The government has discovered additional cases of abuse of South Korean detainees in China and other countries from recent consular meetings prompted by a high-profile activist’s torture allegations, officials said Wednesday.
The Foreign Ministry is interviewing all 1,169 Korean inmates around the world this month to see whether they were abused. Consuls have so far met with 175 prisoners in 14 countries including 13 out of 346 in China, a senior official told journalists.
During the meetings, one said that Chinese investigators squeezed his throat twice and hit his head with a mobile phone charger while transferring him. A female detainee in China said she lodged a complaint via consuls after other prisoners slapped her face two years ago.
The official quoted an inmate in another country as saying that he was once hit by a guard with an iron pipe.
“Nothing as significant as harsh treatment was reported during the meetings but some detainees claimed that their human rights had been violated,” the official said on customary condition of anonymity.
“We will figure out whether there were other human rights abuses or cruel acts by completing the interviews with all other inmates as quickly as possible.”
The move came after Kim Young-hwan, a North Korea human rights activist, said he suffered electricity torture, sleep deprivation and forced labor during the early days of his 114-day confinement.
He was freed and deported on July 20 along with his three colleagues.
Beijing denies any illegitimate practices despite Seoul’s repeated request for a reinvestigation.
His supporters hit out at the ministry for its failure to prevent and properly react to the case.
Kim said he was put to torture during the first month of his detention from March 29. But he only met with consuls on April 26 and had the first chance to tell them about the abuse on June 11.
Seoul officials said on May 16 that the four activists “apparently did not want to see the consuls because there might be some aspect they did not want to be made public.” The Chinese government also denied their repeated earlier requests for an interview, they said.
Kim rejected the claim, saying on July 27 that he had demanded consultation with a consul and lawyer ever since the arrest before speaking to investigators.
The ministry inflicted further criticism for having presented significantly different sets of data on the number of detainees overseas.
It attributed the inconsistency to a “technical glitch,” saying it plans to upgrade the statistical system.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org