Investigation into the Forced Conscription, Coercion, and Torture of University Students
East Asia and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
The 2nd Commission for Truth and Reconciliation (here on out referred to as the Truth and Reconciliation Committee) held a press conference in Seoul on the 23rd of November, classifying the case of forced conscription and coercion of college students in the 1970s and 1980s as a “serious human rights violation case by public authority” (Kim, 2022). At this conference, they identified 2.921 names of victims of forced conscription and coercion (Kim, 2022). This is the first time that a South Korean state agency has fully identified and acknowledged individual cases of damage in the forced conscription and coercion operation cases under the military dictatorships of Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan (Lee, 2022).
College students who participated in student and labour pro-democracy movements between September 1982 to December 1984 were forcefully taken to the military, tortured and coerced into submission and “purification,” and forced to collect information on demonstration plans
(Lee, 2022). False reporting, or hesitance to report on their peers, would also lead to torture (Lee, 2022). Torture often consisted of water-boarding, electric torture, physical battering and mutilation, amongst others (Kim, 2022).
Though South Korea did not ratify the Convention Against Torture (CAT) until 1995 (Ratification Status by Country), torture is still prohibited under customary international law and is considered jus cogens. Thus, the forcible conscription, coercion, and torture of university students can be determined to be a violation of international human rights norms.
Moving forward, the Truth and Reconciliation Committee recommends official apologies, economic and social recovery measures, and further investigations into organizations to state agencies such as the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, and the National Police Agency, to ensure justice reaches the victims (Kim, 2022).
Sources and further reading:
Jaehyun N, “[단독] 대학생 2천9백 명 강제징집‥상당수 프락치로 활용” (MBC NEWS November 23, 2022) <https://imnews.imbc.com/replay/2022/nwdesk/article/6429867_35744.html> accessed November 23, 2022
Kim S, “진실화해위, ‘강제징집 및 프락치 강요 사건은 국가 공권력에 의한 인권침해’···187명 피해자 인정” (검색창 닫기 November 23, 2022) <https://www.khan.co.kr/national/national-general/article/202211231550001> accessed November 23, 2022
Lee H, “[단독]‘동료는 못 팔아넘기겠더라’···똑같이 끌려갔지만 선택은 달랐다” (검색창 닫기 November 23, 2022) <https://www.khan.co.kr/national/national-general/article/202211231135001> accessed November 23, 2022
Lee H, “'강제 징집·프락치 강요' 51년 만에 진실규명...″국가가 인권침해″” (매일방송 November 23, 2022) <https://www.mbn.co.kr/news/society/4881127> accessed November 23, 2022
Park S, “[D리포트] ‘강제징집 · 프락치 공작 피해자 2921명’...187명 인정” (SBS NEWS November 23, 2022) <https://news.sbs.co.kr/news/endPage.do?news_id=N1006981686&plink=ORI&cooper=NAVER> accessed November 23, 2022
“Ratification Status by Country” (United Nations Human Rights Treaty Body Database) <https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/TreatyBodyExternal/Treaty.aspx?CountryID=141&Lang=EN> accessed November 8, 2022
“[사설] 40년 만에 국가의 인권침해로 규정된 군사정부 녹화사업” (검색창 닫기 November 23, 2022) <https://www.khan.co.kr/opinion/editorial/article/202211232022025> accessed November 23, 2022