By Park Si-soo
A group of lawyers filed a damage suit against the government on behalf of inmates who are allegedly living in inhumane conditions in a correctional facility in the southeastern city of Busan.
Lawyers from the Busan Bar Association are demanding the government pay a total of 101 million won ($95,000) in compensation to two inmates for their mental and physical pain.
This is the first suit against a prison for its living conditions, the association said, adding if the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, similar suits could follow.
Many correction facilities here have been criticized by human rights activists for overcrowded cells and poor medical services.
“The two have suffered severe mental and physical pain due to the prison’s poor environment,” the association said in a statement.
“They were detained in a cell, measuring about 6.6 square meters, with six or seven other inmates,” it said, adding that they barely slept with their body squeezed by others and so had difficulty breathing.
One of the two was released in September 2008 after being imprisoned in February the same year, however, the other man is still incarcerated after being sent to prison in November 2006.
It is claimed the medical services were also problematic.
“The inmates were vulnerable to various diseases due to overcrowded cells, poor ventilation, heating and cooling systems, and emotional stress,” it is alleged. “However, they couldn’t receive proper medical treatment when they fell sick.”
Jang Joon-dong, president of the association, expects the suit to promote the significance of human rights protection for prisoners.
“Though they committed a crime and deserve to be blamed socially, the prison is responsible to house them in a humane manner,” Jang said.
Democratization of the South?
The fact that it under the South Korean repressive regime may come up a trial in favor of prisoners is very unique for a bourgeois dictatorship. We can see that the prisons made for the working class in a country like South Korea, which is a country highly ranked in many economical meters. A rich country like South Korea have all the possibilities to not have millions living under the poverty line. They should also have the capacity to have prisons that doesn’t violate the human rights. The prisons made for the working class in South Korea is in the same class as Bolivian prisons, and then Bolivia is the poorest country in Latin America…
The exit of the trial will of very importance for all of us who believes in justice. Many countries around the world harass lawyers and people who’s going into a trial against the state, so the expectations aren’t the highest. A human is a human with rights and deserve a free and fair trial, wherever he is. We know about the repressive anti-socialist laws they have in South Korea, and that as well is a violation against human rights. While DPR Korea have laws protecting all citizens rights to their religious and political believes, the neighbor in the south doesn’t respect those basic human rights at all.