SOUTH KOREA: Call for an enactment of the legislation on the provision of temporary housing for the displaced 

Dear friends,

We wish to share with you the following statement from the Headquarters for the enactment of the legislation on the provision of temporary housing for the displaced in Seoungdong-gu. The statement was translated into English and edited by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

Asian Human Rights Commission
Hong Kong

December 10, 2009

A Statement from the Headquarter for enactment of the legislation on the provision of in Seoungdong-gu forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

SOUTH KOREA: Call for an enactment of the legislation on the provision of

At present, 725 designated areas amounting to 2,884 hectares (as of September 30, 2009), are effected by redevelopment projects in Seoul city. However, none of these projects provided alternative relocation before the project launched.

The development of these areas is necessary. However, development without alternative and temporary housing creates a large number of homeless families and reportedly leads to a sharp increase in deposits for leasing houses. It decreases quality of life for evictees and further destroys their home security.

In particular, the number of tenants is over 70% in areas targeted for redevelopment and such areas were densely populated with low-income families. With no consideration for these impoverished tenants, the redevelopment project merely aims to construct luxurious and high-grade apartment complexes, which the tenants cannot afford to purchase or lease. In addition, concurrent demolishment in all areas aggravates the issue.

Clothes, food and housing are the most primary factors that are need to live. Housing is most expensive, is difficult to change, and is closely connected to health and quality of life.

A house is not just a place to sleep but a space to cultivate a home and to dream of the future. However, these redevelopment projects drive away the tenants who have been the majority of the residents for decades, without appropriate process including prior notification or appropriate compensation. The redevelopment project has lost its original purpose – to provide affordable and better quality housing for the original residents. Rather, these housing developments only benefit those who obtain financial profits from the project such as construction corporations or speculators.

The Yongsan incident of January 2009, in which five residents died in clashes with the police, occurred under this circumstance. Affected people currently feel acute housing insecurity and it is widely believed that it was just empty statements from the government when it says it will improve citizens’ lives with the redevelopment projects based on public interest. To provide can be one way of promoting and protecting public interest and human development.

A number of development experts have been demanding on more gradual development over a longer time period. The existing law on urban development specifies more gradual development over a longer time period as well as the facilitation of temporary housing. For example, article 36 of the Act on maintenance and improvement for urban and housing environment says that the construction company who carries out the development project should provide facilities such as temporary housing for the affected owners and the tenants. However, the absence of mandatory regulations allows the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs and local administration authority to grant immunity to the construction companies.

Accordingly, all residents demand for the enactment of the legislation on the provision of in Seongdong-gu. We, as the residents association, wish to draft the act for ourselves calling for input and agreement from our politicians and representatives.

Statement from representative of petitioners

I am a tenant of Wangship-li New Town. I live with my six year-old son still in a demolished, area struggling for relocation. The residents of the houses, which remain in the area suffer from cut off of the telephone line and internet network, dust and noise caused by the construction and asbestos pollution (please see AHRC-UAC-127-2009 for details). They also suffer from unbearable incidents such as threats by a group of gangsters who are commissioned by the construction company, unidentified fire incidents, and robbery. Despite this, the relevant authority has not responded or entered into discussion for our fair demands and have even ignored the law and human rights. A resident who has lived here for over 30 years is deprived his right to expression and right to information as if he is not a citizen. The residents found it difficult to oppose to redevelopment project which aimed at public welfare although its process has disclosed that the project has lost this original purpose.

We should not allow our right to adequate housing to be violated by construction companies, investors or the government. We cannot give up our present happiness and our children’s future. The provision of temporary housing is not the only answer but one of the ways to protect our rights.

In particular, we wish that Seongdong-gu local autonomy welcomes and agrees to the significance of the act and further pass it on.

Additional statement by Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had 42nd, 43rd, and 44th meetings on 10 and 11 November 2009, regarding the third periodic report of the Republic of Korea on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (E/C.12/KOR/3). The Committee adopted the concluding observations showing deep concern for forced evictions. It strongly recommends that forced eviction be used only as a measure of last resort and that no project of development or urban renewal be carried out without prior notification and access to temporary housing for those affected so as to avoid recourse to violence, as in the Youngsan incident.

The AHRC supports the civil society facilitating the enactment of the act on temporary housing. In addition, we urge Seoungdong-gu local authority in accordance with the ICESCR to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to adequate housing of the residents and tenants, in areas designated for redevelopment projects, by discussing with civil society, as well as the residents, and by adopting the act.

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Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-FST-095-2009
Countries : South Korea,
Issues : Land rights, Poverty & adequate standard of living,