Category: Minority Health

[Research report] COVID-19 Vaccinations and People’s Rights in South Korea


Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Politicization of COVID-19 vaccination
Chapter 3. Political economy of vaccine research and development
Chapter 4. Vaccination Policy and public health care system
Chapter 5. Justice and Ethics of Vaccination
Chapter 6. COVID-19 vaccines: Global governance for global justice
Chapter 7. Civic Engagement in the COVID-19 Vaccine Policy Process




Chapter 1. Introduction

Vaccines and publicity are the most frequently mentioned keywords in Korea’s COVID-19 “system.” Vaccines have emerged as a strong alternative or consideration in that they are almost the only way to end the COVID-19 epidemic. The health care system, centered on the private sector, or market principles, has revealed its limitations in the process of responding to COVID-19. The combination of vaccines and publicity, which were other trends of interest, came after major high-income countries predicted to monopolize the COVID-19 vaccine from late 2020. The following perspectives are needed to understand the vaccine problem. First, an important characteristic of vaccines is that it is a ‘product’ that is often traded in the ‘market’ as a result of industrial ‘production’. Second, the so-called “health care system” perspective is also needed in discussions surrounding vaccines and vaccinations in Korea. Third, it is also important to understand vaccines and vaccinations as “the social” beyond science, technology, medicine, and bio-medicine. When the political-economic logic of vaccines and the goals of the COVID-19 response conflict, publicity can serve as a criterion for judging and socially solving them. At this time, publicity includes the nature of practical ethics centered on rights to health, international justice, and distributional justice.


Chapter 2. Politicization of COVID-19 vaccination

Since the COVID-19 outbreak spread, mask-wearing, hand hygiene, and social distancing became the most common measures to prevent the spread of the virus. After the introduction of vaccination, the vaccine has been considered the most effective way to fight the pandemic through herd immunity. Although these preventive measures are based on epidemiological and scientific evidence, some politicians, experts, and the media from countries worldwide, including Korea questioned the potential side effects of vaccines, intentionally stimulating anxiety and fear among citizens. This study regards this phenomenon as a politicization of COVID-19. Politicization is defined as “a dynamic process in which public actors engage in political discourses in the public sphere for political agenda-setting and resource distribution.”

Politicization seems to have negative effects because it may cause social conflicts; however, theoretically, it can have positive effects when various actors expose and magnify problems that have been neglected, then discuss and cooperate to solve the problems in the public sphere. In this process, citizens can participate in health-related decision-making through public discussion. However, if the quality of discussion is not up to standard due to various reasons (e.g., political bias and misinformation), it can result in socially undesirable behaviours such as vaccine hesitancy.

This study derived the following themes of politicization of the COVID-19 through deductive reasoning based on team discussion: vaccines quantity and vaccination schedule, vaccination priority and equity, vaccines safety and the individual right to choose vaccine brands, and the government’s response to adverse reactions from the vaccines.

During this politicization of the COVID-19 vaccine, public actors, including state, economic, and social powers, engaged in political discourses to achieve different goals. The state power emphasized a timely introduction of vaccines and treatments, and support to devise vaccines in cooperation with domestic pharmaceutical companies to gain the legitimacy of governmentality. The state power showed the close relationship between the state and economic powers by setting the goal of the growth of the pharmaceutical industry and market expansion.

Social powers attempted to improve public interests, protect the socio-economically disadvantaged, and protest against international inequality of vaccine accessibility, making them the main political agenda. However, since public health has largely been influenced by state powers, social power has had a relatively small impact on the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, disagreements arose about various issues such as resource distribution, and subsequently, they led to social conflicts during the politicization of COVID-19.


Chapter 3. Political economy of vaccine research and development

Global healthcare research and development (R&D) framework is working with public funding mechanism including ‘push’ strategy such as research grants or tax breaks, and ‘pull’ strategy such as orphan drugs or advance-purchase commitments. It should be reviewed the power of agents including state, economy and social dimension to understanding the framework. For the political economy analysis of vaccine R&D we examined the state, economic and social power relationship within the R&D framework. In most high-income countries, the state-operated push and pull mechanisms. The economic power transformed their strategy from concentrated investment for R&D to financialization, because the traditional drug markets have gradually deteriorated. The economic power focused on the profit from stock or merge and acquisition, rather than developing new drugs by intensive investment to R&D. Simultaneously, despite the economic power pretend to accept social demands such as corporate social responsibility and to redistribute their wealth via various charity, money to be invested those activities would be re-pocketed into the drug companies. Social power plays a role as a watchdog against R&D activities. The role of the social power in the vaccine R&D framework was only focused on the terminal stage of the R&D process, even if the social power tried to engage in development, design, implementation and accessibility to the end product of R&D. In South Korea, it is also hard to understand why the social power is important or what kinds of role they can do in R&D framework. However, the most important thing is the unfair R&D governance where crucial values including participation and watching were excluded. Frankly speaking, there is no room for social power within the R&D framework in South Korea. Therefore, the agenda of the social power for the future has to re-organize and reconstruct the now unfair R&D framework.


Chapter 4. Vaccination Policy and public health care system

Since the 1970s, many high-income countries have promoted new public management reforms. Based on the belief that the market is more efficient than the government, public services provided by the government were handed over to the private sector, and the government also had to introduce market principles for efficiency. However, there are also strong criticisms that it is difficult to achieve the original purpose of improving the quality of services and reducing costs, and that it can weaken the system. For example, it weakens the expertise, responsiveness, control, and accountability of government agencies, and makes it difficult to solve inequality problems.

In Korea, since liberation in 1945, sufficient expenditure has never been made on the public health care system amid an absolute lack of resources, a developmental state pathway, and a new public management paradigm. Meanwhile, private hospitals overwhelmed public hospitals in quantity and quality, and the public role decreased. Health centers with insufficient manpower and financial input also promoted public-private partnerships as the burden of work increased significantly.

In the vaccination system, the participation of private medical institutions expanded, starting with the pilot project to support essential vaccination costs for private medical institutions in 2005. In the 2019-2020 season, contracted medical institutions accounted for 89.2% of influenza vaccinations for the elderly aged 65 or older.

The contracted medical institutions played a key role also in the COVID-19 vaccination. However, the distribution of locally unequal medical institutions in private-centered systems can also affect vaccination. In addition, it is difficult to properly manage and supervise a significant number of private medical institutions by public health centers that are already overloaded. In the trend of new public management, the decrease in the role of public health centers may gradually lead to a reduction in capacity, authority, and expertise as health authorities.

In order to alleviate current concerns, it is imperative to increase resources such as institutions and manpower in the public sector. However, just because the public sector grows quantitatively does not automatically guarantee public values. If outcome-oriented and efficiency are still the top priority, unequal structures and results are difficult to change. Democratic governance that can reflect the voices of marginalized people and a public-private partnership between state power and social power are needed.


Chapter 5. Justice and Ethics of Vaccination

As vaccines are essential resources to respond to the pandemic, the equitable allocation of vaccines should be considered. However, only healthy maximization from a utilitarian approach is implemented as ethical principles for vaccines allocation in South Korea. This response to the pandemic has exposed existing social inequities and even exacerbated them during the entire vaccination process. Vaccination inequities are reproduced by dynamics of following a triple structure: 1) socioeconomic structure (i.e. social determinants of vaccination accessibilities), 2) policies and institutions (i.e. health care system, and national immunization programs), and 3) culture and an episteme (i.e. exception status, utilitarianism, neoliberalism). Defining the pandemic as an exception status, utilitarian and liberal values that internalize individualization are prioritized over any other values such as equity and justice. In other words, inequities become commonplace thus are treated as unavoidable. Given the situation, individuals should bear any kinds of risks and injustice. Under ‘governmentality,’ only N% of vaccination is set as a top priority goal of the national immunization program. While social determinants of vaccination are not equally distributed, the national immunization program has never considered resolving them as well. Consequently, the structure of vaccination inequalities calls for ‘democratic publicness.’ From this perspective, we believe that vaccination justice could be achieved when the pandemic responses set equity as a top priority principle, establish the procedural ethical framework based on civil societies as a social base, and decentralize the power.


Chapter 6. COVID-19 vaccines: Global governance for global justice

As the COVID-19 is a pandemic, the justice for vaccines must also be considered at the global level across borders. The production and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines and the pandemic itself are issues of global justice that cannot be settled without joint efforts and that show inequalities between countries.

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, global health governance aims for global health security have revealed various problems. The COVAX was launched to distribute vaccines according to the public health needs of countries, not economic, political, or geopolitical interests, but has degenerated into an aid mechanism due to vaccine nationalism and vaccine diplomacy of the powerful countries. Effective international legal grounds were needed to make the supply of vaccines produced by transnational pharmaceutical companies being under the control of the WHO and the COVAX, but under existing global health governance centered around the International Health Regulations and the WHO, there was no way to do that. Beyond the limits of the current “global health governance,” the “global governance for health” perspective is more relevant than ever in the COVID-19 pandemic. It aims for equitable global governance should be created that considers all political, economic and social determinants affecting health.

Global powers and transnational capital seek to stabilize capital accumulation while responding to their domestic pressure with the COVID-19 vaccines. This motivation makes the achievement of global justice less priority or drags it down as a means for the national interest. Rather than trying to change this global trend, the South Korean government is actively riding on it and seeking to secure economic and technical superiority and stable governmentality with the COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. In order for the government to quickly achieve these goals, it is essential to obtain cooperation from companies, which has led the companies to take the lead in discussions on the development and production of the COVID-19 vaccines and treatments in South Korea.

The last hope lies in the global solidarity movement. In fact, it is only the social movement that can check the national states and governments, which prioritize their domestic politics and governmentality. Since the 1990s, global civil society has continued to fight for global justice insisting on affordable prices for equitable access to medicines, against transnational pharmaceutical companies as well as the intellectual property regime strengthening since the establishment of the WTO. In the COVID-19 situation, South Korean civil society has been striving for equitable access to vaccines around the world by solidarity with the global civil society, criticizing governments and companies.

As of the end of September 2021, the exemption from intellectual property rights through WTO/TRIPs (TRIPs waiver) is the top priority campaign agenda for civil society around the world. The adoption of the TRIPs waiver proposal could be the beginning of just global vaccine governance, in which countries expand the pie themselves instead of competing with each other over the pie set by transnational pharmaceutical companies, and low- and middle-income countries gain rights to vaccine production instead of waiting for vaccine aid from high-income countries.


Chapter 7. Civic Engagement in the COVID-19 Vaccine Policy Process

The purpose of this study is to explore how collaborative governance including civic engagement can be developed in the era of the COVID-19. The findings open up several issues about vaccination policies from civil society perspectives: inequity in vaccine access, the lack of communication between civil society and government, government-led decision-making processes, and the absence of co-production of knowledge. Evaluation of citizen participation related to national advisory committees on vaccination reveals the status of “tokenism”, supported by a window dressing ritual or one-way flow of information. Our findings highlight the constraints on the ‘Political opportunity structures’ and collaborative governance. Even though civil society attempted to construct alternative countervailing power, which lies between adversarial and collaborative one, empowered participatory decision-making did not occur in vaccination policies. Institutional design efforts should be required to advance empowered participatory governance. 


Full report (in Korean) download: COVID-19 Vaccinations and People’s Rights in South Korea by PHI & PHM Korea

Abortion ban Overturned in the Constitutional Court

Today, on April 11th 2019, abortion ban in South Korea has been ruled unconstitutional.
This is a historical victory for many Korean people, especially women, who has been fighting vigorously for decriminalization of abortion and women’s reproductive right.

The court ordered that the existing law should be revised by the end of 2020.


Constitutional Court says that abortion ban must end (Image from Womenlink Korea)

Joint Action for Reproductive Justice in South Korea, who played critical role in struggle for decriminalizing abortion, declared that we will never go back to the oppressive past, and requested administration and the legislature to ensure the sexual and reproductive right for all.

We want to celebrate this as a step forward the women’s health right in South Korea, and  want to share the Korean people’s struggle to abolish the abortion ban with our comrades around the world.

<Article 269 Abolition Performance of the Criminal Law made by 269 Members (2018.9.29)>


<Protest for Safe abortion, and women’s health right! (2018.03.30)>


<Waiting for Verdict, the Outside the Constitutional Court (2019.04.11)>


More information on the Abortion ban and court’s decision can be found on below

BBC News, “South Korea must end abortion ban by 2020, says court”

The Guardian, “South Korean court rules abortion ban must be lifted”

TIMES, “For 66 years, Women in South Korea Have Been Fined or Jailed for Having Abortions. That may be about to change”

#Women_health #Sexual_right #Reproductive_right #Abortion #South_Korea


[Reportage] The human toll of an era that uses the impoverished as disposable commodities(hankyoreh)

“Foreign nationals accounted for nine of the 195 people who died without surviving family or friends at Incheon Medical Center between 2001 and 2017. Their deaths offer a glimpse at an era where the world takes advantage of cheap labor by impoverished people. The global migrations of workers, fragmenting of national identity, and relationship between death and a life of poverty are faintly visible in the last marks these people left on the world when they passed away.”

#Globalization #migration #labor

Original Article from

Migrant workers sacrifice for a society they will never truly become a part of

Migrant workers gather in front of Jongno Tower in Seoul on World Migrant Workers’ Day, Dec. 18, 2003, to commemorate those killed during the government’s forced deportation crackdown that year. At the far left is a photo of Burkhon, an Uzbek man who died in 2003. (by Kim Jin-su, staff photographer)
Foreign nationals accounted for nine of the 195 people who died without surviving family or friends at Incheon Medical Center between 2001 and 2017. Their deaths offer a glimpse at an era where the world takes advantage of cheap labor by impoverished people. The global migrations of workers, fragmenting of national identity, and relationship between death and a life of poverty are faintly visible in the last marks these people left on the world when they passed away. For the first time, the Hankyoreh is giving voices to the people who put food on our tables, operate our factories, and sustain our day-to-day lives – without ever becoming “one of us.”
My name is Burkhon
I, an Uzbek man who died in 2003 at the age of 50, died on the “outside” from the rest of you. Unable to cross over among you while I was alive, I was forced to roam the outside even after I died, unable to come to rest in your city.Do spirits make a sound? A dog was loudly barking off to one corner of the darkening lumber factory in the Songhyeon neighborhood of Incheon’s Dong (East) district. While I was alive, I was always treated with wariness. I was rejected, policed, hunted. Even after I passed away, I flinched and shrank each time the city growled.
I am the abused
The factory boss came out of the container box office to quiet the dog. Fifteen years have passed, but the boss – now 46 – is still younger than I was when I died. That winter [in 2003], I had come to the lumber factory because I did not know where else to go. Having lost my job in a strange city, the only place I could turn was the factory where my nephew worked.
I was driven out when the South Korean government launched a large-scale crackdown [tracking down and expelling unregistered migrant workers during the adoption of an employment permit system in place of the “industry trainee system” that had been criticized as a “slave training system” since its 1993 implementation]. No sooner had they announced that employers would also be punished for the illegal hiring of foreign nationals than the company [not the lumber factory] forced me to pack my bags. Four months after arriving that July on a tourist visa, I had lost my place of residence and become a fugitive.
The boss opened the door to a bathroom fashioned from a container box. Now as old as the number of years since my passing [the lumber factory relocated to its current location a few months after Burkhon’s death], it seemed about to crumble in its old age the way I had crumbled similarly. The factory was still there, but it was not the same. Lumber was sparse in the factory yard. There were no after-hours volumes, no overtime work. I could not see any non-Korean workers; only a few of the Korean workers were older than I was at the time [all 60 years or older].
The hunting dog followed the scent. Whenever I trembled in fear of being hunted down for being an illegal alien, I heard the sound of barking. Sometimes the noise of the city and the muttering of people that surrounded me in this land whose language I did not speak sounded like a wild beast hidden in the forest. I came to South Korea at the age of 50 after giving US$5,000 to a broker in Samarkand [a city in central Uzbekistan]. If I returned without paying back my debt, my family and I would have no present, let alone a future. Carrying my luggage, I visited the factories where my Uzbek friends were working, but I was unable to find any work for myself.
When I returned to this factory a week after they rejected my application for work, my nephew’s friend reminded me of what the factory boss had said: “We can’t use illegal aliens right now. I can’t even let them into the factory dormitory.”
I was not allowed “inside,” and it was so cold “outside.” Even worse, it was frightening. I told my nephew’s friend I would go back to Uzbekistan the next day and then turned to go. The time-worn door to the bathroom creaked every time it moved, as if marked by memories from 15 years ago. There was an acrid smell in the bathroom from the gas emitted by a heater left on to keep the pipes from bursting. Both then and now, the bathroom was too shabby to be someone’s last place on earth.
After ten days of being chased from place to place [2 am on Nov. 25, 2003], I died in this bathroom. My body was found by the factory workers, hanging from a rope I had attached to the bathroom door. A crumpled plane ticket that I had been fidgeting with for several days turned up in my crumpled clothing.
I was the fourth person to kill himself around the time of the crackdown. The other three were already waiting for me in the spirit world. Darka, a 31-year-old Sri Lankan man, threw himself onto the train tracks on Nov. 11 out of despair for no longer being able to send money to cover his ailing mother’s medical bills.Bikku, a 34-year-old Bangladeshi man, hung himself on Nov. 12. Still owing 4 million won (US$3,700) of the 10 million won (US$9,300) loan he had taken out when he came to South Korea with his younger sibling, he decided it would be better to die in South Korea. Andrei, a 37-year-old Russian man, jumped into the sea on a ship bound for Vladivostok that he had been placed aboard after being apprehended in the crackdown.
My poor family could not afford to bring me home. With the help of some Koreans, including Yang Hye-u, then-director of the Korea Migrant Human Rights Center, who had been granted power of attorney by fax, my body was embalmed by students doing a practicum for a degree in mortuary science and loaded in the cargo container of a plane. Ten days into the crackdown, the government announced its “progress”: 1,233 people rounded up and 606 people deported. Two days after my funeral, it launched a second round of the crackdown on Dec. 8.
After coming out of the bathroom, the boss looked up at the red sky. I didn’t die in this bathroom because I resented him for not giving me work. There was just nowhere else where I could die. In the words of the boss, this was a time when “immigration agents were sweeping every factory and rounding up foreigners every day.” After I died, my nephew and his colleagues all left the factory. The boss, who must think of me every time he goes into that bathroom, might even miss that time “when business was going pretty well.” Since I hung myself in the bathroom, I have decayed along with the door, but I’m still unable to go inside the factory.

A bathroom inside the Incheon lumber factory where Burkhon killed himself in 2003. Although 15 years have passed, the appearance remains the same. (by Lee Moon-young, staff reporter)

Am I a person or a thing?
An ambulance took me, a 38-year-old ethnic Korean from China, who died in March 2003, from a factory 2.2km away from the rusted bathroom to an emergency room for respiratory paralysis and hypoxic brain injury. Born in a village of ethnic Koreans in the city of Shenyang, in China’s Liaoning Province, I worked at a factory in the Dohwa neighborhood of the Nam (South) District next to an elevated highway in this city. The company boss cut off contact with me without paying my hospital bills, saying that times were tough. A foreman at the factory ducked responsibility, too, claiming he couldn’t do anything because he hadn’t heard from the boss.
I’m a person, but I was “imported” like a product. And once I lost my utility, I was disregarded like a useless thing. My older brother didn’t have the money to pay for my internment. Since he was illiterate, a friend filled out the form on his behalf, promising to pay the hospital bill later, when he got the money. It wasn’t until a month after I died that I was sent to the crematorium.
I was one of nine foreigners who have died in this city without any next of kin. Foreigners accounted for nine of 195 people who died without any connections at the Incheon Metropolitan City Medical Center between 2001 and 2017.
I had been told that this city that was organized according to the needs of the powerful countries that forced Korea to open up two centuries before was called Incheon. Japan, Qing China, the US, the UK, Germany, Russia and France set up international settlements there.
Now when I die alone in this city, I am either a descendant of those who settled there at that time (two overseas Taiwanese, one Chinese national), a person with a Korean identity who came to the motherland only to be treated as a foreigner (one ethnic Korean in China) or a migrant worker from a poor and weak country (one Uzbek, one Mongolian, one Nepalese, one Burmese and one Ugandan].
Why am I – a person whose manner of death speaks to the hardship of my life – always from “those countries”? Why is it only people from those countries who die as “foreigners without connections” in this city?As of the end of 2016, there were 59,103 foreigners registered as living in Incheon: 25,665 (43.4%) from China, 6,536 (11.0%) from Vietnam, 2,852 (4.8%) from the Philippines, 2,609 (4.4%) from Taiwan, 2,047 (3.4%) from Indonesia, 1,920 (3.2%) from Thailand and 1,010 (1.7%) from Bangladesh. Why am I never from the US (998, 1.6%), Japan (913, 1.5%)or the UK or Canada (272, 0.4%)?Why do they still call me a “foreign son-of-a-bitch” when I take on the hardest labor to keep the city’s factories running? (12,056, or 20.3%, are in Namdong District, the location of Namdong Industrial Park; 11,627, or 19.6% are in Seo District, the location of Geomdan Industrial Park and the lumber center; and 10,933, or 18.4%, are in Bupyeong District, the location of Bupyeong Industrial Park.)
I, a 51-year-old Taiwanese national in the Chinese diaspora, died in 2011 without belonging to anything. Born in the Chinese city of Dalian, my father came to this city in 1939, at the age of 16. When his country was divided between the mainland and the island, he chose the island. His five sons and daughters were all born in South Korea and spent their entire lives there, but we all remained Taiwanese, just like our father. My ancestors had settled in this city as subjects of the treaty signatory (Qing dynasty China) more than two centuries before.With the passage of time, confusion about Chinese nationals, Taiwanese nationals and Chinese in the overseas community, some of whom had retained their original nationality and some who had naturalized, left blind spots in South Korea’s laws and institutions. As the second son, I was the only one of my siblings to complete middle school. The only identity I clung to was my poverty. When I died, the only member of my family who heard the news was my older brother, and he declined to take responsibility for my body. He lived on the streets.
I, a 58-year-old overseas Chinese man with Taiwanese nationality who died in 2015, lived on the streets, too. I died surrounded by a terrible stench. This stench was an intangible wall that divided two worlds. I was taken to a hospital for hypoxic brain injury from the second basement level of the parking garage at a department store in the Gwangyo neighborhood of the Nam (South) District.I was disturbed by the fragrance of mouthwatering food wafting down from the first basement level, while the imported fragrances on the first floor were beautiful enough to conceal even the rank odor of my body. I couldn’t remember why I had gone there – whether because of the hunger or the cold. I spent my life with Korean homeless people around Incheon Munhak Stadium and crawled between two cars parked at the department store to die. The cheers rising from the stadium were so loud, and the laughter filling the department store was so bright. The stench of the street on my body brought scowls to the faces of customers, which confirmed that this was a world I could not enter.
I’m an employee of the world
While I, a 40-year-old Nepalese man who died in 2011, was living on the streets in Seoul, I heard about a free restaurant (the Dandelion Noodle Shop in the Hwasu neighborhood of Dong District) from an old man named Jang and followed him to Incheon. I came to South Korea in the early 1990s to make money. As an industrial trainee, but I came down with a heart condition. After getting sick, I couldn’t find any more work, nor could I return home with a disease instead of money.Every time Koreans were amazed to see this big, dark-skinned Nepalese homeless man, I grew a little bigger, and my skin became a little darker. I was lucky to lie down in a room with the help from the owner of the noodle restaurant before I became as large as a “black dinosaur.” I died “with a slight smile on my face and earphones in my ears one night after I came back from seeing some friends,” in the words of Seo Yeong-nam, owner of Dandelion Noodle Shop.
Instead of being loaded on a plane bound for Nepal, my body was reduced to ashes in this city. I had no home to return to. After I got sick in South Korea, lost my job and couldn’t wire any money, my relatives back home whose livelihood rested on my shoulders scattered in all directions.
I died without being able to escape the yoke of cheap labor. I, a Burmese man who died a violent death in 2013, joined the crew of a South Korean ship at the age of 60. Seven months later, my dead body was brought back to dry land. I, a 28-year-old Mongolian man, died in a traffic accident on the street in front of a vocational school [in 2013] and was sent to my younger sibling who worked in Paju, in Gyeonggi Province.I have been employed in all countries for cheap wages. South Korea, a major destination of migrant workers, has long opened its doors to migrant workers from around the world. My death occurred during that process, and my homeless life was “globalized” on that road. (“Since 2010, the number of foreigners visiting the noodle shop has greatly increased and their nationalities have also become more varied, including Chile, Brazil and India,” said Seo Yeong-nam.)
I have continued to die. Filled with despair over Burkhon’s death, I went to Myeongdong Cathedral with other migrant workers and held a sit-in there for 380 days (Nov. 15, 2003, to Nov. 28, 2004), but there was no end to the dying. I fell to my death when trying to jump to the roof of the next building to escape immigration agents. I died along with Nur Fuad, an Indonesian, when a fire broke out at a foreigner detention center in Yeosu and the staff didn’t open the doors (in total, 10 Chinese, ethnic Koreans, and Uzbeks in 2007 perished in the blaze.)
As I awaited my deportation, I killed myself by shooting myself in the head 33 times with a nail gun (Nguyen Van Thanh, Vietnamese, in 2008). I was asphyxiated while cleaning up pig feces without any safety equipment (four people from Nepal, China and Thailand in 2017), and I killed myself out of despair over a system that kept me from changing jobs without my boss’s consent (Keshav Shrestha, Nepalese, in 2017 – this is one of the most notorious problems with the employment permit system).In the city of Incheon, I worked in all areas of migrant labor. In the words of Kim Ki-dong, former secretary-general of the Korea Migrant Human Rights Center, “Incheon is a microcosm of the migrant situation in South Korea.”In this city, I ploughed the fields (agricultural migrant labor), raised cattle (livestock migrant labor), sailed on ships (shipping crew migrant labor) and worked in factories (manufacturing migrant labor). Without my work, your tables would not be set, your cities would lack amenities and even the reproduction of your families and nation (immigrant spouses) would be in danger. Even though I sustain your daily lives, I’ve never been welcome in your country. There’s always an unyielding line before of my feet over which I’m not allowed to cross.
I’m Burkhon.
Even after becoming a ghost, I’m still trapped outside of you.
By Lee Moon-young, staff reporter

Doctor’s plea: ‘Don’t crack down on foreign TB patients'(TheKoreaTimes)

* Korea has the highest incidence rate of TB among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In 2014, South Korea marked a TB incidence rate of 86 patients per 100,000, seven times higher than the average rate of the developed nations.

* A reporter and the doctor’s narrative being racist enough, but the doctor from  Korean Institute of Tuberculosis’ program claims that treatment of foreign TB patient is necessary and desirable.

#Foreign_patient #Tuberculosis #Korea

Image result for korea tb foreigners

Original Article from:
Over 2,000 foreigners are taking advantage of free tuberculosis (TB) treatment, eating away at taxpayers’ money, but cracking down on them is not the answer, a doctor has told The Korea Times.

“If you pursue those freeloaders, they would go underground and run the higher risk of spreading the disease,” Oh Kyung-hyun, head of the state-run Korean Institute of Tuberculosis’ program cooperation department, said. “So treating them at our expense is better for our national health.”

TB is a contagious disease, the treatment of which is 100 percent covered by the government, even if the person does not subscribe to national health insurance.

Korea has the highest rate of TB among the rich OECD member nations.

Foreigners accounted for 6 percent of patients in 2017, 0.5 percent down from the previous year, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). They include long-term resident foreigners who pay medical insurance and those on short-term visas who don’t.

The ratio has risen from 2.4 percent in 2011 to 6.54 percent in 2016.

The bulk of newly diagnosed patients are older people, who accounted for 41.9 percent last year, up 2 percent from the previous year.

The KCDC said it is establishing a new TB control plan for 2018 to 2022, targeting vulnerable groups including foreigners and the elderly.

Under the current policy, foreigners on tourist visas do not need to submit a medical certificate to enter the country. They can get free TB treatment in national hospitals.

Those who visit the country for more than 90 days need to pay health insurance for three months period in advance.

“The issue of foreigners getting free treatment needs to be dealt with at a bilateral level between the Korean government and other countries, where the patients come from,” the doctor said.



Bills seek better definition of rape(The Korea Times)

“United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) called on Seoul to revise the definition of rape.”

“However, society should start talks to define the meaning of yes and no. Koreans have never discussed what mutual consent in a sexual relationship is, which has led to many violent situations between partners,”

#sexual_violence  #rape_definition #women_trafficking_culture #Korea

Original Article from:


Protesters take part in a street parade in central Seoul, March 8, on the occasion of International Women’s Day. / Yonhap

By Choi Ha-young

Following a series of #MeToo claims here, politicians are competitively creating bills aimed at preventing sexual crimes and strengthening criminal punishment for assailants. Among them, some to feature revising the definition of rape in existing criminal law that rape should involve “violence or intimidation.”

Based on the definition, local courts have acquitted some alleged rapists citing a lack of violence. To prove that the violence or intimidation made the victim unable to resist, victims were required to attempt to resist to the bitter end ― which could put their lives at stake.

Last month, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) called on Seoul to revise the definition of rape. “Amend article 297 of the Criminal Code so as to place the lack of free consent of the victim at the centre of the definition,” a report published by CEDAW reads.

The most powerful bill that echoes the point is the one created by Rep. Kang Chang-il of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea. Rep. Kang’s bill replaced “violence and intimidation” with “without clear consent of counterpart.”

“So far, whether the victim protested against the assailant or not has been the center of the allegation, which has caused secondary damage for the victims,” the lawmaker said in the revision bill.

Conservative lawmakers also joined the move.

Rep. Lee Hag-jae of the minor center-right Bareun Mirae Party is drawing up a similar bill. Instead of using the term “rape and sexual molestation,” the bill proposed using “invasion of rights to self-determination over sexuality.” The envisioned change aims to highlight individuals’ rights to make independent choices.

Rep. Lee also offered to revise the definition of rape ― “having sexual relations with another without consent.”

Another bill submitted by Rep. Hong Chul-ho of the Liberty Korea Party defined rape as a sexual relation that involves “violation or intimidation” or actions “against someone’s will.”

These bills are commonly based on the idea of “yes means yes, no means no” as do laws in Germany, Canada and the United Kingdom.

According to the report published by the National Assembly Research Service, Germany previously required “violation and intimidation” as a legal condition of rape. After the revision was made in November 2016, Germany defines rape as a “sexual relation against victims’ expression.” Sweden is also pushing for revision bills to stipulate “without consent” instead of “violation and intimidation,” the report reads.

The tricky issue is “what does yes mean?” In Korea, where the influence of Confucianism remains dominant, women are required to stay “pure and chaste,” said Hongik University Law Professor Spiritas Cho.

Such cultural inclinations are palpable in love scenes in K-dramas. When they fall in love, men are supposed to lead the relationships ― sometimes using force ― while women are reluctant to be courted. Female characters who initially refused to kiss male characters end up agreeing. This is not a matter of gender, considering many screenwriters of such dramas are women.

In this respect, Cho said the revision of the laws should accompany a fundamental shift in our approach to sexuality. “Women must be able to express their sexuality and their sexual desires freely and clearly, not to be ostracized for that socially and culturally,” Cho said.

Still, negative comments are flooding online communities regarding the bid to revise the criminal law. When Minister of Gender Equality and Family Chung Hyun-back indicated her agreement with such a revision, some netizens sarcastically commented: “Now couples should exchange written contracts.”

Lee Mi-kyeong, director of Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, who provided advice in designing Kang’s bill, admitted the envisioned changes would bring some confusion for a while.

“However, society should start talks to define the meaning of yes and no. Koreans have never discussed what mutual consent in a sexual relationship is, which has led to many violent situations between partners,” Lee said.

“It’s time to reflect on our attitudes and make efforts to respect each other,” she noted.

[Big Data on Suicide Unveiled for the First Time] People at Risk of Suicide Lived in Poor Housing Conditions (kyung-hyang)

#Suicide #SDH  #housing #Korea #Public_View

“…the latest research confirmed that housing environment had a significant impact on suicides. Regardless of the geographical location, there were many people at risk of suicide people who had contemplated suicide among those paying a monthly rent for houses smaller than 66m2.”



South Korea’s suicide rate is among the highest in the world. Since 2003, more than 10,000 people took their own lives every year, granting South Korea with the disgraceful title of the number one country in suicides among the member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Last year, 28.7 people per every 100,000 of the population committed suicide, widening the gap with second place Japan (18.7).

It now seems possible to identify areas where people at risk of suicide mostly reside using numbers, such as the population, geographical information and past suicide statistics. If we concentrate on areas at high risk based on this data, we may be able to prevent a considerable number of suicides.

On September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, Public View, a nonprofit research network, released a 2017-2018 map to prevent and respond to people at risk of suicide. This map categorized seventeen metropolitan cities and provinces, 252 si, gun and gus, and 3,491 eup, myeon, and dongs into five levels (A-E), according to the percentage of people at risk of suicide. The area with the highest risk was labeled A and among the metropolitan cities and provinces, the Seoul metropolitan area including Seoul, Gyeonggi-do, and Incheon fit in this category. The proportion of people at risk of suicide decreased outside large cities, but there was a big difference among eup, myeon and dong within the provinces and larger cities.

After surveying 4,500 people nationwide and analyzing the distribution of actual suicide victims by region over the past decade, the latest research confirmed that housing environment had a significant impact on suicides. Regardless of the geographical location, there were many people at risk of suicide people who had contemplated suicide among those paying a monthly rent for houses smaller than 66m2. This means that socio-economic factors, as well as psychological problems like depression, stress, and anger are the main cause of suicide.

In the northern part of Seoul, there were many people in their twenties and thirties who were at high risk, while below the Hangang River, people aged 35-44 were the main people at risk. In Gangwon-do, Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do and Gyeonggi-do, people in their forties and fifties were at high risk while in Jeju-do, people in their forties and sixties were at high risk of suicide.

Experts point out that to reduce the number of suicides, the government needs to analyze the characteristics and distribution of people at risk and link this to welfare and housing policies. In Japan, stronger responses in connection with the local community have been effective in reducing the suicide rate by 30% over ten years. Choi Jeong-muk, the deputy director of the Local Government Data Research Institute, a member of Public View, which organized the latest research, said, “We were able to identify the status of areas where more people at high risk of suicide lived in with the geographical data. We should be able to effectively increase the infrastructure necessary to respond to and prevent suicide.”


More people in Seoul living in “residentially vulnerable” conditions (hankyoreh)

#Social_determinant_of_health #Housing #Seoul #vulnerable_accomodation_rising #youth_and_eldery #inequality

While more people being pushed into residentially vulnerable conditions, it is known that people living in these “miscellaneous” accommodations experience higher unmet medical need which leads to lower quality of life and subjective status, and also more prevalence of suicide.

A gosiwon (a small room in a cramped boarding house)

Report finds that housing situation in the capital is particularly poor for youth and the elderly

Last year, more than 70,000 households in Seoul fell into the category of the “residentially vulnerable,” which means they are living in cramped boarding houses called “gosiwon,” public bathhouses, or on the streets, new government figures show.

Figures from a census by Statistics Korea released on Sept. 10 show that 209,486 households were living in non-traditional housing last year, out of a total of 3,784,705 households living in Seoul. Non-traditional housing includes office-apartment combinations called “officetels” (129,152 households), hospitality establishments including hotels and motels (2,219), dormitories and other special social facilities (3,999) and shacks and greenhouses (1,976).

According to the census, 72,140 of the households living in non-traditional housing were staying in “miscellaneous” accommodations. Most of these people are moving between gosiwon and public bathhouses or are staying in their self-owned restaurants. The number of households whose accommodations were classified as “miscellaneous” was recorded as 69,870 in the 2015 population survey, representing an increase of 2,270 households over the past year.

The percentage of residentially vulnerable households actually increased from the previous year. The total number of households living in Seoul last year grew by just over 200 from the previous year (3,784,490), which means that the increase in the number of the residentially vulnerable was relatively large. The number of Seoul households living in traditional housing (a category including houses and apartments) last year was 3,575,219, which was actually down from the year before (3,590,265).The increase in the number of residentially vulnerable households living in Seoul last year appears to have been due to population aging and to the rise in the number of people living alone. The largest age group among households in the miscellaneous category was 15 to 19 years old (35.7%), followed by 20 to 24 years old (16.7%) and 60 to 64 years old (11.4%). This implies that the housing environment is particularly poor for the youth and the elderly.

Another factor responsible for the increasing number of households in miscellaneous housing is the fact that the economic downturn has created more small business owners. Business owners who live in their workplace without having a house of their own are also included in the “miscellaneous” category.

“The statistics for the miscellaneous housing category can’t be subdivided any further, but our understanding is that a considerable number of these households are small business owners who live in their place of business,” said an official from Statistics Korea.


By Noh Hyun-woong, staff reporter

original article from:

Widow sues National Pension Service, Suwon City over husband’s death (Hankyoreh)

#conditional_beneficiary’s_death #unrealistic_working_capacity_assessment #basic_livelihood_benefit #Korea


“It was the country that killed him.”

“A conditional beneficiary cannot receive part or any of livelihood benefits unless he or she fulfills certain conditions for rehabilitation, such as obtaining employment.”

“It is the first lawsuit holding the state accountable for the death of a social welfare beneficiary.”


Kwak Hye-sook, the widow of Choi In-ki, holds a photo of her deceased husband while speaking at the MINBYUN office in the Seocho neighborhood of Seoul on Aug. 30. (Ko Han-sol, staff reporter)

Choi In-ki had lost his government assistance despite having a serious heart condition, in real-life Korean version of “I, Daniel Blake”

Kwak Hye-sook held up a picture of her husband. Choi In-gi, who died three years ago at the age of 60, was shown lying in critical care with several different hoses attached to him. Kwak let out a deep sigh as her tears began to flow.

“I photographed everything. Is someone in this state a human? He wasn’t a human. It was the country that killed him.”

Choi In-ki was an express city bus driver. After an aortic aneurysm diagnosis in 2005, he underwent two major operations in 2008 to have the blood vessels around his heart replaced with artificial ones. An aortic aneurysm is a serious condition in which blood vessels could fatally swell and burst at any moment. Left unable to work, Choi was selected as a basic livelihood benefit recipient and received support for living and hospital expenses.


But in 2013, the National Pension Service (NPS), which conducts assessments on the ability to work, concluded that Choi was capable of working. That October, Bundang Seoul National University Hospital diagnosed him as corresponding to stages 3–4 in a four-stage assessment of working capabilities – but NPS re-rated him as a 1, indicating the most favorable state. The city of Suwon, where Choi lived, accepted the conclusion and declared him a “conditional beneficiary.”

A conditional beneficiary cannot receive part or any of livelihood benefits unless he or she fulfills certain conditions for rehabilitation, such as obtaining employment. In June 2014, Choi was finally forced to find work as part of the cleanup crew at an apartment complex. Three months later, he collapsed in an underground parking garage; two months after that, he passed away.

On Aug. 28, the third anniversary of Choi’s death, his widow Kwak joined the MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society Public Interest Human Rights Legal Defense Center in filing suit against NPS and the city of Suwon.

Kwak Hye-sook (second from right) holds a press conference with MINBYUN representatives at a press conference in the group’s office on Aug. 30 to discuss her husband’s death. The case has drawn parallels to the film, “I, Daniel Blake.” (Ko Han-sol, staff reporter)

During an Aug. 30 press conference at MINBYUN’s office in Seoul’s Seocho neighborhood, the group referred to Choi’s death as “the result of unrealistic working capability assessments.” MINBYUN said it was the first lawsuit holding the state accountable for the death of a social welfare beneficiary.

Kwak and the group described Choi’s death as a Korean version of I, Daniel Blake, a film by director Ken Loach about a man who is forced to find work to meet conditions for benefit payment like Choi. In the film, the character dies while his case is being reheard by a public institution.


By Ko Han-sol, staff reporter

Original article from:

The Continuing Death of Migrant Workers Requires Human Rights Measures (Kyunghyang)

“There are a million migrant workers in Korea, but the continuing human rights violations and labor exploitation is an international disgrace and a shameful portrait of South Korean society. ”


#migrant_workers #labor_exploitation #human_right_violation #discrimination #pig_farm_worker’s_death

After a series of deaths of migrant workers who worked cleaning the septic tank of a rural pig farm, people are raising their voices calling for the government to protect the rights of laborers and prevent industrial accidents. Labor and social NGOs such as the Migrants’ Trade Union held a press conference in front of the government office in Seoul on June 4 and announced, “Every year, an average of 2.8 migrant workers died after suffocating in the septic tanks, but this year, four have already died.” There are a million migrant workers in Korea, but the continuing human rights violations and labor exploitation is an international disgrace and a shameful portrait of South Korean society.

The reliance on foreign labor in South Korea’s agricultural and livestock sector as well as the so-called “3D” manufacturing industry concerning dirty, difficult and dangerous tasks is growing. Nevertheless, the migrant workers working in the agricultural and livestock sector continue to suffer human rights violations, such as physical and verbal abuse, and they are forced to endure harsh working conditions. The death of four migrant workers at a pig farm last month is also connected to such background. On May 12, two Nepalese workers suffocated and died while cleaning a septic tank at a pig farm in Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do. The suction machine for the excrements broke down and the workers manually cleaned the tank without any safety equipment such as masks, eventually dying from the toxic gas. Also on May 27, a Chinese worker in his sixties and a Thai worker in his thirties also lost consciousness while cleaning the excrements at a pig farm in Buknae-myeon, Yeoju-si, Gyeonggi-do. They were moved to a hospital, but later died.

Migrant workers working in the rural areas are “excluded” from provisions pertaining to working hours and holidays according to Article 63 of the Labor Standards Act. They cannot properly receive overdue wages as well as leaves and overtime pay. This is why people are calling migrant workers the modern-day serf, and joke that their workdays are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Friday, and Friday. In particular, the Act on the Employment, Etc. of Foreign Workers (Employment Permit System) restricts the migrant workers’ freedom of occupation, because it limits the number of times and the time to change work places. In particular, workers who entered the country with a work visa in the agriculture and livestock sector are banned from finding employment in the manufacturing and service industries, which have relatively more jobs.

The government should immediately revise legislation that work against labor and human rights, such as the Employment Permit System, and concentrate on protecting the basic rights and labor rights of the migrant workers. Otherwise, South Korea will not be able to escape from the stigma as a “labor hell” and as “a country that exploits labor,” instead of gaining the reputation as a “land of opportunity.”

Article from:



Suicide rate polarizing according to age and region (hankyoreh)

 Suicide  more common among elderly in fading rural communities



2013 suicide rate by municipality

South Korea has OECD’s highest rate, and suicides more common among elderly in fading rural communities

The South Korean suicide rate, which consistently ranks as one of the world’s highest, also shows signs of serious polarization according to age group and region, statistics indicate.An

Oct. 21 analysis of cause of death data for 2005 to 2013 from Statistics Korea showed the suicide rate among South Koreans aged 80 and older to be anywhere from five to seven times higher than the rate for those aged 20 and 29 at points during the nine-year period.

Figures showing age-standardized rates for regions also showed some farming communities to have rates as much as five times higher than in large cities. Age-standardized rates correct for differing suicide rates by age group and thus is not affected by age distribution, including the overall percentage of senior citizens in the population.

According to the data, suicide rates rose with age. Between 2005 and 2012, the rate in the 80-and-older population stood at over 100 suicides per 100,000 people, falling to 94.7 only last year. The rate for those aged 70 to 79 also stood between 70 and 84 for the eight-year period before falling to 66.9 in 2013.

The suicide rate among South Korea’s senior citizens was calculated at nearly four times the average for OECD member countries. For those aged 20 to 29, the rate consistently ranged between 18 to 25 per 100,000. Among those aged 30 to 39, it showed a steady increase from 21.8 in 2005 to 28.4 in 2013.

Regional disparities were equally severe. Rates were consistently high for the provinces of Gangwon, South Chungcheong, and North Chungcheong, with respective 2013 age-standardized suicide rates of 32, 30.3, and 29.3 per 100,000 people. The rates for Seoul (22.6) and Ulsan (23.6) were roughly 10 suicides per 100,000 people lower.

An even sharper picture emerged in terms of differences between urban and rural communities. By the standard of simple average age-standardized suicide rate for 2005–2013, the top ten ranking municipalities had rates averaging 40.9 per 100,000 residents. For the bottom ten, the average was just 17.9.

Suicide rate by age group 2005-2013

By nine-year average, the top ten municipalities were, in order, Jeongseon and Yeongwol counties in Gangwon; Cheongyang County, South Chungcheong Province; Yangyang County, Gangwon Province; Goesan County, North Chungcheong Province, Hongcheon County, Gangwon Province; Taean County, South Chungcheong Province, Uiseong County, North Gyeongsang Province; Cheorwon County, Gangwon Province; and Seosan County, South Chungcheong Province. With the exception of Seosan, all of the communities have declining populations, with many senior residents who have had to keep working.

The analysis also found the South Korean suicide rate dropping when the birth rate or growth rate were high, and rising when the divorce rate or income inequality (Gini coefficient) increased. The trend was confirmed by a National Assembly Budget Office analysis of correlations between the suicide rate and various socioeconomic factors between 1990 and 2012. It indicates that deepening social inequality and changing of traditional family structures have led to more suicides.


Original Article :