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Dear Commissioners and Staff of the Nation Human Rights Commission of Korea,
I’m more than delighted to stand before all of you as the newly-appointed Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea.
We’re all aware that, from the very beginning, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea was a special institution.
The Commission was established in 2001, to answer to the yearnings from the public wanting to see further promotion of human rights in our society, tireless efforts made by the civil society organizations for the betterment of human rights in Korea and the request from the international community.
I remember, at first, the Commission was perceived as something out of the ordinary. There were times when it was difficult to explain the Commission is an independent organization that does not belong to any legislative, judiciary or administrative bodies. The Commission sometimes had to withstand the criticism of being too progressive. However, even in the midst of difficulties, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea continued its efforts to make human rights a familiar subject to the public, by continuing to set standards and way ahead for human rights in Korea. The Commission also investigated the cases of human rights violation and discrimination to make recommendations and coordinated with the government agencies and local governments so that the elements of human rights can be commonly practiced as their new standards at work. The people, as a result, talk more about human rights in daily lives these days and now able to turn to the Commission for help in times of trouble. The National Human Rights Commission of Korea has certainly brought tangible changes to the society and it is not an exaggeration to say ‘Korea can be divided into the era before the establishment of the NHRCK and the after’.
I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the former Chairpersons and Commissioners for their hard work for the past 20 years. I also want to thank the staff for contributing to the betterment of human rights in Korea.
The NHRCK, however, faces new challenges and tasks ahead. The Commission needs to address such issues as social and economic polarization, inequality, gender equality, the rights of labourers, hatred and discrimination, pandemic outbreaks, AI, fast-paced digital economy in human rights’ perspective, as well as pre-existing human rights issues in our societies.
As we are all aware, the NHRCK, now celebrating its twentieth anniversary, is at a point where it needs to review whether the goals we have set twenty years ago have truly been fulfilled and set higher goals, all the while responding to the pending human rights issues. In order to tackle the challenges, human rights systems have to improve and the independence, function and role of the Commission needs to be strengthened. For this, it is crucial to finish off the amendment process for the ‘National Human Rights Commission of Korea Act’ well. Also, tracking and concluding the process of ‘Equality Act’ legislation and pushing forward with the joint legislation of ‘Framework Act on Human Rights policy’ with the Ministry of Justice are equally important.
The influence of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea is not just confined to Korea, but affects the whole world. The Commission needs to make positive impact within the boundaries of Korea, as well as in the international community, to contribute to the promotion of universal human rights.
I know the challenges we will encounter are not easy to handle. However, it is our duty to protect what has been achieved to promote human rights in Korea and face seemingly impossible task head on to succeed the legacy. I’m also aware of the fact that one person’s determination and efforts are not quite enough to accomplish the tasks set before us. When the staff communicate with one another in open mind for collective intelligence, recognizing that we are a ‘one team’, there are no tasks we cannot achieve.
I’m ready, as the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, to coordinate with the members of the Commission, as well as the civil society organizations to make the society that we all hope to see. I ask you to join me in the journey of making the world where all forms of human rights are protected.
Finally, I wish good health for all of you and your families in difficult times.