글번호 : 113247

작성일 : 10.11.04 | 조회수 : 1371

제목 : [Internship] Amnesty International Office, Korea 글쓴이 : 국제지역대학원
첨부파일 첨부파일: 첨부파일이 없습니다.

      Amnesty International Office in South Korea


 

In 1961, two Portuguese students were imprisoned simply because they had raised their wine glasses in a toast to freedom. Moved by the event, a British lawyer launched a worldwide campaign, ‘Appeal for Amnesty 1961’ with the publication of a prominent article, ‘The Forgotten Prisoners’, in The Observer newspaper. His name was Peter Benenson, and his appeal was reprinted in other papers across the world and turned out to be the genesis of Amnesty International. Since then, Amnesty International has grown to be an International Non-governmental Organization that strives for protection of human rights, including prevention of violence against women, defense of rights and dignity of those trapped in poverty, and abolishment of death penalty.

I was able to be a part of this movement through an internship opportunity in Amnesty International Office in South Korea. Established in 1972, the Korean office has been a vital part of achieving democratization in Korea, and now it takes an active role of monitoring and campaigning for human rights in the Korean peninsula. Such opportunity has provided me with deep understanding of human rights on how it works, or how “should” it work. By experiencing the reality of human rights situation around the world has given me insight beyond theories, and has shown several shortcomings, whether real or imminent, arising from clashes between one right and the other.

As a monitoring intern, my main task was to collect news articles about international human rights situation around the world, mostly from English website of Amnesty International, and translate them into Korean so that it could be posted on the Korean website of the Organization. Although such task itself may seem simple, it has given me invaluable knowledge on human rights developments and crises happening around the world. Many examples include a well-known case of a stoning sentence to an woman accused of adultery in Iran, a case of an Egyptian youth at an internet cafe who was beaten to death by police officers solely for denying to show his identification card, and a case of anti-terrorist laws in Turkey which allowed for indictment of children. Some controversial, some even unthinkable, these cases with a spectrum of variety have prompted me to think about the obstacles undermining application of human rights, whether it be the regime, ethnicity, etc.

 Aside from my main task, I was also able to have the opportunity to partake in other duties. First, I have assisted the campaigning sector of the office in holding press conferences on the Amnesty International report on health rights situations in North Korea. As I participated in the process of organizing the event, translating press releases and other policy documents, I was able to grasp the process of how a human rights report was researched, organized, and issued. It was also helpful to see several real conflict situations where a thesis of a report clashed with those from other organizations. For example, there has been a slight but noticeable tension between Amnesty International and World Health Organization (WHO) after the press conference because their reports on health rights situation in North Korea were incompatible. While AI claimed that situation on health rights has worsened in North Korea, WHO has taken an opposite stance, asserting that health rights situation in NK has actually improved. From this, I have learned that a report on a worldwide issue should not only be reliable, but also compatible with other reports issued by other organizations. Second, I have participated in several demonstrations, including one against the tragic human rights violations on Korean “comfort women” committed by the Japanese Empire in World War II. One of many developments in human rights I have found and felt in reality could be that such concept has grown to be applied not only to the present, but also the past and possibly the future as well. Along with the case on comfort women, other specific cases such as the one on Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia or Genocide in Rwanda have been seen at that time as matters without solution, due to the political situation of that period. However, by efforts taken by many human rights activists, including Amnesty International, these cases have begun to be investigated by the international community whose purpose is to promote international justice for several mass human rights violations committed in the past. Being a part of the demonstration, therefore, has been a wonderful chance for me to reflect upon the development of human rights, and how it is being influential to the current world in dealing with the tragic issues of the present, past, and the future.

 This does not mean, however, that human rights are a concept next to perfection. One of the dilemmas I have faced during my times at the internship program has been that human rights too, as much as any other law, were vulnerable to interpretation. There have been several cases that I have monitored which involved several regimes “promoting” human rights by violating the same rights. Usually concerned with the “safety” of their citizens, such regimes have named critics as “terrorists”. Anti-terrorist laws in Turkey, for example, have been one of the results of such practice. Although this law has been, fortunately, recently repudiated, it used to allow for indictment of almost anyone, even children, who were suspected of partaking in “terrorist acts” to secure the safety and the “rights” of Turkish citizens. Other issues surrounding human rights could be that whether such rights were vulnerable to classification according to its “political proclivity”, meaning the political left or right. Amnesty International Office in South Korea, for example, was one of many organizations in Korea regarded as a “leftist” entity by the government. Several senior government officials have demonstrated much “disappointment” towards AI when the organization issued a report against the excessive use of force by police authority during the candlelight protests in 2008. It could be inferred from this event that there is a connection between a human rights violation and the interpretation of such violation by a regime. Anyhow, there seems to be at the end a clash between a human right and the other as demonstrated by arguments aforementioned. Such issue is, and will continue to be one of many controversial topics in need of discussion in the field of human rights. Through this, I have learned that such imperfection does not indicate its failure, but rather serves as an opportunity to be developed. Amnesty International has been one of those striving for developing a universal application of human rights, and I boast that I was glad to be a part of such movement.

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