Skip to main content

South Korea Presidential Candidate Questionnaire Responses

Responses Received to the Questions of Human Rights Watch

Please note that the response was submitted in Korean. The English version below is a translation by Human Rights Watch.

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?

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party

The right to education is a basic human right and one of the four rights of children protected by the Constitution of the Republic of Korea. The State has the responsibility to use laws and systems to guarantee equal access to right for children.

In regard to this, I will expand support for underprivileged children in education; secure a legal quota for the number of teachers in special education schools; expand support for students of multi-cultural and North Korean escapee families; and increase support for adolescents outside the school system and students at non-certified alternative education facilities.

South Korea provides free primary and secondary education, and the law offers free preschool education for the three years before the start of elementary school education. Since the relevant law is only relevant to South Korean citizens, however, migrant children who do not have South Korean citizenship are excluded from childcare and education subsidies. I will review ways to improve the system.

Equality in educational opportunities is essential in modern school education. Failure to benefit from education due to social, economic, and/or cultural reasons has significant impact not only on individual children but also on society as a whole. It also undermines the foundation of the public education system. I will provide access to school education to all children regardless of their backgrounds. In addition to the nine years of compulsory primary and secondary education in the Republic of Korea, I will provide a non-discriminatory free preschool education for 3 to 5-year-old children. In order to uphold and promote the right to education for all children, I will put in place necessary administrative and financial systems, regular status surveys, and timely follow-up measures to ensure the right to education.


I respect children’s right to education. As for child refugees, South Korea provides them with a dependant family visa in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Migrant children, unless they are undocumented, have equal access to education as South Korean children. For children not registered at birth, I have included a number of support services in my campaign promises. I think there is no institutional discrimination against North Korean children, LGBT children, and disabled children. My campaign promises also to include early intervention services for developmentally challenged babies and young children and their families, as well as providing insurance coverage to related rehabilitation treatment services. As for children and adolescents from multi-cultural families, I promise bilingual educational environments, childcare support, and development of targeted career support programs. While preschool education is provided practically free through the Nuri program, I pledge to reduce gaps between kindergartens and daycares, as well as between public and private facilities.  


  1. South Korean children or adults do not have access to comprehensive sexuality education that provides age-appropriate, inclusive, quality and healthy, empowering, 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 behaviour, 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.

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party

Given that adolescents comprise the majority of victims and offenders of digital sex crimes, I agree that comprehensive, developmentally appropriate sexuality education is necessary and should start from young ages. The education should provide accurate and scientific information on sexuality, gender equality, online and offline sexual violence and prevention, and reproductive health.

In 2019, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended the South Korean government to provide comprehensive sexuality education at schools, including the rights of LGBTQ children. I believe that it is necessary to raise awareness and strengthen human rights education to protect all children and adolescents from alienation and hatred in school environments.

A partial revision of the Framework Act on Education, which is designed to reform the gender equality education system, has been passed and will soon be implemented. Currently, the gender equality education system is segmented into sexuality education, sexual violence preventive education, and gender equality education. The Lee Jae-myung government will strive to increase the capacity of schools on gender equality education and to create a school environment that is safe and inclusive for all children.

Children need to learn about consent and the right to sexual autonomy in order to be able to fully enjoy their right to make autonomous decisions regarding their sexuality. The institutionalization of comprehensive sexuality education will be my priority. The International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education by UNESCO advises sexuality education as early as at the age of five. In Sweden, the first country that institutionalized mandatory sexuality education, sexuality education begins at the age of four; Finland included sexuality education as a required subject [in school curriculum] in 1970; and Germany initiated mandatory sexuality education in 1992 and provides (to children) accurate information about safe contraception methods. With the provision of sexuality education based on equality and respect, I will ensure that the South Korean government will protect people’s right to sexual autonomy.


I will provide educational content and curriculum for students and teachers and include gender equality and digital literacy (including the prevention of sexual violence). I will also expand the gender equality culture expansion program of the Korean Institute for Gender Equality Promotion and Education.   


  1. Online abuse, violence, and sexual harassment remains rampant in South Korea, and 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?

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party

Children’s rights should be protected in the digital environment, including in metaBUS and social media. This means that children should be able to enjoy their digital rights while being protected from the dangers of crimes including sex crimes.

In regard to this, I will create a child-friendly digital environment in which children understand what they choose to use, exercise self-leadership in using digital services, and are protected from harmful digital content.

I will recommend that important information regarding children’s right to self-determination, including information about privacy, be written in language easily understandable by children. I will strengthen digital literacy education. Furthermore, I will implement child protection regulations and supplement the current guidelines on the protection of child and adolescent YouTubers. The child protection regulations will include strengthening self-regulation activities by the industry to prohibit harmful content in digital spaces that are accessible by children.

I will also strengthen support for child victims of digital crimes, including fraud and sex crimes, and create easily accessible channels for them for legal and other support.


Sexual harassment and abuse is a serious problem not only online, but also offline, and is evolving into more complicated and diversified forms, requiring a pre-emptive and comprehensive response. I will strive to provide education that meets the needs of current school environments, including preventive education on digital sex crimes as well as digital literacy education. I will enable timely intervention and prevention by installing and expanding sexual abuse/harassment response teams in city and provincial Offices of Education. South Korea began a digital sex crimes status survey in 2021. I will establish regular status surveys to ensure timely interventions and promote safe (offline and online) environments.


As I answered above, I will provide digital literacy education, including sexual violence preventive education, at all levels of school.


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

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party

Recognizing the need to move away from the current policies that see children as passive objects, and to review and reform all systems related to children in the context of their rights to life, protection, development, and participation.

I have announced seven promises in relation to the protection of children’s rights: gradual expansion of child and adolescent benefits; increasing the government’s responsibility for care; strengthening children’s rights to physical and mental health; guaranteeing children’s right to social participation; guaranteeing children’s safety and rights in the digital environment; actively identifying at-risk children and preventing child abuse; and identifying and filling gaps in the protection of children’s rights.


For the protection of the rights of children and adolescents, I will:

  • Strengthen childcare services;
  • Improve work conditions for daycare and kindergarten teachers, and proceed with gradual integration of the two institutions;
  • Expand after-school programs to provide all-day programs for elementary school children and increase childcare services for elementary school children until 8pm;
  • Create an integrated AI platform for childcare services for preschool and elementary school children;
  • Provide three healthy meals to children at daycares and kindergartens, and reduce the number of children per teacher in baby classes;
  • Establish a holistic system to prevent child abuse based on respect for the rights of children;
  • Dispatch child development specialists to daycares and kindergartens, and systemize child health management;
  • Establish various health management systems for citizens beginning from adolescence; and
  • Protect at-risk adolescents.


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.

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party

I make four promises in regard to the eradication of gender-based violence and protection of victims:

  • To strengthen both punishment for offenders of dating violence, stalking, and sexual violence and support for victims:
    • Establish a law on dating violence;
    • Exclude stalking from the crimes not prosecuted over the objection of the victim;
    • Include online stalking in the types of crime defined in the Anti-stalking Punishment Act;
    • Introduce a stalking victims protection order system;
    • Establish a stalking victims protection law;
    • Develop and distribute an IT-based technology that monitors and warns the approaching of stalking and dating violence offenders;
    • Strengthen the protection of the privacy of sexual violence victims in investigation and court procedures.


  • To take a no-tolerance approach to sex crimes targeting children and adolescents
    • Strengthen punishment for child rape by taking a no-tolerance approach;
    • Increase the age of child victims who should be excluded from the application of the statute of limitations and extend the statute of limitations for child and adolescent victims of incest;
    • Strengthen the support system regarding victim impact statements in investigation and court procedures; and
    • Increase both the number of investigators specializing in child grooming and the number of experts in charge of international cooperation on the prohibition of the distribution of sexually exploitive materials.


  • To eradicate digital sex crimes and relieve anxiety:
    • Install an investigation unit exclusively dealing with digital sex crimes;
    • Introduce an independent forfeiture system to confiscate profits made from digital sex crimes;
    • Establish one-stop support centers for digital sex crime victims in all provinces;
    • Introduce a registration system for cameras that can be easily adapted to criminal use;
    • Strengthen the responsibility of platform providers in the prevention of the distribution of sexually exploitive materials and invest in the development of related technologies; and
    • Introduce a regulation for the mandatory display of relevant information on deepfake voices and images.


  • To eradicate repeated sexual violence in the military:
    • Install exclusive units for the prevention of and response to sexual violence directly under the Minister of Defense and the Chief of Staffs of each Armed Force;
    • Increase the number of counselors on sexual issues across the military and enhance their authorities;
    • Guarantee the independence of the newly introduced Military Human Rights Protection Officer;
    • Introduce a “support before report” system for victims who have not reported their victimization;
    • Strengthen both punishment for offenders of secondary victimization and a response system for secondary victimization; and
    • Publish an annual report on sexual violence in the military and publicize it.


I will create a comprehensive response system regarding digital sex crimes. Through the establishment of a national vision on digital sex crimes, I will strengthen both punishment for offenders and support for victims. Sexual abuse using technology is evolving faster than ever before. I will create a system with human and financial resources to immediately remove or block illegal digital images identified by law enforcement agencies. I will institute obligations (in prevention of digital sex crimes) to app market business operators, including Google and Apple, and temporarily suspend or permanently block permits for  apps that distribute illicit images. I will make sure that the profits made from digital sex crimes are forfeited. I will also establish a proper survivor support system from reporting to counseling and follow-up support.

I will strengthen measures related to child sexual abuse and sexual objectification of children, including intensified monitoring of online grooming targeting children and adolescents and stronger punishment to providers of enabling technology, such as chatting apps. In fear of (the harmful impacts of) sexual objectification, over 260,000 people participated in an online petition requesting the government to ban the import of “real dolls”. However, the government’s response was insufficient. I will regulate the import, sale, and distribution of real dolls ranging from those mimicking the bodies of children and adolescents to those custom made to resemble specific individuals. I will  conduct a government-level status survey of the “real dolls” market  and regulate “real doll” businesses in school zones and residential districts.

I will introduce the crime of rape as non-consensual sex. In order to guarantee the right to sexual autonomy, rape should be defined based on consent rather than on intimidation and physical abuse. In this regard, I will revise what constitutes the crime of rape.

I will have established a law to protect stalking victims and a concrete support system for the victims of all forms of sexual violence. The stalking victim protection law will expand the definition of stalking victim and cover victim’s family members and supporters given that they often become target of retaliation. I will supplement the currently insufficient stalking victim protection system, introduce a victim protection order system, and provide comprehensive support for victims ranging from emergency livelihood benefits to medical and legal support. Dating abuse and violence between intimate partners are also a form of violence. I will revise the Act on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Protection of Victims to include the victims of dating violence and enhance support for victims including early emergency response.

I will take a zero-tolerance approach to sexual abuse by those in a position of power. The current law prescribes a meager 10 million won (slightly over 8,000 US dollars) in fines to employers convicted of sexual harassment in the workplace. I will strengthen punishment not only for employers who are offenders but also for the acts of concealment and protection of sexual harassment in the workplace. The statute of limitations for sexual crimes by using a position of power, which is only ten years, will be abolished. Instead, I will introduce a punitive compensation system to increase accountability of employers.  


I will transform all protection and support systems for victims of crimes to victim-focused systems. I also included in my promises measures effective for gender-based violence. I promise the followings:

Establish “one-stop victim solution centers” providing services ranging from physical safety protection to psychological counselling, legal support, emergency livelihood support, medical cost support, and back-to-normal-life support.

  • Establish an integrated step-by-step victim support system for five major crimes (prevention-reporting-investigation-court-the offender’s release from the prison- the offender’s release by parole): sexual violence using positions of power, digital sex crime, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking; and
  • Increase direct support for victims by promptly providing  budgets for the early stage of the investigation.

Establish “a healing support system” for victims of felony crimes.

  • Provide emotional and physical healing programs for victims of felony crimes.

Protect “the right to be forgotten” of victims of digital sex crime.

  • Establish digital sex crime victim support centers at the local government level;
  • Hire digital sex crime specialists at the government level to support the deletion of illegal images;
  • Allow full-scale undercover investigation for digital sex crimes, and promote real-name authentication in the use of apps; and
  • Establish an emergency physical safety protection system for victims, including allowing the renewal of their resident registration number.

Implement a strong government accountability system to protect the physical safety of stalking victims.

  • Install an electronic monitoring center at the police and improve the offender tracking system by placing smart watches on stalking offenders; and
  • Exclude stalking from the crimes not prosecuted over the objection of the victim (or from the crimes requiring a complaint from the victim for prosecution).

Eliminating gaps in responses to dating violence

  • Expand the application of the Act on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Protection of Victims to include dating violence

Introduce an evidence preservation system specially designed for minor victims of sexual violence.


  1. 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?

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party

To eradicate gender discrimination and to promote economic opportunities for women:

  • Introduce a “publish wage for gender equality” system and establish a plan to reduce gender wage gaps;
  • Improve affirmative action measures to strengthen their implementation;
  • Gradually expand the above-mentioned policies in the public and the private sectors;
  • Install a fair employment committee under the National Labor Relations Committee to strengthen the effectiveness of the remedial system for the victims of sexual harassment and gender discrimination;
  • Install equal employment units in regional Employment and Labor Offices;
  • Increase the number of Labor Inspectors in charge of equal employment practices and increase their authorities;
  • Install units to work on the prevention of sexual harassment in small businesses and victim support in all provinces;
  • Introduce a system for reporting, monitoring, and publication of businesses with discriminatory practices in employment;
  • Establish a system to prevent sexual harassment in small businesses and support victims;
  • Increase the number of gender diversity items in business ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) index;
  • Increase the weight of gender equality aspects when making decisions on the ESG investment of public pensions;


Regarding the ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment:

  • I support the ratification of the ILO 190 on Violence and Harassment. 


Elimination of discrimination in the labor market and reducing gender wage gaps

In order to eliminate discrimination in the labor market and reduce gender wage gaps, I will introduce a law on the prohibition of gender discrimination in employment and the reduction of gender wage gaps.

I will prohibit gender discrimination in employment. I will implement preventive measures, including the installation of gender equality officers in the workplace and the provision of guidelines on gender discrimination. I will increased unannounced audits and punitive measures to organizations suspected of discriminatory practices from the current fine for negligence to criminal punishment of employers. Transparency will be mandatory for employers required to publish the entire process of employment including hiring standards, procedures, and scores (of applicants).

I will enact a law to reduce gender wage gap, and also strengthen follow up measures by conducting gender gap surveys in occupation, career disruption, and leadership roles, and by obliging businesses to publish wages by gender and imposing penalties to non-complying businesses. In order to help reduce gender wage gaps, greater penalties will be imposed to businesses failing to meet a female employment quota and affirmative measures will be enhanced. I will improve the legal environments to ensure gender equality in employment access and job retention, to protect women from career disruptions, and to achieve gender equality in caregiving duties. For this goal, the Equal Employment Opportunity and Work-Family Balance Assistance Act will be revised to include both a childcare leave quota for fathers and measures to enable workers to use childcare leave without worrying about disadvantages

Prohibition of gender discrimination in employment

  • Requiring businesses to install gender equality officers; and providing guidelines on gender discrimination;
  • Requiring businesses to publicly publish their employment processes, including hiring standards, procedures, and scores; and
  • Increasing the punishment of employers for gender discrimination in employment from the current fine for negligence to a criminal punishment of the employer.

Enactment of a law to reduce gender wage gaps (“A Pay MeToo Act”)

  • Supplementing the law with follow-up actions such as: conducting surveys of gender gaps in occupation, career disruption, and leadership roles, and addressing problems identified by the surveys; requiring businesses to publish wages by gender and imposing penalties to those failing to comply; and establishing the government’s role as the control tower;
  • Strengthening affirmative measures by increasing penalties to businesses that fail to meet female employment quotas; and
  • Increasing unannounced audits and penalties to organizations suspected of discriminatory practices.

Ratification of the ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment

I will support the ratification of the ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment and implement measures to eradicate harassment and violence in the workplace. I will strengthen both the implementation of related laws, establish remedial and support systems for victims, and implement effective supervision and monitoring systems. As mentioned below, I will proceed with enacting a law to prevent secondary victimization in the workplace and reinforce support for victims.

Enactment of a law to prevent secondary victimization and strengthening support for victims

  • Revising the Equal Employment Opportunity and Work-Family Balance Assistance Act;
  • Changing the target of the Act from the employer to the user of labor (including corporate representatives) and implementing punitive rules to sexual harassment perpetrated by the employer, those in higher positions, or other workers;
  • Establishing punitive rules on the acts of concealment and/or protection of sexual harassment; and
  • Imposing stronger punitive measures if remedial actions against the offender of sexual harassment are found to be insufficient; and introducing punitive damages against employers in order to promote the effectiveness of employer obligations.

Revision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act

  • Stipulating workers’ right to refuse to work after raising a claim of sexual harassment, abusive remarks, and/or assault.

Including gender-based harassment as part of workplace bullying and strengthening punishment

  • Imposing punishment for failure to investigate, take appropriate remedial actions, and impose punitive measures;
  • Enabling comprehensive remedies for victims by including gender-based harassment in workplace bullying.

Establishing comprehensive measures to enable prompt response and prevent sexual harassment in the public sector by strengthening response and changing organizational culture

  • Diagnosing and improving organizational culture in the public sector; providing high-level officials with training customized to the characteristics of relevant organizations; and improving the effectiveness of training for law enforcement officers and prosecutors to prevent secondary victimization of survivors.

I will introduce a system to publicize the employment environment by gender for all stages of employment from recruitment to retirement in order to establish a fair labor environment.

Implement a “publicize employment by gender” system for all stages of employment from recruitment to retirement to create a fair labor environment.

  • Encourage and gradually expand voluntary participation by employers, starting from companies with 500 employees or over; and 
  • Develop and distribute the data publication system to ease the burden on companies.

Recruitment stage: Publish gender ratios for all stages of recruitment, including applicants for entry-level and higher-level positions and those who are hired.

Employment stage: Publish the gender ratios of employees by department, those who are promoted, and those who use childcare leave.

Retirement stage: Publish the gender ratios of those who are laid off, those who take early retirement, and those who have normal retirement.

I think the ILO Convention No. 190 can be supported after sufficiently reviewing it.   


  1. 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?

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party

In relation to the abolishment of the crime of abortion:

  • While the Constitutional Court ruled the unconstitutionality of the anti-abortion law and ordered the National Assembly to revise the Mother and Child Health Act (April 11, 2019) by December 31, 2020, the National Assembly has yet to replace the law.
  • I support that the Criminal Law and the Mother and Child Health Act should be amended without delay to uphold the Constitutional Court’s decision that the anti-abortion law excessively infringes on women’s right to self-determination.
  • I support the prompt amendments of the laws through social consensus on the definition of abortion, the gestation period allowed for abortion, etc. The revised Criminal Law and the Mother and Child Health Act should find a practical balance between the protection of fetal rights and respect for women’s right to self-determination.

To strengthen the rights to sexual and reproductive health:

  • Establish a framework law on the protection of sexual and reproductive health;
  • Expand insurance coverage for contraception and abortion;
  • Provide subsidies for sanitary pads for all female adolescents;
  • Include an ultrasound for reproductive health in health checkups for all female adolescents;
  • Provide free HPV vaccination to all male and female adolescents;
  • Rename Obstetrics and Gynecology clinics to Women’s Health clinics;
  • Provide effective human resources support required for the protection of the right to health and to avoid health risks of workers who are pregnant;
  • Increase the number of public postpartum care centers and standardize their facilities and services; and
  • Expand insurance coverage for infertility treatments and strengthen emotional support for infertility patients.


I believe that the right to sexual and reproductive health should be broadly interpreted. Individuals should be allowed to decide if they want to have children or not and if they do, how many children with whom. Here, women’s health and safety should be given priority. Based on the rights to terminate pregnancy, health, and safety, people should be respected for their right to not have children.

The Justice Party has presented a bill for the decriminalization of abortion. The party also believes that the Mother and Child Health Act should be replaced with a law to protect and support people’s rights to pregnancy, childbirth, and childcare in order to establish a system in which the government provides comprehensive support for the whole process (regarding reproductive health) from the decision on pregnancy to childcare. The party also calls for the abolition of Article 74-3 of the Labor Standards Act, which excludes abortion as a ground for miscarriage leave, in order to protect women’s right to safe abortion. I will also expand access to medical services, introduce abortion pills, and ensure access to contraception with an emphasis on consent in order to promote women’s rights to safe abortion and sexual/reproductive health.  

Rights to safe abortion and sexual and reproductive health:

  • Standardizing counseling services for abortion to provide sufficient and accurate information; establishing information services for contraception and pregnancy at hospitals, pharmacies, and public clinics; and guaranteeing access to medical services;   
  • Increasing choices by introducing medical abortion pills; introducing morning after pills and establishing safety standards for their use; and establishing guidelines on abortion services.

Protecting the right to use contraception with an emphasis on consent 

  • Eliminating financial barriers to all contraceptive methods, including morning after pills and providing access to emergency medical services;
  • Providing information and education on sexual rights, including sexual communication, for people in all stages of life, including students in primary, secondary, and tertiary schools.


The ruling of the Constitutional Court in 2019 decriminalized abortion during the first three months of pregnancy. I think we need a lot of discussions, including gathering opinions from stakeholders and holding public hearings, regarding the legalization of abortion after the first three months of pregnancy.


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?

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party

Sharing concern about the dismal senior poverty rate in South Korea, I believe that securing income and social welfare services for older people is an urgent policy issue especially given the country’s rapidly aging population.

In order for guaranteed income for older people, I will abolish the regulation that reduces the amount of basic pension if both husband and wife receive pension; introduce senior pension (1.2 million won) for the period between retirement at age 60 and the beginning of public pension income; gradually revise the system that provides reduced pension if other income sources are present; and expand jobs for older people.

In order to protect older people from illnesses and isolation, I will expand insurance coverage for dental implants and lower the eligible age; introduce integrated nursing and care services; establish a community-based integrated care system; introduce a primary care doctor system for older people; expand supportive housing in which housing support, daily activity support, and welfare support are all provided; and expand support for senior centers.

I will increase the basic pension from 300,000 won to 400,000 won to help alleviate senior poverty. Regarding the Basic Livelihood Security benefits, I will abolish the criteria for obligatory familial support and expand the coverage of the benefits from currently 40% of the median income to 50% of the median income. I will also expand the beneficiaries of housing benefits from currently 46% of the median income to 60% of the median income.

I will implement a program called “Integrated Community Care,” through which the government will assume responsibility to provide sufficient social welfare services. The existing Residents Administrative Welfare Centers will be reformed to “Integrated Care Centers,” which older people will be able to visit and where they will enjoy a wide range of welfare services. I will introduce a new service provision system to care services, with a focus on individual cases, rather than on the amount of time as currently is the case, and prioritizing in-home care instead of in facilities. I will expand public long-term care facilities and in-home care services,  and introduce public in-home care service centers and monthly wages to care workers in order to provide a wide range of quality care services from housework support to in-home nursing and senior daycare. Public in-home care service centers will be coordinated with the Integrated Community Care program to provide medical, welfare, rehabilitation, and housing services, among others. Following similar models in other countries including Japan and Germany, I will introduce in-home rehabilitation support services.

I will provide housing services customized to the needs of older people, including public apartments, studios, and houses. Public senior apartments will be affordable, have in-house medical professionals and social welfare workers, and be equipped with amenities and safety facilities. One-room studios will be offered to seniors living alone. For those who prefer houses, sufficient support will be provided for remodeling their houses.


Increase the basic pension by 100,000 won:

  • Increase the basic pension from the current 300,000 won to 400,000 won to alleviate senior poverty;
  • Provide older people who are eligible for the Basic Livelihood Support with additional 100,000 won in the National Basic Livelihood Security System;
  • Identify all possible ways to increase the amount of basic pension, even if it is through miniscule adjustment of the national pension, and seek social consensus on a structural reform across senior income security systems, including the national pension fund.

Proceed with reforming the national pension system to benefit all:

  • Establish a Presidential committee on public pension reform to find reasonable ways to reform the pension system in preparation for a “super-aged” society;
  • Balance the burden on younger generations and pension benefits;
  • Secure retirement income for the subscribers of the national pension fund;
  • Secure the long-term finance for the national pension fund to ensure its sustainability;
  • Reform all pension systems, including the national pension, basic pension, retirement pension, and farmers pension; and
  • Secure equity and sustainability in pension systems by reforming public special occupation retirement pension funds in line with the national pension reform.


  1. 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?

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party

I will expand economic and employment opportunities for older people by creating as many as 1.4 million jobs for older people; expanding jobs in the private sector for older people; and cooperating with community resources to encourage businesses to participate in job creation for older people (expanding the community coexistence program nationwide).


I will develop social activities and jobs for older people. I will support the social economy for older people, such as cooperatives for the retired, as well as R&D efforts for senior-friendly workplaces. Workplaces with a large number of senior workers will have support teams for senior workers and provide diverse options in terms of work hours and conditions. I will also reinforce the effectiveness of the Act on the Prohibition of Age Discrimination in Employment and Elderly Employment Promotion.

I will support older people’s participation in a wide range of social contribution activities based on their skills. I will offer lifelong education for older people. Social services for their participation in cultural activities will be developed and supported.

1. Introduce a “life-long worker” package program to support active senior lives.

Gradually expand businesses obliged to provide retiring middle-aged/older employees with outplacement support services:

  • Introduce a “rebound support” package program to strengthen the job-seeking capacities of middle-aged/older people;
  • Introduce a “primary helpers (like primary doctors) for job seekers” system to enable individualized case management;
  • Implement a digital-based capacity development package program to support middle-aged/older workers who seek career changes.

Gradually extend the employment/minimum retirement age to 70 years old:

  • Gradually increase the employment insurance age to 70 years old; and
  • Institute employer obligations to make efforts to extend the employment of middle-aged/older employees, in combination with increasing support for employers, including the expansion of outplacement and retainment support incentives.

Install “life-long worker centers:”

  • Install regional life-long worker centers by industry in cooperation with the private sector to facilitate employment of and skills/experience-sharing among middle-aged/older people; and
  • Establish a nationwide network of outplacement support organizations for middle-aged and older people, including the Employment for 40+ Centers (32 in total) of the Korea Labor and Employment Service and the 50+ Centers of the Seoul city government, and increase their human resources.

2. Strengthen support for middle-aged/older people at risk of losing jobs during the period of industrial transition.

Evaluate impact on employment of the industrial transition to digital and low-carbon economies, and establish a labor transition plan that links policies with support for businesses, employees, and communities.

  •  Provide fair job transition support services by industry and by region:
  • Establish fair job transition support centers in areas experiencing industrial transition and strengthen customized training, redeployment, and outplacement support; and  
  • Protect low-skilled workers who may be more vulnerable during industrial transition.

Institute a multi-layered social dialogue system to promote fair labor transition:

  • Facilitate cooperation between businesses and their partner companies to prevent labor-management conflicts and fair labor transition.


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

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party

I will implement a system in which the government takes responsibility for elderly care. I made this promise during the primary election last August and included in my promises for older people this February.

I will expand necessary infrastructure to enable older people with mobility difficulties to use rehabilitation, nursing, and medical services at home. I will also lay an institutional foundation for integrated community care programs with local governments serving as control towers.

Furthermore, I will install care managers and increase the proportion of public senior care facilities. I will expand in-home care for older people with mobility difficulties and create a primary care doctor system for those with special care needs.


  1. Expand health management and care services for older people using the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution.

Expand non-contact healthcare services for older people:

  • - Introduce non-contact health monitoring and examination services to establish a daily health management system in a super-aged society; and
  • Enhance a digital healthcare system for the monitoring of and preventive responses to health risks through the collection of real-time data and big data analyses.

Expand artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) sensor- and robot-based care services for older people:

  • Develop and distribute AI and IoT sensor-based activity monitoring technologies to ensure safety of older people living alone and the residents of senior care facilities, and to provide prompt care services if necessary; and
  • Develop and distribute care robots to support the daily activities of older people with mobility difficulties, to reduce the burden on their families and care service providers, and to support the independence of older people.


  1. Increase investment in welfare technologies in preparation for a super-aged society and support testbeds in the public sector:
  •  Increase investment to assist the lives of older people in the digital era, including standardizing the operation of unmanned kiosks;
  • Support testbeds for welfare technologies and social experiments in the public sector.


  1. Create a housing environment catered to the needs of older people.
  • Improve the housing environment for older people through senior welfare housing, intergenerational senior-friendly housing complex, and senior co-housing facilities:
  • Introduce a certification system for senior-friendly health and care services.
  • Provide home remodelling support for older people and people with disabilities.
  • Create a university-based retirement community in cooperation with regional universities.


  1. Provide cultural and welfare support for happy retirement lives.
  • Provide culture and welfare vouchers to promote leisure activities for older people; and
  • Promote the social participation of older people through voucher programs, which may include travels, online/offline life-long education, reading activities, cultural activities, and sports activities.


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?

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party

I will address the issue of same-sex sexual acts in the military by pursuing social consensus in consideration of not only the specific needs of the military but also social and cultural circumstances.

The law should be abolished and its abolition is included as part of my campaign promises.


I believe that the prohibition of same-sex sexual acts of military persons is necessary given the special circumstances of the military to prevent sexual violence between people of the same sex.


  1. 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?

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party

I believe that same-sex partnerships are a matter of people’s sexual orientation and gender identity, which should be accepted as it is and should not be a ground for discrimination.

Since social consensus is needed regarding if and how much same-sex partnerships should be recognized in laws and other institutions, however, I will first proceed with pursuing social consensus.


There are two approaches. First, a partner registration law may be enacted so that same-sex partners can enjoy equal rights and benefits as a family without going through the marriage system. Second is revising the Civil Law to recognize same-sex marriage. Because of the issue of constitutionality of same-sex marriage, however, we are currently reviewing the plausibility of more gradual approaches.


Although one may have the right to choose their sexual orientation, I think we need a careful approach to the issue because denying biologically assigned genders and recognizing same-sex couples could have significant social impact.


Please provide any additional details you would like to add regarding your policy on the protection of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender (LGBT) people.


Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party


My baseline position is the enactment of the anti-discrimination law. We need a basis to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The rules established by the Supreme Court should be upgraded into a law on the protection of the rights of sexual minorities. I will also ensure that the national medical insurance covers surgeries and treatments required by LGBT individuals.



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?

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party

I believe that for the sound development of democracy, it is necessary to provide strong protection and support for the media, given their roles in monitoring power and fulfilling people’s right to know. The freedom of the press is important for human rights and justice.  


South Korea’s Press Freedom Index was ranked top among Asian countries for three years in a row until last year and higher than that of the United States. In terms of public trust in the news media, however, it was ranked one of the lowest among 40 major countries for four years in a row.  


Serious infringement of the right to personality and defamation caused by wrong media reports is a clash between the rights to dignity and happiness and the rights to the freedom of expression and the press. In particular, I believe fake and fabricated news with malicious intentions need to be addressed through social and institutional systems. I will pursue a more mature democracy in which the two sets of rights are respected in a harmonious manner.    


I am positively looking to the current efforts by news media, new media outlets, media organizations, and the civil society to establish an integrated self-regulatory body for press freedom because I believe that the media industry’s own efforts to gain trust from the public are critical. Although it is a self-regulatory body, I believe it would be a desirable option if it can serve as an effective remedy for damages incurred by false reports can be a desirable way forward.  


I also understand that there is an ongoing discussion on this issue at the Special Committee on the Improvement of the Media System of the National Assembly. I hope that public discussions led by media organizations and the civil society on this issue, including the legal status of the self-regulatory body, will find a judicious solution on how to operate the self-regulatory body.


The National Security Law is one of the greatest threats to the freedom of expression. The ruling party’s recent attempt to revise the Act on Press Arbitration and Remedies (Press Arbitration Act), which included the introduction of both punitive damages to the media and the ways to block news articles under the pretext of countering fake news, aroused controversy over the infringement of the freedom of the press.

The Justice Party and I have been working to abolish the National Security Law. In opposition to the ruling party’s attempt to revise the Press Arbitration Act, we called for the creation of a special committee at the National Assembly to discuss the issue. This proposal has been accepted and related discussions are undergoing at the Special Committee on the Improvement of the Media System.


Since the establishment of democracy, South Korea has strived to ensure a high level of the freedom of expression and the press. As a result, the country boasts the highest press freedom index in Asia. As revealed in the controversial Act on Press Arbitration and Remedies (Press Arbitration Act) last year, the government’s interference with the media remains significantly high. It is argued that the government is taking an imbalanced approach to the media that is friendly to them and the media that is not. The freedom of the press, including the freedom of broadcasting, is one of the most important foundations of democracy. In principle, broadcasting and other media organizations should be able to make autonomous decisions on what to report and broadcast. If I am elected, I will abolish all regulations that threaten the freedom of the press. However, public media, which is run on tax money, may require minimal adjustment to secure its public nature and neutrality. It is not desirable for public media to promote the interests of certain political forces in their reports and programs. Rather than forcing a reform through regulations, however, it will be desirable to allow the creation of an organizational culture in which different opinions can be freely expressed.  


  1. 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?

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party

While freedom of expression should be widely acknowledged and protected, defamation in the name of the freedom of expression should not be allowed. In this regard, I believe that it is premature to abolish the criminal defamation law. Since the current law excludes it from criminal liability if the concerned report was made in the public interest, abolition of the defamation law will have little effect.

However, the components of the crime of defamation should be thoroughly reviewed to determine if it may compromise the freedom of expression and if necessary, should be revised. Even in this case, the revised defamation law should not be used as a tool to abuse the freedom of expression.

I support the abolition of the criminal defamation law and the crime of contempt, and it is included in my campaign promises.


There are currently active debates regarding the abolition of the defamation law, especially on the crime of defamation by revealing truth. I believe that discussions on decriminalization, regardless of the type of crime, is essential in the development of a healthier society. In regard to the crimes of defamation and insult, however, there is still a long way for South Korea to go in terms of establishing a culture of productive and healthy debates. Especially in a world in which one’s opinions can be spread so fast and easily on social media but there are not efficient ways to correct or counter the opinions, the level of harm inflicted to the rights and interests of the victim is far greater than the level of punishment imposed to the offender. In this regard, I think that it is yet undesirable to abolish the law. It may be possible, however, to review the plausibility of expanding the grounds for exclusion from criminality by more broadly interpreting “public interests”. Or in the case of defamation by revealing truth, the elements of the crime may be more strictly applied as in the crime of online defamation, which requires a malicious intent.      


  1. 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.

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party

I acknowledge that the National Security Law suppresses the freedom of expression and is an obsolete system designed to punish people’s beliefs with law. The National Security Law will inevitably be required to change and I will proceed with its revision including abolition of problematic clauses.

In regard to the abolition of the National Security Law itself, I will seek a public consensus process given that public opinions are divided with some opposing the abolition of the law due to concerns over national security.


The National Security Law should be abolished. If necessary, it is sufficient to revise the Criminal Law to introduce relevant clauses.


I think that we need a very careful approach when it comes to the abolition of the National Security Law. Even under the incumbent government, although the ruling party has always argued for the abolition of the law, the law could not be abolished. The Constitutional Court ruled partial constitutionality of the law, which means that the law is constitutional only when it is applied to the acts of jeopardizing the existence and safety of the nation and the fundamental order of a free democracy. I believe this decision should be respected. According to this ruling, simple expression of opinions, positive comments about North Korea in the areas of academic research, media reports, and publication to fulfil people’s right to know, and dissemination of North Korean propaganda materials (in fact, there are a lot of reports these days quoting the Rodong Sinmun and North Korean broadcasts) are not subject to punishment. As such, the National Security Law is affected by the Constitutional Court’s decision and imposes punishment limited to the acts of jeopardizing the existence and safety of the nation and the fundamental order of a free democracy. I think the law can be revised if necessary based on the country’s security situations or if there is a public consensus.  


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

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party


Regarding the promotion of the freedom of expression and the press, our campaign promises include the followings:

  1. Publicly elect the board members of public broadcast companies and appoint their presidents with recommendations;
  2. Protect the autonomy and independence of newspapers by making it mandatory for newspapers to set up an editorial board;
  3. Support a self-regulatory regime for the media; and
  4. Promote the freedom of expression:
    • Abolish the Korea Communications Standards Commission;
    • Revise the temporary measures regulations in the Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Information Protection;
    • Abolish the criminal defamation law;
    • Abolish the crime of insult.

In principle, the freedom of expression and the press should be allowed at the maximum level and its restriction should be applied by interpreting the Constitution in a conservative manner. This should be a fundamental difference between authoritarian regimes and the Republic of Korea. However, a different approach will be needed to this freedom when it comes to areas other than politics and culture, such as privacy and human rights (e.g. discrimination and hate speech). What is most important is, I believe, laying a foundation for the qualities of citizenship required for the members of a democratic society, such as respect for others based on the understanding of humanity, abilities to make wise decisions in the world of controversial media, and refrainment of expression of extremist ideas or prejudiced ideas that blindly disregard other sides. For this, it is necessary to promote political and cultural training in various levels from school education to online/offline communities. If such training is successfully implemented, I think that there will ultimately be no need for regulations and freedom of expression will be protected and exercised in a self-regulatory manner by citizens.


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.

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party

In relation to these issues, I respect the incumbent government’s position and directions.

The North Korean Human Rights Foundation should be established in accordance with Article 10 of the North Korean Human Rights Act. The establishment of the foundation has been delayed due to a delay in the process of recommendation of board members (a total of 12 persons including two from the government and five each from ruling and opposition parties). While there may be differences among parties in their views and positions on the human rights situations of North Korea, it is important to implement the law. If I am elected to be the next President, I will expedite the recommendation process for board members and the appointment of an ambassador on North Korean human rights.

According to the North Korean Human Rights Act, the government should establish the North Korean Human Rights Foundation, conduct research on the improvement of North Korean human rights, and support related human rights organizations. The government should also appoint the ambassador on North Korean human rights and run a North Korean human rights documentation center.  

Since the establishment of the North Korean Human Rights Foundation requires ruling and opposition parties each to recommend five board members for the foundation, I will facilitate the recommendation process so that the foundation can be established without further delay.

The ambassador on North Korean human rights was appointed in 2016 according to the law but resigned in 2017. Since then, the post has remained vacant because the Moon Jae-in government has failed to appoint his successor. Since the appointment of the ambassador is within the discretion of the government, I will start the appointment process immediately after the inception of my government.   


  1. 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?

Candidate Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party

Candidate Shim Sang-jung, Justice Party

Candidate Yoon Seok-youl, People Power Party

Having North Korea as an immediate neighbor, South Korea has the obligation to pursue peace and denuclearization on the peninsula. North Korea should endorse the principle of universal human rights and I will actively cooperate with international efforts to make it happen. Simultaneously, I will continue South Korea’s humanitarian efforts to improve the economic rights of North Koreans. In regard to this, I have included an inter-Korean human rights dialogue in my campaign promises.


The 2016 North Korean Human Rights Act stipulates international cooperation to promote North Korea’s human rights situations, including cooperation with international organizations and foreign governments in relation to the exchange of human resources and information. (The incumbent government) has failed to take leadership and push forward with consistent policies due to its failure to resolve differences in opinions in how to implement (the law). If I am elected to be the President, I will bring together not only the government and political parties but also related experts and the public to devise and implement a way to cooperate with the international community to improve the human rights situation in North Korea.

I believe that promoting North Korean human rights is one of the important mandates given to the South Korean government. I will strengthen solidarity with domestic and overseas human rights organizations as well as with international bodies to promote human rights in North Korea.

I support the annual UN resolution on North Korean human rights. Under my government, South Korea will co-sponsor the resolution and will actively participate in international human rights dialogues to promote the human rights situation in North Korea.

I will also share information on North Korean human rights, which may be acquired through North Korean escapees, with the international community.


Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.

Region / Country