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State Violence and Transitional Justice (II)- Security Measures and Institutionalization in the 1970s
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December 01, 2020


Ⅰ. Purpose and Scope The purpose of this study is to examine the human rights violations by security measures and institutionalization measures in the 1970’s, elucidate the structures that perpetuated the atrocities, and find ways to reconcile the past marred by state violence. After the enactment of the Yushin Constitution in the 1970’s, the Park Chung-hee government strengthened its anti-communism drive. The enactment of the Social Safety Act in 1975 marked full-fledged adoption of security measures in Korea’s criminal justice system, and the Ministry of the Interior Directive No. 401 laid the groundwork for the crack down and institutionalization of so-called vagrants. These and other government policies and laws officiated the control mechanism against social outcasts. Security confinement and restriction of residence were abolished with the revision of the Social Safety Act into the Security Surveillance Act. However, “protective surveillance” (Korean equivalent of probation) under the old law survived the revision under a new name, “security surveillance.” The truth-finding and damage compensation for the human rights violations under the Social Safety Act have yet to be achieved. Another important issue regarding “past reconciliation” is the human rights violations by the institutionalization of social outcasts such as vagrants that continued into the 1980’s. The scope of this study includes the security measures taken under the 1975 Social Safety Act, and the institutionalization of social outcasts under the Living Protection Act and the Act on the Prevention of Prostitution, Etc. enacted in 1961, and the Ministry of the Interior Directive No. 410 enacted in 1975. As for security measures, many of those subject to security measures under the Social Safety Act were people punished for collaborating with the enemy during the Korean War. The enforcement of the Social Safety Act branded the so-called “vagrants” as “non-citizens,” when they are victims of the Korean War and the division of the Korean Peninsula. The measures taken under the Act controlled these groups by excluding and isolating them from the society, thereby reinforcing the violent regime that relied on the division of Korea to maintain its legitimacy. As for institutionalization, this study focuses on the crackdown and institutionalization of vagrants, “women requiring protection” under the Act on the Prevention of Prostitution, Etc., and Hansen’s disease patients. Firstly, the group referred to as “vagrants” (“부랑인” in Korean) is a sub-group of lower-class citizens in urban areas that formed during the rapid urbanization of Korea that the 1960’s. The crackdown and institutionalization of these citizens were some of the oppressive means of control that the government at the time relied on to solve urban issues. The use of these measures resulted in widespread human rights violations. Secondly, the scope of “vagrants” to be institutionalized at “protection and guidance centers” and “vocational training centers” under the Act on the Prevention of Prostitution, Etc. was broadly defined, which allowed the government to use the institutionalization measure to control women deemed to fall under the category. In order to understand how gender relations worked in the context of institutionalization measures, this study also analyzed the institutionalization measure under the Act on the Prevention of Prostitution, Etc. Thirdly, Hansen’s disease patients were one of the major groups that were subject to quarantine in the contemporary history of Korea. The category partially crackdown and institutionalization of “vagrant lepers.” They were one of the first groups to be subject to institutionalization. Their experience warrants close investigation as a case of social exclusion not based on behavioral or lifestyle characteristics (vagrants and prostitutes), but based on their diseases. This study elucidates the structure that gave rise to the human rights violations and state violence against these outcast groups, focusing on how criminal justice policies and public order administration work in that context. Through the analysis, this study seeks to clarify the nature of the security measures and institutionalization measures as means of state violence, clarify the state’s responsibility for the human rights violations, and propose policies to discover the truths and restitute damages on the government level. To that end, the author reviewed previous studies and analyzed oral history data. 1) The author analyzed the legal, theoretical, and practical literature on security measures generated around the 1970’s, as well as academic and government literature regarding the status of vagrants, women requiring protection, and Hansen’s disease patients and t he relevant policies. 2) The author used the government’s official statistics to analyze the status and change of institutionalization measures. 3) The author collected and searched for government documents on the implementation of the Social Safety Act and government documents on public order and public health administration. 4) lastly, the author collected and reviewed oral history data of people subject to security measures and institutionalization measures at the National Archive and the National History Compilation Committee. Ⅱ. Human Rights Violation By the Social Safety Act The Social Safety Act, which took effect on July 16, 1975, was enacted under a turbulent political situation in which the government issued a series of emergency measures to suppress any criticism and discussion against the regime. The Social Safety Act allowed the government to impose security confinement, restriction of residence, and protective surveillance. The human rights-violating elements of the Act can be summarized as follows. Firstly, the security measures under the Social Safety Act constituted double punishment by retroactive legislation. In the 1970’s, a total of 2,936 people were subjected to security measures. The majority of them (61.7%) had been convicted for crimes committed during the Korean War between 1950 and 1954, of which 60% were subjected to security measures on account of recidivism risk more than 10 years after serving their sentences. Secondly, the Social Safety Act deprived the criminals of their procedural rights, by allowing the executive branch to impose security measures. By authorizing the executive branch to impose security measures, the Act deprived the criminals of their right to trial by judge, because security measures restrict criminals’ physical freedom and freedom of movement to a level equal to a criminal punishment. In addition, criminals subject to security measures were denied all procedural rights under the Criminal Procedure Act and other laws. Thirdly, there was no provision regarding the determination of recidivism risk, which is one of the requirements for imposing security measures in the first place. As a result, security measure decisions often relied on arbitrary judgements. An analysis of the security measures decisions obtained by the researcher, recidivism risks were analyzed based on the following elements: 1) living environment at the time of the decisions, including family relations, housing security, and economic situation; 2) (for ideological criminals) ideological matters, including whether they changed allegiance to South Korea, or their attitude toward North Korea; 3) personal relationships including families, relatives, and left-wing prisoners; and 4) prior criminal records and behaviors during sentence. The element most frequently mentioned in the decisions was unstable livelihood or poverty, which accounted for 71.9% of the criminals subject to the measures. Housing insecurity was another element considered in regards to living environment, which is also closely associated with poverty. The second most frequently mentioned element was a highly vague one that leaves considerable room for investigators’ subjective decisions: discontent or lack of cooperation toward government policies. The element was mentioned in the decisions for 58.6% of the criminals. Fourthly, the Social Safety Act stipulated the term of a security measure as two years. However, the Act did not limit renewal of security measures. This unlimited renewal meant that a security measure could continue indefinitely. A decision to renew a security measure was mostly made based on vicarious reviews relying on written records. In other words, renewal decisions were made based on surveillance by investigative agencies and security confinement facilities that had been surveying the criminals, without granting the criminals any opportunity to have their arguments heard. Fifthly, criminals subject to security measures received extremely poor treatment, with frequent abuses. The protective surveillance and restriction of residence under the Social Safety Act required periodical reporting by the criminals themselves, on top of the surveillance inherited from the police surveillance during the Japanese Occupation of the Korean Peninsula. People under security confinement received extremely poor treatment that threatened the very lives of the inmates. Pursuant to Article 9 (2) of the Enforcement Decree of the Social Safety Act, security confinement facilities were governed by the Penal Execution Act and operated in the same way as a prison. In addition, under the Regulations on the Class-Based Treatment of Inmates enacted in 1969, security confinement inmates who did not change their allegiance to South Korea were excluded from promotion to higher “inmate classes” and improved treatment associated wit them. In addition, in the 1970’s, the government engaged in full-fledged efforts to “convert” left-wing inmates who did not change their allegiance, which included those incarcerated in security confinement facilities. In addition, abuse and violence at security confinement facilities sometimes claimed the lives of their inmates. Ⅲ. Human Rights Violation By Institutionalization 1. Crackdown and Institutionalization of Vagrants The policies related to vagrants in the 1970’s, unlike their predecessors, widened the scope of “vagrants” subject to crackdown and institutionalization to include a wide range of low-class urban residents. Enacted on December 15, 1975, the Guidelines on the Reporting, Crackdown, Institutionalization, Protection, Relocation, and Follow-Up Management of Vagrants (Ministry of the Interior Directive No. 410) used a comprehensive definition of the term “vagrant,” laying the groundwork for institutionalization of disadvantaged groups. The administration processes regarding vagrants in the 1970’s were closely related to ensuring national security and public order across the society, rather than protection of disadvantaged groups under the Living Protection Act and others. At the implementation level, the crackdown and institutionalization of vagrants were carried out without support from clear legal basis. In addition, many of the institutions where the vagrants were held served other purposes than protecting the vagrants’ livelihood, such as public order, social control, labor mobilization, and for-profit businesses. The human rights violating elements of the institutionalization of vagrants can be summarized as follows. Firstly, the crackdown and institutionalization targeted “vagrants” or “hobos,” which were arbitrary and unclear categories without clear legal basis. The basis for institutionalization measure was not clear, either. In addition, there always existed possibilities of arbitrary exercise of police power, which frequently targeted people outside the “vagrant” category. Secondly, institutionalized persons experienced numerous human rights violations within institutions, including: 1) physical violence and physical/mental injuries; 2) starvation and no access to medical treatment; 3) forced labor; and 4) long-term institutionalization without legal basis. Medium to large-sized institutions were “total institutions” where a large number of inmates ate, slept, and worked under the same schedule. Institutions delegated inmate control to a selected group of inmates, which resulted in military-like practices and rampant violence within the institutions. In addition, vocational training and self-help programs involved disciplining through violence, prolonged working hours, and exploitation. Thirdly, inmates were deprived of opportunities for education and vocational experiences. After their release and return to society, they faced social stigmatization, poverty, and trauma. In other words, human rights violations at vagrant institutions not only took place during crackdowns and institutionalization, but throughout the lives of the institutionalized inmates. Fourthly, the government outsource the operation of the institutions to private entities, who operated without government supervision. This factor was one of the key structural causes of the human rights violations at the institutions. In particular, institutions received supplies and subsidies corresponding to the number of inmates. This poverty relief system incentivized institutions to hold inmates for longer, and reinforce physical control to keep vagrants within the institutions. The crackdown and institutionalization of vagrants were carried out meaningfully considering the boundaries among three categories: 1) persons who committed the crime of “vagrancy” under the Punishment of Minor Offenses Act. Long-term institutionalization of vagrants was justified in the name of protection and welfare, in ways that were never possible under laws for crime control such as the Punishment of Minor Offenses Act. The reliance on categories defined by heterogenous laws was one of the causes of human rights violations at vagrancy institutions. 2. Institutionalization Under the Act on the Prevention of Prostitution, Etc. The protective guidance centers and vocational training centers under the Act on the Prevention of Prostitution, Etc. in the 1960’s and the 1970’s served two purposes: “social purification” outside the institutions, and rehabilitation and self-reliance of the inmates. Both purposes were national and social mandates that the government pursued in the 1960’s and the 1970’s. The institutionalization of social outcasts in that period indicates that the government actively pursued “social purification” before its national-level institutionalization in the 1980’s. Institutions under the Act on the Prevention of Prostitution, Etc. were established for the purpose of social purification through the removal of social evils. Under the Act, the entire category of “women requiring protection” subject to “protective guidance” was associated with a single element: prostitution. In other words, all vagrant women and women who ran away from their homes were associated with prostitution in the context of social control. Women requiring protection were institutionalized not only through police crackdown, but also by recommendations from counselling centers for women. However, it is possible that, in practice, institutionalization through recommendations from counselling centers took the form of police crackdowns. Given the fact that most of the women were institutionalized after counselling at the centers, counselling actually served as preliminary survey before institutionalization. Institutions for women were aimed at assisting with rehabilitation and self-reliance of the inmates. Institution for women had plans for providing vocational education. However, statistics show that the majority of women released from the institutions between 1962 and 1974 returned home rather than finding jobs. It seems that the institutions did not provide sufficient training to achieve self-reliance. Under the Act on the Prevention of Prostitution, Etc., women requiring protection at institutions were objects of correction rather than protection. In other words, the institutions under the Act were closer to correctional facilities. These institutions strictly controlled the inmates’ leave or release from the premises, and the women were not allowed to freely use phones or receive visitors. In addition, the period of institutionalization increased with each institutionalization. For women who previously experienced institutionalization, the institutions and the crackdowns were even more horrifying. Under these circumstances, many women at the institutions tried to escape. These systems were reformed in the 1990’s, especially after the 1995 fire at the Gyeonggi Women’s Technical Training Institution, and the ensuing criticisms about the human rights violations committed by the forced isolation of prostitutes, psychiatric patients, and vagrants from the society. 3. Quarantine of Hansen’s Disease Patients The quarantine of Hansen’s disease patients dates back to the Japanese Occupation of the Korean Peninsula, when the Governor-General of Korea enacted the Decree on the Prevention of Infectious Diseases and the Decree on the Prevention of Leprosy in Joseon. The latter decree contained provisions to control “vagrant lepers,” who were banned from having certain jobs or entering certain places, and sent to the rehabilitation facility in the Sorokdo Island. After Korea’s independence, the United States Forces government and the Korean health authorities continued to crack down on, and institutionalize, vagrant lepers under the decree. The Prevention of Infectious Diseases Act, enacted in 1954, provided for the installation of quarantine facilities for Hansen’s disease patients. The cure for the disease began to be used in Korea in the mid-1940’s, and the 1963 amendment to the Act removed Hansen’s disease patients from the list of people subject to quarantine requirement. However, release from the quarantine facilities were allowed only for patients who tested negative and were able to provide labor. The Enforcement Rules of the Prevention of Infectious Diseases Act enacted on August 19, 1977 stipulated that vagrants and beggars with Hansen’s disease should be quarantined as they pose risks of infection. In the 1970’s, the crackdown of Hansen’s disease patients focused on vagrants with Hansen’s disease. Public health clinics had “leprosy agents” tasked with finding these patients. Patients who tested positive were sent to the Sorokodo island, and those who tested negative were sent to either the island or private institutions for the disabled. The Hanseong Cooperative was founded in 1975, and the government and the Korea Leprosy Control Association transferred the crackdown and forced relocation of vagrant lepers to the Hanseong Cooperative in 1976. In 1970, the government began to change existing institutions for Hansen’s disease patients to institutions accommodating disabled or aged Hansen’s disease patients. As a result, in the 1970’s, Hansen’s disease patients who tested positive for the disease were sent to the National Sorokodo Hospital, while able-bodied patients who tested negative were sent to the settlement on the island. Patients with disabilities and aged patients were sent to private institutions for the disabled. The increased number of Hansen’s disease patients living in the settlement or the society in general may seem to indicate the abolishment of the forced quarantine policy. However, patients who tested positive or were unable to provide labor were still subject to forced quarantine. The institutions for Hansen’s disease patients controlled the inmates with strict discipline and rules, enforced through the “guidance group” consisting of selected Hansen’s disease patients. Hansen’s disease patients were also subject to forced abortion and vasectomy.

Jin Yu

Crime Trends&Analysis

Research Fellow

Jin Yu's picture

Research Interest (Major)

law and society, security governance, surveillance and crime control

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Kyunggyu Park

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Research Interest (Major)

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