May 24, 2023
SEOUL – South Korea’s human rights commission has voiced the need for multilingual translations for the laws and regulations that pertain to the detention of foreign nationals in the country.
In a recommendation issued Monday to the Ministry of Justice, the National Human Rights Commission said the availability of translations of what are called in Korean the “Foreigner Detention Regulations” is a matter that concerns foreign detainees’ right to know and beyond that, their human rights.
The Foreigner Detention Regulations constitute a government decree that prescribes specific rules on the detention of foreign nationals, including cases subject to temporary detention, the length of periods of custody, when foreign detainees can be transported to hospitals, and the procedures for detainees to appeal administrative decisions such as a deportations or departure orders.
Currently, only some laws, such as the Immigration Act, which covers the entry into and departure from Korea of Korean and foreign nationals, are provided in official English translations.
The NHRC recommendation, although not legally binding, was made in response to a complaint lodged by a detainee of Moroccan nationality about their right to information having been violated.
While held in an immigration detention facility, the Moroccan national requested a copy of the English translation of the Foreigner Detention Regulations, but was not given access to one, because there was no official translation available through the Korean Law Information Center, a government website for translations of Korean laws and regulations.
The NHRC rejected the specific grounds of the complaint, saying that although there is no official English translation of the regulations, its contents were provided in English, Chinese and Korean by the facility. Thus, the complainant’s right to know itself was not violated.
However, the rights watchdog made the recommendation to the Justice Ministry that local rules that are directly relevant to people of foreign nationality should be translated into multiple languages so that they can understand them better, as a matter of safeguarding their human rights.
“Enabling foreign detainees to access directly detailed information on the laws and Foreigner Detention Regulations, which are the basis for information related to them, is a matter that is absolutely essential for protecting and promoting the human rights of detained foreign nationals beyond simply guaranteeing the right to know,” the commission said in a statement.
“As for those who received unfair treatment in detention facilities, the Foreigner Detention Regulations can be useful guidelines for making objections,” the human rights watchdog added.