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We launched a series of legal seminars on bankruptcy and credit rehabilitation at a homeless shelter for advocate groups concerned about the protection of rights and welfare of the homeless. We also investigated and called for action in relation to an incident at Seoul Station, one of the country’s busiest subway and train stations and often a temporary shelter for the city’s homeless, in which authorities systematically violated the civil rights of people who had no other place to go.
Improving the living conditions in temporary vinyl or plastic settlements continues to be a part of our efforts to improve the quality of life for those consigned to subsistence living. In supporting resident associations, we, in conjunction with students of the Judicial Research and Training Institute, offered legal advice and aid in specific projects aimed at obtaining government recognition of these settlements as valid residences for registration purposes, such as running a drive to put up doorplates on homes and helping with neighborhood cleanup efforts. Also, in cases launched in concert with the group “People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy” and “Minbyun” (Lawyers for a Democratic Society), we obtained favorable decisions, which held that administrative officials had erred in not granting requests for address transfers which involved temporary vinyl housing, even though they are not considered legal residences.
Recognizing that children are among the most vulnerable in our society, we teamed up the National Child Protection Agency to fight child abuse and to raise awareness of issues related to child welfare. After preparing a manual on legal issues related to their mandate, we provided training to Agency counselors and also provided advice to child protection facilities across the country. As part of our efforts to act as a bridge between organizations such as this and lawyers in the private sector who wish to contribute on a pro bono basis, we helped in the formation of a formal partnership between the Agency and the law firm of Hwang Mok Park in which the firm agreed to provide the Agency with legal assistance throughout the year.
Under tremendous pressure to succeed in today’s society, Korea’s youth are often overlooked as people entitled to certain basic rights. After participating as advocates in the activities of the Commission on Youth Protection, we continue to attend public hearings and present papers on both general and specific issues concerning youth protection such as inequalities inherent in Korea’s education system and setting limits on time spent on after-school studies at learning institutes.
Even with Korea’s Confucius values, our senior citizens of often hidden from mainstream society. The Korean Bar Association (KBA) established a group of lawyers committed to supporting elderly rights. We at Gong-gam worked within the KBA to propose and help form a Committee for Providing Legal Support to the Elderly. We also went further to assist KBA to enter into an agreement with the Korean Senior Welfare Association to provide legal education and advocacy to counselors at senior welfare centers nationwide in order to promote welfare issues and combat elder abuse.
A Field Research on the Homeless Identity Theft Cases 2014.01.20 14:01 3065
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From May to November in 2013, GongGam had participated in “the fact-finding and policy alternatives promotion research for the homeless identity theft (illegal name usage of the homeless). This project, which was led by an organization called “Homeless Action,” was the winner of 2013 public contest for human rights protection and promotion support project by the Seoul Metropolis.

 

 

This project aimed to examine the actual conditions of the homeless identity theft cases where the homeless suffer from serious financial damage by the consequences of providing his/her documents for identification - such as a copy of the resident registration and of the authenticated certificate of his seal – after being lured by the words of offering him/her a job opportunity, money, or board and lodging. Appropriate policy alternatives were to be prepared based on the project results. The survey consisted of face-to-face interviews with  100 homeless people who lived on the streets, or facilities for the Homeless and dosshouses in Seoul. In-depth interviews with 15 homeless people, legal counseling and follow-up support for the victimized, analyses on the current national and foreign legislations and systems also constituted parts of the survey. GongGam had participated in the whole course of the research by giving legal counseling and support every week, questionnaire studies, in-depth interviews, institution analyses, etc. Especially, it was meaningful to have volunteers from GongGam and practical trainees from various law schools and the Judicial Research and Training Institute who partially participated in the project.

 

 

▲ The expert discussion meeting on “A field research on the homeless identity theft cases” held on 19 November 2013. (Photo provided by Homeless Action)

 

Examples from the part of the interview survey from the fact-finding research result as follow:

 

In the questionnaires regarding identity theft cases, we have defined “the illegal usage of names” as either when one got to know that his/her name was used even though he/she had not given his/her seal or issued related documents, or coerced to issue identification papers. We have included cases when a person directly issues or draws up identification documents expecting fixed rewards under the label of “title lending.” Out of the 100 questionnaire survey targets, three-fourths (77 cases) suffered damage from title lending and the rest one-fourth (25 cases) were damaged from the illegal usage of names. 2 of the respondents corresponded to both categories. From these results, we have seen that the identity theft is very common and widespread among the homeless themselves.

 

According to the questions requiring respondents to give reasons that led to identity theft and name lending, identity theft and name lending were done in the listed order: ‘to prepare livelihood (25.7%),’ ‘being told to be provided with shelter and residence (13.2%),’ ‘being asked a favor by an acquaintance (11%),’ ‘lost wallet or identification while living on the streets (11%),’ ‘being offered payment for drinking or money (10.3%)’ and ‘being offered a job (8.1%).’

 

For the question asking the respondents to mark everything that was relevant to their cases, the results of the damage caused by identity theft were dispersed over illegally registered phone (25.5%), illegally registered car (17.6%), being a front man (17.2%), fake deposit bank passbook (16.5%) and loan from financial institution (9.0%). The whole number of the damage cases was 267, and dividing the total by the number of the surveyed subjects makes the average damage occurrences of 3 cases per person. As a result, the victims were suffering from psychological stress and pressure, financial pressure, criminal implications, difficulties in securing employment, wage garnishment and suspended payment of deposit.

 

A Field Research on the Homeless Identity Theft Cases was successfully completed in November 2013. Alternatives- seeking forum, co-sponsored by MP Choi, Dong Ic and the Homeless Memorial Ceremony Joint Planning Group will be held on 19 December 2013 based on the results of the project. Please continue to pay closer attention to the activities to solve the identity theft problems experienced by the Homeless.

 

By Hye Ryung Cha, Attorney at GongGam





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