EUM Research Institute Inauguration Ceremony 1On 29 December, Human Asia attended the EUM Research Institute Inauguration Ceremony via Zoom. Human Asia is supporting the establishment of the EUM Research Institute under our CLS Scholarship program, with several of our past and present students being involved with the institute’s research. EUM Research Institute is a research organisation composed of North Korean researchers with specialised knowledge and capabilities in various academic fields. Most of the researchers at this centre have experienced both the North and South Korean regimes, and therefore, above all else, pursue the principles of human dignity and democracy. The researchers combined their experiences in North Korea and their knowledge accumulated in South Korea to help them prepare for peace and unification on the Korean Peninsula.After the respective staff members and supporters of the institute (including Human Asia’s Secretary-General Jeongum Choi) introduced themselves, the ceremony covered the background and inspiration behind the creation of the institute and its future plans for its official commencement in 2021. We wish the EUM Research Institute the best of luck with all its activities in the upcoming year.
On December 17, 2020, the Jeongam Foundation and Human Asia held the 2020 Global Vision Scholarship Award Ceremony. The Jeongam Foundation runs the Global Vision Scholarship Program every year to improve financial support for humanities and social sciences with a particular focus on human rights. This scholarship program, which marks its 10th anniversary this year, selects excellent students as scholarship recipients so that students can participate in establishing and contributing to the regional human rights protection system in Asia. The Jeongam Foundation and Human Asia will continue to empower and support talented students who will contribute to advocating and promoting human rights at the regional, national and global levels. Human Asia will work arduously to ensure respect for human rights not only across Asia but also worldwide. We would like to congratulate the scholarship recipients and express our sincere gratitude to all those who applied to our scholarship program.
Human Asia organized the forum titled ‘Business and Human Rights: Trends and Challenges' at the Novotel Ambassador Dongdaemun Hotel in Jung-gu, Seoul on December 4, 2020 in tandem with the Ministry of Justice and the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. The forum, which was the first-ever to be co-hosted by the Ministry of Justice and the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, provided a space to facilitate discussion for both state and business enterprises to more effectively implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and enhance corporate responsibility. As the supply chain of companies has recently expanded overseas due to ongoing globalization, the issue of human rights management by business enterprises has emerged as an international agenda. The roles and responsibilities of business enterprises and governments for human rights management are being consequently growing in importance and being internationally emphasised. Accordingly, in South Korea, the Ministry of Justice and the National Human Rights Commission of Korea signed a MOU on May 26 to promise mutual cooperation for the domestic growth of effective human rights management, so that human rights management can further grow and be realized in private companies beyond state-owned enterprises. Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19, all overseas and some domestic speakers attended online. General attendees also attended online. Sign language interpretation was provided and the forum material book was produced with VOICEYE (voice-speaking) embedded for enhanced access. In Session 1, moderated by Sang-Soo Lee (Professor of the Graduate School of Law at Sogang University and Executive Director of the Asia Business and Human Rights Center), activists from international civil society groups were invited to discuss various cases of human rights abuses and violations in business operations. In Session 2, moderated by Changrok Soh, (President of Human Asia, Member of the UN Human Rights Committee on Civil and Political rights and Professor of the Graduate School of International Studies at Korea University), experts and government officials were invited to discuss international trends in business and human rights. Additionally, Seryeon Ryan Song, (Professor of the Graduate School of Law at Kyung Hee University and Executive Director of the Asia Business and Human Rights Center) emphasized the necessity of establishing a stand-alone National Action Plan (NAP) on business and human rights, and legalizing mandatory human rights due diligence. Following this, Minwoo Kim (Research Professor at the International Human Rights Center of Korea University and Managing Director of the Asia Business and Human Rights Center) presented an analysis of the disclosure status of the human rights impacts assessment reports by state-owned enterprises, which was conducted by the Asia Business and Human Rights Center for the last three months. In addition, he emphasized that an increasing number of state-owned enterprises have been carrying out human rights management on the basis of the manual published by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Changrok Soh promised to resolve the relevant issues discussed in this forum through the Asia Business and Human Rights Center housed at Human Asia and emphasized the need for the direction and consistency of government policies.
UAEM Korea Monthly Opinion Column UAEM Korea contributed their first article for their monthly column in the Korean newspaper 'NGO News' on November 23, 2020, entitled “No One is Safe, Until Everyone is Safe”. In this article, UAEM urged South Korea to send more active support and participation in the COVAX facility. See below for a summary of the article in English, or click here to read the original article in Korean. Pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Moderna have claimed that their phase 3 clinical trials show up to 90% vaccine efficacy. As it seems that the development of the COVID-19 vaccine is finalized, the global community is now seeing a first glimmer of hope to an end of COVID-19. However, the phenomenon known as “vaccine nationalism” has now begun to emerge with high-income countries hoarding vaccines and their components for production. This, in turn, is leaving out middle-income and low-income countries with poor purchasing power. To alleviate the inequality in vaccine distribution according to purchasing capacity, international organizations related to public health, including the World Health Organization (WHO), jointly launched the COVAX Facility (COVAX). However, COVAX is far below the funding target - 2 billion USD - which is required by the end of this year for stable supply. In terms of short-term economic gains and losses, there may be questions about the justification of supporting COVAX. While this may be true, in the long run, active investment is still required in COVAX as it may be an opportunity to build the infrastructure to prevent further pandemic(s). In this situation of world crisis, the ROK needs to provide proactive domestic and international support, and participate actively. Korea has led a successful response against COVID-19, earning the title of “K-방역 (Korean Response to Disease Prevention)”. But we need to keep in mind that “No one is safe, until everyone is safe,” as WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus put it. Korea is indeed contributing to the international efforts to combat COVID-19, such as actively helping the effort to develop and secure vaccines. However, when comparing with the neighboring Japan, it appears that other countries are trying to contribute more to the international eradication effort. Japan has donated 130 million USD to COVAX AMC, which is 13 times what Korea contributed (10 million USD). The Republic of Korea should contribute and even more actively participate in the international effort to eradicate COVID-19. While keeping in mind the short-term and long-term benefits of COVAX, Korea should help vaccine development, and make more efforts to close the inequality gap in vaccine supply between high and middle/low-income countries.
Human Asia & UAEM Korea Visit MSF Korea On Tuesday 17 November, Human Asia and UAEM Korea paid a visit to MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières; Doctors Without Borders). During the meet, after everyone introduced themselves to one another, the students and Human Asia received expert consulting from MSF on the A2M movement along with current domestic issues, and spoke about different ways to cooperate on improving domestic awareness on A2M. Thank you again to MSF Korea for kindly hosting us. We look forward to working with you more in the future.
UAEM Korea: First YouTube Shooting On Saturday 14 November, Human Asia and UAEM Korea met Mr. Kang Juseong (Advisor, Kanghan Law, Former President, Health Right Network) in a studio in Sinsa to film the first video for UAEM Korea’s upcoming YouTube channel. Mr. Kang is noted as one of the first A2M activists in South Korea following the Gleevec/Novartis case in the early 2000s. Disputes over Gleevec started with the marketing authorization of the medicine in Korea in 2001. In May 2001, Novartis asked that Gleevec’s price be set in South Korea at US$ 2,400/month, using as reference prices the wealthier A7 countries (US, UK, Germany, France, Switzerland, Japan and Italy). The Korean National Health Insurance decided to set the price of Gleevec at 17,862 KRW per pill (US$ 14) or 2,143,440 KRW per month (US$ 1,680), prompting Novartis to retract plans to enter the South Korean market. Mr. Kang had fought for democracy under South Korea’s authoritarian regime and later fell ill to leukemia. He started a fight for a more public interest-oriented medicines governance and appropriate counter-balance to the industry weight. He went on to be the founding president of the Korea Leukemia Patients group.Thanks in large part to his leadership, civil society organizations and patients kept the pressure up and demanded in 2002 that the government issue a compulsory license (CL) for Gleevec. Back-and-forths continued between the government and Novartis, but in the spring of 2002, the Korean government gave into Novartis’ demands and approved a price of 23,045 KRW, a mere 10% discount on what had been demanded by the company. In March 2003, the Korea Industry Property office dismissed the request of CL for Gleevec. Though this battle was lost, the A2M movement in Korea was born.UAEM Korea’s upcoming YouTube video will include Mr. Kang’s thoughts on greater access to health care for patients under Korea's health insurance, access to Gleevec for leukemia patients,and student activism on A2M. Mr. Kang was also kind enough to talk to the students about their work and A2M in Korea after the interview. We would like to thank Mr. Kang for filming the video with us and wish him good health, and ask everyone to watch the upcoming YouTube video!* Masks were worn throughout the shooting and removed only for photographs.
The 2020 4th Human Rights English Essay Competition Presentation Ceremony Presentation 1: Second Runner Up'Racism and Xenophobia in the age of COVID-19: crafting a global response to counter the rise in discrimination' - TaeHwan Alexander Kim On Monday 28 September, Human Asia hosted the Presentation Ceremony for the 2020 4th Human Rights English Essay Competition. The ceremony was held virtually via Zoom, and was attended by participants of the competition, the top three entries, UAEM Korea students, Human Asia, and our guest judges - Daniel Connolly (Assistant Professor, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies) Buhm-Suk Baek (Professor, Kyung-Hee College of International Studies) and Sinhye Ha (External Relations Advisor, Médecins Sans Frontières). Presentation 2: First Runner Up'COVID-19 and Human Rights: A Viral Illness Reveals Societal Ills' - Hyoim ShinAfter some words of welcome from Human Asia’s President Changrok Soh, the judges began the event by providing some general feedback on the top ten entries for the competition. Each of the top three entries - TaeHwan Alexander Kim (Second Runner Up) Hyoim Shin (First Runner Up) and Seokhwan Park (Grand Prize Winner) - then gave a presentation on their essay entries. The judges provided more detailed feedback and areas to improve upon for future academic research essays.Presentation 3: Grand Prize Winner'Human Rights and the Equitable Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccines' - Seokhwan ParkPlease see the attached file above to read the winning essay:Human Rights and the Equitable Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccines Seokhwan Park Abstract: This paper highlights the importance of developing a system for the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Although the rate of development of COVID-19 vaccines has increased greatly, discussion of how to achieve an equitable distribution of vaccines to ensure everyone’s safety has yet to transpire. Previous studies have evaluated the equity of the distribution of vaccines during the H1N1 pandemic in 2011 and suggested that the inequitable distribution of vaccines poses a risk to the residents of poor regions and widens the gap between the poor and the rich on a global scale. The already active financial race to develop COVID-19 vaccines among wealthy nations generally excludes less wealthy nations from participation in the early stages of vaccine distribution, including price negotiation. Given the high level of medical urgency, nations are likely to prioritize domestic medical needs, leading to nationalism. Therefore, wealthy nations should provide greater political leadership. To do so, the WHO and other international organizations need to place increased political pressure on the most dominant countries. In addition, more flexibility in intellectual property laws and an effective data sharing system can effectively prevent vaccines from becoming monopolized by a few nations. Continuous political negotiations will develop practical solutions, such as tax exemptions and government subsidies for manufacturing companies, that can be applied immediately. Thank you again to everyone who took part in the event.
The 15th Teenage Human Rights School: Drug Accessibility and Human Rights On Saturday 26 September, Human Asia hosted the 15th Teenage Human Rights School under the theme ‘Drug Accessibility and Human Rights’. UAEM Korea acted as the guest speaker for this session. The event was originally planned to be held offline in May 2020; however, with COVID-19 the event was held online in September instead. 20 middle and high school students virtually participated in the event. The first half of the school consisted of a one hour lecture from UAEM Korea, covering: the development process and price markups of essential medicines; accessibility to essential medicines and human rights, marketing strategies from pharmaceutical companies, and crisis inequalities within the COVID-19 context. The participants were then separated into four breakout rooms to hear the participants’ thoughts both on the lecture context and on the pre-assigned book review on Chapter 3 from the book ‘Take 30 Minutes After Eating’. A representative from each group then shared these thoughts with all the participants at the end. Thank you again to everyone who participated in the school.
TBS EFM Radio Interview with UAEM Korea On Wednesday 9 September, Human Asia (Chloe Sherliker, Program Officer) and UAEM Korea (Soyeon Park, Hyunsu Kim) spoke on TBS EFM’s Life Abroad ‘Making Connections’ series, on the topic ‘COVID-19 Vaccine: Affordability and Availability’, with Na Seung-yeon. The 25 minute segment covered how UAEM Korea students’ lives have changed during the current pandemic; UAEM and UAEM Korea’s history and mission; Human Asia’s work and role in supporting UAEM Korea, and how to ensure that a future COVID-19 vaccine will be affordable and accessible for all. The UAEM Korea students noted that the main challenges of making a future COVID-19 vaccine affordable and accessible to all relate to supply and demand respectively. Regarding supply, the students observed that in theory, the current monopoly-based patent system incentivizes private sector investment and allows private drug corporations to make a reasonable return on their investment. However, in practice, this patent system is often abused; while the current system gives drug companies the right to patent monopolies, it doesn’t require them to sell medicines at fair prices. Additionally, from the perspective of demand, the students suggested that the lack of prior research and investment towards coronavirus from pharma companies would be another challenge to overcome in creating an accessible vaccine. We would like to again thank TBS EFM for hosting Human Asia and UAEM Korea on their channel. Click here to listen to the episode again.
Final Research Report Session with UAEM Korea On Thursday 20 August, Human Asia hosted the Final Research Report Review session with UAEM Korea and our Expert Advisory Committee. Due to the spread of COVID-19, the final session was hosted online via Zoom. This year’s Advisory Committee consisted of: Professor Hye-young Kwon (Mokwon University), Professor Sylvia Park (Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs), Dr. Unni Karunakara (Yonsei University, Yale School of Public Health), and Director Seung-beom Hong (ISU Abxis). After introducing UAEM Korea’s advocacy activities throughout 2020, the students presented their research report ‘Access to Orphan Drugs in Korea: A Blind Point in the Korean Health System’ to Human Asia and the Expert Advisory Committee. The report explored weaknesses and potential solutions for the Korean health system in delivering healthcare for rare disease patients. Through three sections - ‘Supply’, ‘Affordability’ and ‘Role of Universities’, the research report focused on how to establish a sustainable supply system of orphan drugs; how to ensure affordable prices of orphan drugs, and what the roles of domestic universities in this issue may be in the future. Unreliable supply systems and high drug prices were deemed to hinder access to orphan drugs in Korea. To improve access, the students suggested that the Korean pharmaceutical industry and government should stimulate domestic production of orphan drugs while implementing policies that relieve the economic burden on patients: through changes within RSAs to guarantee coverage within the national health system, and implementation of a future Korea Orphan Drugs Fund. The paper reiterated that despite different people having different health needs, everyone should be guaranteed to their right to health. Therefore, although there may be potential economic incentives, the Korean pharmaceutical industry and the Korean government should shift their focus from profit alone, to meeting the health needs of the population through access to orphan drugs. We would like to thank our Expert Advisory Committee for providing their invaluable feedback via the Zoom session, and to UAEM Korea for all their hard work in producing this high quality report. Please check Human Asia’s website soon to read the complete research report on ‘Access to Orphan Drugs in Korea: A Blind Point in the Korean Health System.
The 8th Global Human Rights School - The Jangmadang Generation: Young People & Human Rights in North Korea' On Saturday 15 August, Human Asia hosted the 8th Global Human Rights School under the theme of ‘The Jangmadang Generation: Young People & Human Rights in North Korea’. The guest speaker for this year’s event was Sokeel Park, South Korea Country Director at Liberty in North Korea (LiNK). Due to the spread of COVID-19, this year the school was held online via Zoom. After a brief introduction of Human Asia, the session kicked off with Sokeel Park’s lecture on the jangmadang generation. The presentation explored what life is like today for young people growing up in North Korea; the state of human rights violations in North Korea together with the international community’s response and the 2014 COI, and ongoing evolving changes within North Korea, particularly regarding the dissemination of foreign information, marketisation, the importance of the jangmadang generation, and cross border networks. Mr. Park also provided more details on his organisation LiNK, and how ordinary students across the world can act to support change in North Korea. The participating students then gave their own presentations on posters that they had made before the human rights school, based on LiNK’s documentary ‘The Jangmadang Generation’. Each student introduced themselves and described their interpretation of the documentary and the meanings behind their posters. Mr. Park then briefly gave his thoughts on the students’ work. Thank you again to all of our participants who joined us for this year’s Global Human Rights School. We hope to see you again next year!
[EAYAN Program Online Event] Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) & Gender Equality: Creating Synergies and Cooperation between the EU and East Asia On Wednesday 5 August, Human Asia hosted our first virtual event for members of the 2020 East Asia Young Activists Networking (EAYAN) Program. Our final members for the 2020 EAYAN Program were selected in February, and originally were to meet at Human Asia’s EAYAN Program ten-day workshop in April 2020. However, due to the spread of COVID-19, the workshop unfortunately has been postponed for 2021. This online event therefore represented the members’ first opportunity to greet their fellow participants from South Korea, Japan, Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The theme for this event was ‘Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) & Gender Equality: Creating Synergies and Cooperation between the EU and East Asia’. Dr. Joëlle Hivonnet, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Korea, was the guest speaker for the session. The session began with an opening statement from Human Asia’s President, Changrok Soh. Each of the EAYAN Program participants then had the chance to introduce themselves briefly to one another. Following the self-introductions Dr. Joëlle Hivonnet then proceeded to give her presentation. After providing a brief overview of the importance and status of gender equality in 2020 and present EU and international legal instruments and conventions, Dr. Hivonnet moved on to look at some examples of EU-Asian partnerships. She additionally explored recent EU-ROK cooperation efforts to promote gender equality in South Korea. Participants were then given the chance to ask questions and express their own thoughts on future routes for increased East Asian CSO-EU cooperation. Dr. Hivonnet additionally had her own questions for the participants, including their own personal perspectives on the reasons for the lack of a regional human rights mechanism in Asia. President Soh concluded the session by reiterating that although shared cooperation between the two Koreas, Japan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan on human rights may seem impossible on a state-based level, through ongoing efforts with non-state actors and civil society, there is opportunity and reason for us to continue fighting towards this shared goal of human rights protection. Human Asia would like to express our gratitude to both our EAYAN Program members and to Dr.Joëlle Hivonnet for taking time out of their busy schedules to join this online event. We look forward to holding more virtual events for our EAYAN Program members in the near future. For more information on the East Asia Young Activists Networking Program please visit: www.eayan.org
Korea has been considered as the country best in handling COVID-19. Its swift response of the coronavirus resulted from its efficient use of technology, excellent medical staff, and mature citizenship based on community spirit. These factors have greatly contributed to successfully combating COVID-19. Despite these successes, however, a myriad of subsequent problems have remained neglected and unsolved: including various types of discrimination against minorities and human rights violations. The Korea-EU CSO Network kindly invited Changrok Soh, President of Human Asia, to talk on his opinions on ICT technology and human rights amid the COVID-19 crisis. President Changrok Soh has experienced the national quarantine system, having previously been a COVID-19 confirmed patient. Along with his unique experiences of overcoming the coronavirus, President Soh talked about privacy violations and other controversial issues including social stigma and rampant discrimination against patients, and the use of electronic wristband with a tracking function to contain the further spread of COVID-19. Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5r_MvMH8Dk&feature=youtu.be
Webinar: Developing An Affordable And Accessible COVID-19 Vaccine: Where We Are Now Review - Jeeeon Lee (Human Asia Intern) On Friday 3 July, Human Asia hosted an online webinar entitled ‘Developing An Affordable And Accessible COVID-19 Vaccine: Where We Are Now’. This event was co-hosted with UAEM Korea and the Korean Association of Human Rights Studies. The guest speaker of this session was Dr. Jerome Kim, Director General of the International Vaccine Institute. The webinar was held in English with Korean interpretation, and was viewed by attendees from around the world. The event opened with opening remarks from Changrok Soh, President of Human Asia and the Korean Association of Human Rights Studies, and Hannah Chang, President of UAEM Korea. Dr. Kim began his lecture by exploring the nature of coronaviruses in themselves; reminding us that with HIV/AIDS, the bubonic plague, smallpox and Spanish flu, COVID-19 is in no way the first pandemic that the world has experienced. After explaining how coronaviruses travel both between people and across countries, Dr. Kim then moved on to discuss ongoing questions about infection immunity and known unknowns regarding COVID-19. Dr. Kim explained the typical process and timeline of producing and licensing a vaccine (which ordinarily takes anywhere between five and ten years), and the situation for a COVID-19 vaccine. There are 150+ possible candidates for a COVID-19 vaccine, with 8 currently in human clinical testing (RNA or DNA, protein vaccines, vector vaccines and inactivated vaccines) and some signs of major milestones. Accelerating process will depend on how well we can derisk, with increased funds, time, and money. There are additionally some signs of progress within testing on animals, particularly monkeys. After explaining the basic work and mission of his organisation, the International Vaccine Institute (IVI), Dr. Kim explored the main challenges in distributing an accessible future COVID-19 vaccine to everyone. Major concerns, according to Dr. Kim, could include: ultranationalism, (vaccine imperialism, vaccine nationalism, vaccine security vaccine sovereignty) infodemics (urgency over objectivity, COVID conspiracies, unfiltered, unreviewed science) anti-science sentiments (rejectionism, vaccine hesitancy) and politics (partisanship, economic hardship). There could also be ‘enhanced disease’ issues after the SARS-1 and MERS challenges with vaccinated animals. Dr. Kim concluded his lecture with the following points. We will likely be able to develop a vaccine that works and that is safe, potentially within 12 to 18 months. On whether we will be able to make a vaccine of sufficient quantity with high quality and at an affordable cost, Dr. Kim answered perhaps - CEPI has identified global manufacturing at 10 billion doses a year. Dr Kim was also hopeful that a vaccine respecting access and equity could also be developed, as CEPI has Global Access Agreements and WHO have initiated processes to ensure accessibility and equity in allocating vaccine resources. The lecture session concluded after a Q&A session from the floor. For me, his webinar session served as a precious opportunity to grasp not only the current development progress of COVID-19 vaccine, but also the accessibility and equity of vaccine allocation. Moreover, I was also able to rethink the major challenges that we have encountered so far and may become obstacles when distributing COVID-19 vaccine in the future. Just like Dr. Jerome pointed out, the issues of ultranationalism, infodemics, anti-science sentiments, and politics will cause confusion in our society, posing a threat to the dissemination of the vaccine. However, after learning about the positive news regarding the advancement made by various organizations, including CEPI and WHO, I sincerely hope that everyone can have the access to the vaccine at an affordable cost in a near future. Written by Jeeeon Lee
The «2020 6th Korea Refugee Film Festival» was held from June 13th to June 27th. This year’s theme was ‘Beyond Distancing: We Are All Connected’. The festival was hosted by Human Asia with the help of the Korea Refugee Rights Network and the UNHCR Representative in the Republic of Korea. Due to COVID 19, this year’s KOREFF was held online. During the festival, we sold tickets to 7 films and festival merchandise through the KOREFF website. Participants were able to access 3 refugee-related Korean films and 4 UNHCR documentaries: No Probland (2019), The Breath (2017), Nowhere Man (2017), The Unforgotten (2019), Limbo (2017), The Displaced (2020), and Sanctuary (2019). Although the virtual film festival initially raised some concerns, it was a huge success with more than 200 participants. Human Asia will continue to raise the social awareness of refugees in Korea and overcome the “social distancing on refugees’ rights” through KOREFF. Thank you to all the participants of this year’s film festival and we highly encourage you to continue your interest and support for KOREFF.
Human Asia held an online workshop for the students of 『Community Leader Scholarship Program』 for two days of June 20th and 27th. Dr. Kim, Sung-ki, the professor of the Graduate School of Education at Hyupsung University gave the lecture on how to write a thesis effectively. Due to the pandemic of COVID-19, the workshop was held online only, but the students had a good time to learn more for thesis writing.