Situation of Farmer Baek Nam-gi in the Republic of Korea
by People's Committee for Farmer Baek Nam-gi and Condemning State Violence
A farmer, who was shot by police's water cannon on 14 November 2015 during his protest calling for just rice price, was passed away after 317 days of remaining unconscious. Unfortunately, no perpetrator was properly punished nor proper investigation has been conducted until today. As soon as Farmer Baek passed away, the police tried to seize his body, saying that autopsy is necessary when cause of death is not clear. Families and supporters strongly protest against this attempt since they believe that it is clear that Farmer Baek's death is caused by the police's brutality. The police and Prosecutor’s Office even requested for a warrant for an autopsy, but the court denied to issue it. The police and the Prosecutor’s Office reapplied for a warrant and it was finally issued by the court.
1. Background: People’s Mass Mobilisation on 14 November 2015
- Farmer Baek Nam-gi joined the People's Mass Mobilisation on 14 November 2015 to demand that rice prices for 2015 be guaranteed. On the day, around 130,000 people joined the rally against the government's anti-people and anti-democracy policies. They came from different groups including workers, farmers, students and urban poor to raise their voices for a society where people's rights and democratic principles are fully guaranteed.
- During a protest, Farmer Baek Nam-gi was struck in the head by police water cannon. He was struck by direct spray which continued after he had been knocked to the ground and was taken to the emergency room of Seoul National University Hospital. Since then he remains unconscious.
2. Medical Condition
- Because of a brain haemorrhage due to a fractured nose, optic nerve damage, and a concussion, the medical staff in the emergency room said that after undergoing brain surgery that day, further surgery would be pointless for such a serious injury and would only help to extend his life but not lead to recovery.
- 25 September 2016: On the 317th day of his injury, he passed away. He remained unconscious for these days in the intensive care unit.
3. Investigation process
- After Farmer Baek collapsed because of police's water cannon, the police and Prosecutor's Office did not conduct a proper investigation. On 18 November 2015, Baek's family filed a criminal complaint to the Prosecutor's Office on seven alleged perpetrators including the then National Police Agency Commissioner General Kang Sin-myung and Chief of Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency Koo Eunsoo. Since then, the Prosecution’s office did not conduct proper investigation except having an interview with his daughter as a complainant. Until today for 10 months, the Prosecutor's Office is saying that the case is still under ‘investigation’.
- Kang's term ended in August 2016, without any official response to the family’s call for an apology.
- On 12 September 2016, hearing was held at the National Assembly. Even though abuse of police forces and excessive use of police power was confirmed, the main responsible person, the then Police Commissioner General Kang Sin-myung refused to apologise. He said it was 'inappropriate' to issue an apology for every injury or death during managing demonstrations. Also, evidence and documents against the police were not submitted. No truth was found.
4. Current situation
- After Farmer Baek passed away at 4pm, the police tried to seize the body for autopsy, arguing cause of death is not clear. The police even blocked roads going to the hospital and did not allow people to enter. On the other hand, Baek's families and his supporters are strongly opposing the idea of autopsy. They believe that the police and Prosecutor's Office try to argue different cause of his death, such as chronic disease, not the water cannon shooting.
- Around 6:30pm, the Prosecutor's Office, Farmer Baek's lawyer, doctors, parliamentarians joined post-mortem examination. A large number of people gathered in front of the hospital and around the time. The police opened a small way, so that people can pay their respect to Farmer Baek. At 9:17pm, the People’s Committee held a press conference and made it clear that the cause of his death is a ‘cerebral haemorrhage’, not an acute renal failure and an autopsy is not necessary.
- Nevertheless, at 0:10am on 26 September the Prosecutor’s office made a request for a warrant of autopsy to the court and If a warrant is issued, the Prosecutor's Office can conduct autopsy without consent of the family.
- On 26 September 2016, the court refused to issue a warrant but the police and the Prosecutor’s Office reapplied for a warrant with additional document. The court finally issued the warrant with some conditions. Expire date of the warrant is 25 October 2016.
5. Our Call
- Guarantee freedom of peaceful assembly of all people!
- End impunity! Punish responsible person for Farmer Baek Nam-gi's Death!
- Hold special prosecutor to end impunity!
- President Park should make an official apology!
- Legislate a strong regulation on the use of water cannon!
6. Contact Details
People's Committee for Farmer Baek Nam-gi and Condemning State Violence
- Ms. Gayoon Baek (People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy), +82 (0)2 723 5051, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ms. Mikyung Ryu (Korean Confederation of Trade Unions), +82 (0)2 2670 9118, email@example.com
- Ms. Oksoon Cheong (IUF Asia/Pacific), +82 (0)11 9762 6500, firstname.lastname@example.org