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UN expert on racism urges the Republic of Korea to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law

GENEVA (9 October 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on racism, Mutuma Ruteere, urged the Republic of Korea to enact a wide-ranging anti-discrimination law to build on the progress made in addressing the issue of racism and xenophobia, in view of the country’s history of ethnic and cultural homogeneity.

“As Korean society becomes more exposed to foreigners and migrant workers living in the country, it is important to continue addressing the issue of racism, xenophobia and discrimination,” said the independent expert tasked by the UN Human Rights Council to assess and report on the situation of racism, racial discrimination and related intolerance in the world, at the end of his first official mission to South Korea*.

Mr. Ruteere noted that comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation would allow the appropriate institutions to play a more significant role in receiving complaints from victims, investigate and issue relevant recommendations for the Government to follow up.

“Although I have not been informed of racist or xenophobic discourse and practices at the institutional level, I have been made aware that at the individual level, there have been isolated incidents of private acts of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia,” he said.

The Special Rapporteur recalled how a naturalized Korean woman was refused access to a public bath, as well as cases of taxi drivers turning in to the police customers who do not look Korean, and of shop attendants expressing derogatory attitudes to foreign customers.

“Although these incidents may be isolated cases, it is essential for the Government to address the issue of racism and xenophobia through better education and awareness-raising,” Mr. Ruteere stressed.
 
The expert also pointed out to xenophobic groups that advocate the abolition of policy of support for multicultural families and who claim that the multicultural policy enacted by the Government discriminates against Koreans, as they are not entitled to similar social benefits and programs.

“After verification, I confirmed that no such discrimination exists and that ethnic Koreans are offered the same social benefits under the regular social scheme,” the rights expert said. “It is however important for the Government to dispel these myths and clarify the situation in order to prevent the proliferation of racist and xenophobic movements.”

Mr. Ruteere encouraged the South Korean authorities to fight racism and discrimination through better education, as well as ensuring that the media is sensitive and conscious of the responsibility to avoid racist and xenophobic stereotypes and that perpetrators are punished where appropriate.

The UN Special Rapporteur also called on the South Korean Government to improve legislation on employment in order to offer a better protection to migrant workers and their families, and encouraged the authorities to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

During his visit to the Republic of Korea, from 29 September to 6 October, Mr. Ruteere met with Government officials, representatives of the legislative and judicial branches, UN agencies in the country, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, a broad range of civil society actors and private corporations.

A final report on the visit will be presented by the Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council in 2015.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15140&LangID=E 

Mr. Mutuma Ruteere (Kenya) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in November 2011. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organisation and serves in his individual capacity.  Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/SRRacism/Pages/IndexSRRacism.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Republic of Korea: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/KRIndex.aspx

For further information and media enquiries, please contact Thierry del Prado (+ 41 79 444 4078 / tdelprado@ohchr.org) or Mariannick Koffi (+41 22 917 9257 / mkoffi@ohchr.org) or write to racism@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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