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U.N. official urges Seoul to further address racism

All Headlines 17:21 October 06, 2014

SEOUL, Oct. 6 (Yonhap) -- A U.N. special rapporteur on racism and discrimination on Monday recommended that South Korea ratify the international convention on protecting rights of migrant workers, saying that there are "serious problems" of racial discrimination in the country.

Mutuma Ruteere, U.N. special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, is in Seoul to do research on situations involving racial discrimination, marking his first visit to South Korea. He has met with officials from the government and civic groups during his eight-day stay.

Ruteere said that South Korea has made "important progress" in addressing the issue of racism and xenophobia, given its history of ethnic and cultural homogeneity.

The country, however, now confronts "emerging challenges" due to an influx of foreigners and migrant workers who are contributing to social change and a shift from a migrant-sending country to a migration destination.

"I found incidents or problems that are serious enough to merit attention (in South Korea)," Ruteere told a press conference, without elaborating.

He said that even a single case of racism cannot be neglected as victims of such discrimination suffer.

The special rapporteur said that foreign migrant workers, in particular in the agricultural and fishery industries, face difficult working and living conditions here, calling for the government to conduct an inspection into their cases.

Seoul has been a member to a number of international conventions against discrimination, but it has not ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

Ruteere called on the Korean government to quickly ratify the convention, adding that he is supportive of enacting a comprehensive act on anti-discrimination.

"I advocate for the enactment of a comprehensive anti-discrimination act," as has been recommended by the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, he noted.

He said that there are no racist or xenophobic cases or practices at the institutional level in South Korea, but there have been cases at the individual level.

"It is important to continue addressing the issue of racism, xenophobia and discrimination through better education, keeping appropriate statistics, especially on discrimination and exclusion, and improving domestic legislation, especially on employment," he said, adding that the media should also make efforts to tackle this issue.

Ruteere, a 43-year-old Kenyan, has served as the U.N. special rapporteur since November 2011. A final report on his visit to Seoul will be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2015.

The U.N. Human Rights Council has 52 special rapporteurs who have a mandate to do research and analyze human rights situations in a certain country or on a specific area.


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