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Dear Presidential Candidates,

Human Rights Watch is an international nongovernmental organization that monitors and advocates for human rights in more than 100 countries. We have been working on South Korea human rights issues for more than 30 years.

In order to ensure that human rights issues and concerns receive the attention they deserve in the presidential election campaign, we are submitting the following list of 15 questions to South Korean presidential candidates. The goal of the questionnaire is to give each of the campaigns the opportunity to provide South Korean voters with the views of their candidate on issues concerning the protection of human rights in South Korea and around the globe.

The questionnaire addresses concerns about discrimination against marginalized groups, including women, children, migrants, older people, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, as well as restrictions on civil and political rights, such as freedom of expression. We hope that you can complete this questionnaire in as much detail as possible to provide voters with your perspectives on these issues. 

The deadline, after which we will publish the responses received, is February 21, 2022.

Please address any questions and responses about this request (in either Korean or English) to Lina Yoon, Senior Korea Researcher [contact information redacted].  

Thank you very much for your participation in this questionnaire. We look forward to hearing from you. 

Sincerely yours,

Lina Yoon
Senior Korea Researcher, Asia 
Human Rights Watch

Phil Robertson
Deputy Director, Asia
Human Rights Watch


Human Rights Questionnaire for Republic of Korea Presidential Candidates
2022 Presidential Election


Children’s Rights and Education

  1. Discrimination in access to education occurs in South Korea, and impacts the right to education of refugees, migrants, children from North Korea, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) children, and children with disabilities. What is your policy on providing all children in South Korea with a quality and free primary and secondary education, including at least nine years of compulsory quality education on an equal basis for all, and at least one year of free pre-primary education as committed to in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals?
  2. South Korean children or adults do not have access to comprehensive sexuality education that provides age-appropriate, inclusive, quality, healthy, empowering, and medically and scientifically accurate knowledge, skills, and values on sexuality. Confusing, stigmatizing, wrong, and conflicting information on relationships and sex hurt children’s health and well-being. It also leaves children vulnerable to gender-based violence, gender inequality, early and unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infections, discrimination, abuse, harmful sexual behavior, and sexual exploitation, including online and at school. What is your policy on comprehensive sexuality education? Please provide detail on measures you plan to take, including measures to guarantee schools are safe, inclusive environments.
  3. Online abuse, violence, and sexual harassment remains rampant in South Korea, and is frequently targeted at women and girls. What will you do to set up protections to make the internet a safe space for all, including digital literacy training in school curricula to teach responsible, ethical behaviors in the use of technology?

Please provide any additional details you would like to add regarding your policy on the protection of children’s rights and education.


Women’s Rights

  1. Gender-based violence, including digital sex crimes, is rife in South Korea. What is your policy on ensuring women and girls can live free from all forms of violence and harassment, including digital sex crimes? Please provide details on planned measures to address gender-based violence.
  2. Discrimination against women in South Korea is widespread. In the 2021 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap ranking, South Korea ranked 123 out of 156 countries on the gender gap on economic participation and opportunity. What policies would your government implement to end discrimination against women and increase women’s economic opportunities? Do you support ratification of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment?
  3. Abortion in South Korea is legal during the first three months of pregnancy. What is your policy regarding abortion and its legalization beyond the first three months?

Please provide any details you would like to add regarding your policy on the protection of women and girl’s rights.


Rights of Older People

  1. Research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that over 40 percent of older people in South Korea live in poverty, the highest rate among OECD countries. What specific measures will you put in place to ensure every older person has sufficient income and social welfare support that will enable them to have an adequate standard of living?
  2. Discrimination against older people in South Korea is pervasive. In a 2018 survey of 1000 older people by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, 59 percent of respondents said they had difficulty finding jobs because of age restrictions, while 44 percent said they had experienced ageism in their workplaces. What is your policy on providing economic and employment opportunities to older people based on their skills and potential?

Please provide any details you would like to add regarding your policy on the protection of the rights of older people.


Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People

  1. What is your position on article 92-6 of the Military Criminal Act, which criminalizes same-sex sexual acts with “a military person” regardless of whether the acts are consensual or happened within or outside of military facilities?
  2. What steps, if any, would you take to recognize same-sex partnerships for the purposes of family law and for taxation, housing, health insurance, and other benefits?

Please provide any additional details you would like to add regarding your policy on the protection of the rights of LGBT people.


Freedom of Expression

  1. What are the greatest threats to freedom of expression and freedom of the press in South Korea, and what steps would your government take to address them?
  2. While international human rights law allows for restrictions on freedom of expression to protect the reputations of others, such restrictions must be necessary, proportionate, and narrowly drawn. Should South Korea’s criminal defamation law be repealed?
  3. South Korea’s National Security Law criminalizes positive comments about North Korea or the dissemination of North Korean propaganda. Explain why you think the National Security Law should be abolished, amended, or continued in the same form.

Please provide any details you would like to add regarding your policy on the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.


Human Rights Policy Towards North Korea

  1. The North Korean Human Rights Act was passed by the South Korean National Assembly in March 2016. Provide details of specific steps and an expected timeline to establish the North Korean Human Rights Foundation and appoint an ambassador at large on North Korean human rights.
  2. What role should South Korea play internationally to promote human rights in North Korea, including at the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly?

Please provide any additional details you would like to add regarding your policy on North Korea human rights.


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