| Amnesty International Designates Daechuri Village Leader Ji Tae Kim a Prisoner of Conscience |
1 December 2006
The international human rights organization Amnesty International has designated Kim Ji Tae (47), leader of the Village of Daechuri (Kyung-gi Province, Pyongtaek City, Paeng-sung district), a prisoner of conscience. Mr. Kim was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of obstruction of civil affairs for his leadership role in demonstrations protesting the expansion of an American base in the area.
On November 30th Amnesty International formally designated Village Leader Kim a prisoner of conscience an announced their intentions to carry out an international petition campaign calling for his release. This is the first time that a Korean person other than those imprisoned under the National Security Law, has been designated a prisoner of conscience.
According to Amnesty International, “Mr. Kim is a prisoner of conscience who was exercising his right to peaceful protest and was imprisoned only on the basis of his belief, social position or political ideas. Under international law governments do not have the authority to detain people on this basis.”
Hee-jin Kim, Director of Amnesty International’s Korea Desk, told reporters, “Rajiv Narayan, East Asian researcher for Amnesty International, is scheduled to hold an interview with Mr. Kim at An-yang Prison on December 1st, and will at that time send a petition to the Korean government and courts asking for his release.”
Amnesty International has already made three statements concerning the government’s violation of human rights in the process of the base expansion.
“Mr. Kim has never made use of violence,” said Father Jung Hyun Kim, President of the Korea Coalition against Base Expansion in Pyongtaek. “In fact, it is the police and Ministry of National Defense who have used excessive violence.” He added, “I believe this decision (of Amnesty International’s) will make the movement to free Mr. Kim even stronger.”
In the organization’s definition, prisoners of conscience are “people who have not committed violence and are imprisoned or subject to restriction of physical freedom due to political or religions beliefs, economic or social status, etc. In the past Koreans designated as prisoners of conscience have included former president Kim Dae Jung, the poet Kim Ji Ha and Professor Song Du Yul.