DNA collection to intimidate unions - in South Korea

by jeeg 8. April 2011 20:16


It has emerged that prosecutors have been collecting DNA samples from workers convicted of engaging in strikes and other activities. The practice, which currently targets workers who took part in a Ssangyong Motor strike and occupation of Daelim Motor, has reportedly been taking place at district prosecutor’s offices across the country since March. Not only does this have strong elements of a human rights violation, but it is an immoderate application of the law that could potentially curtail labor movement activity. It should be immediately halted.

The legal basis for collecting DNA is the Act on the Use and Protection of DNA Identification, the so-called “DNA Act.” Enacted in July 2010, this act allows the collection and storage of DNA from suspects in eleven cases of crime, including child molestation, rape, and drug crimes, in order to allow for efficient investigation of habitual and heinous crimes. The scope of those subjected to DNA collection also includes suspects in acts of violence, home invasion, and property damage as stipulated in the Punishment of Violence, etc. Act. The attitude of the prosecutors is that with this basis, there is no problem whatsoever with collecting DNA from striking workers punished under the latter act.

However, this is a farfetched application of the law, and in addition to containing elements of human rights infringements, it is also an abuse of public authority. First and foremost, taking samples from striking workers is extremely problematic in that it equates them with the perpetrators of heinous crimes. Strikes are both the core of the basic labor rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the most powerful means of protecting a worker’s survival rights. It is also necessarily expressed through collective action.

Even if it is unavoidable to hold workers responsible for physical clashes that occur during that process, it is unacceptable to treat them as though they were habitual and shameless criminals. This cannot be seen as anything but contempt for workers and their rights. Around 150 workers were convicted on the basis of the Punishment of Violences, etc. Act for the Ssangyong strike. Does this mean that every one of them is a heinous criminal?

There is a strong chance that the sample collection will lead to negative effects such as weakening of the labor movement through its psychological cowing of workers. If people whose criminal punishment is complete are treated as potential offenders and forced to submit DNA, there may be grounds for raising the fundamental human rights issue of double jeopardy.

Even if one sympathizes with the need for the DNA law, the scope of its application cannot be made excessively large. There needs to be a full reexamination of the individuals subject to this law’s application and the method of its implementation. Before then, prosecutors must end their collection of DNA from striking workers.

The Hankyoreh


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