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Seoul mayor blasted for human rights hold-up

A group of public interest lawyers issued a statement requesting Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon to reverse his decision to indefinitely postpone the enactment of the charter of human rights, a decision influenced by fierce protests from gay rights opponents.

“Human rights is a value that cannot be compromised,” the 38 lawyers said in a statement. “Just as we cannot compromise the rights of ethnic Koreans in Japan with anti-Korean groups, and the rights of people of color with white supremacists, we cannot compromise over LGBT rights with homophobic groups.

“And as a former human rights lawyer, there is no way for Mayor Park not to be aware of this.”

The charter, which was proposed in August by the Seoul Metropolitan Government to raise awareness about human rights, included a clause that stated a person “has the right not to be discriminated against based on his or her sexual orientation or sexual identity,” among others.

The specific clause has been protested by gay rights opponents, many from Christian communities, which eventually led to a walkout by more than 30 of the 110 citizen volunteers ― selected by the SMG to be a part of the charter’s enactment ― during the last of the six hearings held at City Hall on Friday.

While 60 of the 77 remaining volunteers voted in favor of gay rights, the SMG announced it would postpone the charter’s enactment, claiming that all of the citizen volunteers must agree on the final version, including the clause on gay rights, for the charter to be established.

Among the 180 citizen representatives selected by the SMG, 30 of them are human rights experts, activists and scholars. A total of 16 members resigned from their posts, and 110 attended the final hearing.

Earlier this week, one of the 30 expert members claimed that Mayor Park asked him, “Are you trying to get (me) into trouble?” and “Why are you even trying to come up with a human rights charter?” for endorsing gay rights in the charter.

“I didn’t think Mayor Park would endorse human rights only when it benefits (him and his own career),” said Kim Hyung-wan, the head of Korea Human Rights Policy Institute and an expert citizen member for the making of the charter.

Kim’s accusation contradicts Park’s recent remark on LGBT rights, when he said he personally supports same-sex marriage in an interview with a U.S. paper during his visit to San Francisco in October.

Initially, the SMG planned to finalize the charter last Friday and announce its enactment on Dec. 10, Human Rights Day, which was established by the U.N. General Assembly in 1950.

The group of public interest lawyers insisted that the SMG should announce the enactment of the charter, which includes the clause on gay rights, on Dec. 10 as originally scheduled.

“If Mayor Park cannot accept the decision made by the majority of the citizen representatives, he is rejecting his (vision for) democratic governance and governance for human rights. This is also a denial of himself as a human rights activist and a politician.”

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)
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