SOUTH KOREA: Solidarity needed in support of a people’s tribunal on the Yongsan deaths


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-130-2009
ISSUES: Administration of justice, Land rights,

Dear friends, 

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned that human rights activists in South Korea will hold a people’s tribunal on October 18, 2009 regarding the deaths of five men. The five protested against a forced eviction and burned to death during an agressive dispersal operation by the police. No officers have so far been held accountable, whereas protestors have already been prosecuted and are undergoing court proceedings. 

The fairness of the trial is in doubt due to the behaviour of the prosecution, which has not shared the investigation report with defense lawyers despite an order to do so from the court. In response, rights defenders have organised a people’s tribunal and the AHRC asks that you show your solidarity by sending a message of support to its preparatory committee. 


Eight months after the deaths of five protestors and a police officer during a disproportionately aggressive police operation, the dead bodies of the victims are still being kept in freezers, and no person in authority has been held accountable. Please see the case history at FUA-001-2009 and the subsequent handing of the case at STM-137-2009. Please also refer to urgent appeals (123) sent by rights groups in South Korea to UN special rapporteurs on adequate housing. 

Civilians have started to doubt that the accused will be subject to a fair trial, and confidence is being lost in the system of justice and in those such as the police, prosecution and the judiciary, who are meant to uphold it. Such is the reason for the October people’s tribunal. 


An hour-long documentary on this incident has been made and was shown at the 13th Seoul Human Rights Film Festival in January 2009. 

In the film the director examines the lives and predicaments of people forced to leave their homes at Sangdo 4-dong, Wangshibni 1 district, Yongsan4ga-dong, due to the thoughtless development plans of landowners and construction companies. They include Pal-Kyu Shin, a resident of Sangdo 4-dong, Dongjak-gu, who wanted to leave along with his neighbours but couldn’t afford to rent a house, and Sang-Lim Lee, who was killed during the demonstration. Lee owned a pub in Yongsan4ga-dong, Yongsan-gu and had banded together with other store tenants to fight their eviction by the landowners, from a makeshift watchtower at the top of an empty building. Through his portrayal the director asks who really benefits from such ‘redevelopment plans’ – many, or just a chosen few. 

The film is originally in Korean and has English subtitles, and can be downloaded and shared – copyright lifted – from here in two versions: 960MB and 360MB. DVDs are available from the film director at 

If you have queries, please feel free to contact the committee directly by email ( or by fax (+82 31 215 4395). A sample letter has been attached for your use. 

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear Preparatory Committee members, 

SOUTH KOREA: I strongly support a tribunal to expose issues afflicting redevelopment projects and promote public discourse 

I am writing to support the people’s tribunal on the Yongsan incident, to be held on 18 October 2009 in Seoul, South Korea. 

I am informed that five men and one policeman were killed in a fire during the forced dispersal by the police on January 20, 2009, but that as of now no police have been held accountable, even though other protesters have been prosecuted. 

I am disturbed by the systemic flaws that have allowed no action to be taken to address this, and for the prosecution in the case to ignore an important court order. The case is being pursued as if no flaws have ever existed, and this has expedited the loss of the people’s trust in the judiciary. 

Furthermore I have learned that Yongsan is not the only one area designated for such so-called redevelopment projects, but that several other areas have faced the same problems: exposure to extreme violence by thugs related to the demolition, or by the police, and a denial and deprival of the rights to life and adequate housing. 

Under these circumstances it is entirely necessary that a people’s tribunal be held to expose the flaws in the justice system and in the whole process of redevelopment, and to start proper public discourse. 

I hope that the tribunal will explore issued both in Yongsan and beyond, in other areas afflicted by such thoughtless redevelopment. 

Yours sincerely, 


Thank you. 

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission ( 

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-130-2009
Countries : South Korea,
Issues : Administration of justice, Land rights,