 점은 현 정부가 전 세계에서 손꼽히는 끔찍한 정권아래에서 고통받고 있는 사람들을 대표하는 것이 아닌 김정은 독재정권을 지지하는 쪽으로 전환한 아주 무서운 예 입니다. 이것을 통해, 대한민국이 수십년간 지켜왔던 북한주민들이 겪는 끔찍한 억압을 대변하고 알리겠다는 약속을 어기고 앞으로는 북한과 뜻을 같이하겠다는점을 나타내었습니다. 각하 만큼 북한의 끔찍한 인권유린에 대해서 목소리를 높여야 할 의무를 가진 사람은 전 세계에 그 누구도 없습니다. 제발 북한에서 고통받고 있는 북한주민들을 대변하여 주세요.

본 서한에서 명시되지 않은 억압들 이외에도, 저희는 현 정부아래 억압받고 있는 개인과 단체들을 아래 리스트에 명시하였습니다. 저희는 현 정부가 억압적인 행동을 그만두고 대한민국과 북한의 자유와 인권을 보호하기 위한 의무를 지켜주시기를 바랍니다.


Suzanne Scholte, Chairman
Pastor Heemoon Lee, Vice Chairman
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Vice Chairman
Jason West, Vice Chairman
Ann Buwalda, Treasurer
Sue Yoon Logan, Administrator
Teresa Ost, Secretary