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Taking of DNA Samples Is a Serious Violation of Human Rights

Taking of DNA Samples Is a Serious Violation of Human Rights

SOUTH KOREA: The authorities' conducts to take DNA samples from those Yongsan displaced persons and SSangyong workers and to establish and use a database containing said samples are constituted the serious violation of the constitutionally protected human

(9 July 2013, Seoul) The Act on Protection and Use of DNA Identification Information has been come into force as of July 2010 for the purpose of prevention of repeated offenses by sex crime offenders. In addition to collection and identification of DNA samples from those suspects with reasonable suspicion, this Act aims to permit the authorities at any time as they deem necessary, through establishment of a nationwide database, to make a search on and use the DNA information for the police investigation purpose.

Therefore, anyone including juveniles who subjects to taking of his/her DNA samples pursuant to the Act can be subject to the intensive and extensive police investigations based on a simple reason that his/her DNA information has been recorded in such database without any probable cause and reasonable suspicion.

Moreover, due to the characteristics of the DNA information, not only himself/herself but also his/her family in whole can become the subject of the police investigations. For this reason, although the controversy over the violation of human rights committed by establishment and use of the nationwide DNA database had been cited for years prior to enactment of the Act, the Act was passed without proper review by the Korean National Assembly heavily influenced by certain tragic and violent crimes, for instance, Ho-Soon Kang serial killings.

In light that the DNA information possesses the traits enabling individual identification, the convenience inherited to the police investigation arising from the use of the DNA information has been considered the driving motive behind establishment and use of the DNA database by the authorities. However, the investigation convenience from use of such traits attached to the DNA shall not override the principles of the modern constitution and criminal laws.

The Respondents, the National Police Agency and the Department of Justice have compared the establishment of the DNA database with the fingerprinting. Having acknowledged that the fingerprint database has been "legally" used in police investigations, they are raising their allegations merely stating that the DNA database is able to supplement the fingerprint database.

However, DNA possesses much more personal information than a fingerprint. DNA enables the authorities to chase after not only the individual owner of this DNA but also those having generic (blood) relationship with said individual. Moreover, DNA can be utilized towards racial profiling as well as be abused or misused, for instance, to identify various information including, but not limited to, the individual's sex and his/her probable contracting Down syndrome.

After enactment of the Resident Registration in 1962 during the President Chung Hee Park's military dictatorship, the fingerprint database for all citizens of ages of 17 or over was established and subsequently has been used in police investigations to date. Under the alleged purpose of protection of missing children, the National Police, in its custody of those fingerprints of infants and children up to their reaching to ages of 18, is authorized to use said fingerprints in the name of "reasonable cause".

The establishment of this sort of the massive nationwide database covering entire population followed by its full scale utilization by the law enforcement is deemed a very rare occasion in the world.

In addition to such database, in the event that the DNA database is inter-linked or -connected, there is a possibility that the nationwide system for monitoring entire citizens beyond the mere data gathering purpose can be created. The social stigmatization, discrimination and exclusion against certain individuals can be escalated as well.

Furthermore, this Act is over broad in that when anyone falls under the vast 11 types of crimes including sex crimes, not only any convicted person after trial but also any arrested suspects and juveniles are subject to taking of their DNA samples.

This taking of the generic information which is considered the most vital private information for people based on mere possibility of uncertain future dangers and the subsequent establishment of such massive database with the generic information in the absence of separate requirements to deal with this database establishment are a serious violation of the constitutionally protected notion of 'Due Process'.

In particular, it is important to note that this Act had been used to take the DNA samples from certain Yongsan displaced persons and SSangyong workers who had taken their active involvement in the SSangyong Motors strike and the Yongsan tragic incident.

This taking of the DNA samples is turning those displaced persons and workers, the victims of the authorities' brutality, into the perpetrators of the crimes.

If this Act stands, people conscientiously seeking their rights against any human right violations and any attempts to destroy their rights to maintain lives will be again branded as criminals.

We respectfully request the Korean Constitutional Court issues its judgment to render this Act unconstitutional by taking into consideration such pain and suffering by those displaced persons and workers who will be subjected to the police surveillance after having their DNA samples taken on the alleged ground of their resistance against societal inequalities and injustice.

In addition to the foregoing, in order for the DNA information taken under this Act not to become the shackles not only of those displaced persons and workers but also of their family, such information must be immediately destroyed.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.


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