Unique: Chronicle of allegations of torture by Canadians imprisoned in South Korea

WARNING: This story contains details that some may find disturbing

In a secret letter from CTV News, a Korean-Canadian man detained in South Korea says he is being tortured, beaten and harassed by prison staff while he is serving his eight-year sentence.

Canadian citizen Han-Min Seo is serving eight years in Daejeon Prison for spraying sulfuric acid on his former teaching assistant and others at an arbitration meeting in 2014.

Seo sent a letter detailing the date and time of the alleged torture and harassment he says he suffered from prison staff.

The letter was sent as a gift to British writer Malka Adler, where it was intercepted by employees of HarperCollins Publishing and received by CTV News.

CTVNews.ca confirmed Seo’s identity through local reports, court records, and information in correspondence, including his prisoner number.

Below is a timeline and a detailed description of his allegations sent in the letter:

  • November 27, 2020: Seo allegedly went on hunger strike after being punished by guards for feeding pigeons.

  • November 30, 2020: Seo claims he was beaten by the prison’s Critical Response Patrol team on his way to see a doctor. Seo said in the letter that there was video surveillance of the incident and he filed a complaint with local police.

  • April 23, 2021: Seo claims the CRPT took him to a “calming” room without notice and for no reason, where they put him in “protective clothing” that was binding, with handcuffs and a chain around his torso. Seo claims he was tortured by prison officials every 30 minutes by twisting the cuffs and squeezing sensitive areas on his body, including his upper body, to lose air. He also claims they hit him on the head to get him to withdraw his November 30, 2020 allegations and withdraw the indictment, as well as all administrative, human rights and civil complaints. Seo claims that he followed and signed everything presented to him by a person he presented as a “complaint team leader” in prison to stop the torture.

  • April 26, 2021: Seo claims he was physically beaten again before being sent to investigators (he was unsure who they were). He claims he was told by prison staff to “admit anything” or charged with beating an officer. Seo said he followed all of the instructions out of fear.

  • May 3, 2021: Seo claims he spoke to a policeman from the Yuseong Police Station and passed on his allegations against the prison. Seo claims he wrote several letters that afternoon to the Justice Minister, South Korean President Moon Jae-In, human rights organizations and the judicial system asking for help and protection. Seo claims that CRPT then came around to threaten him about the letters.

  • May 4, 2021: Seo claims he was tortured again by the CRPT that day when he was cut off oxygen, forcing him in and out of consciousness. He claims they threatened him because of the letters he wrote the day before.

  • May 2021: Seo claims he was visited by his lawyer, whom he told of these allegations, even though he was previously “threatened” by the CRPT in an area of ​​the prison without video surveillance.

  • May 13, 2021: Seo claims the CRPT took him to their office and pressured him to write to Daejeon prosecutors to retract his allegations and allegations from the November 30, 2020 incident. Seo claims he followed out of fear.

In a statement to CTVNews.ca, Global Affairs said that “Canada is taking the allegations of torture very seriously” and that the organization is “aware of the case of a Canadian citizen serving a prison sentence in South Korea” and has provided consular assistance.

In a statement emailed to CTVNews.ca on Wednesday and translated from Korean, the South Korean Justice Department firmly denied all of Seo’s allegations and provided a detailed rebuttal of his allegations.

  • Regarding Seo’s November 2020 allegations, the Justice Department said Seo was reprimanded for failing to comply with prison staff’s instructions not to “bring out food while exercising outdoors,” and what, although it was true, Seo to one Doctor was brought in and was escorted by the CRPT, he was not beaten and his claim is “not true”. The statement said that CCTV is installed in the corridor of the prison’s medical section and that large numbers of inmates came and went during the time Seo claimed they were beaten. The statement said that all CCTV footage was shown to investigators.

  • The Justice Department statement categorically rejects Seo’s April 2021 allegations. It states that when CRPT was making rounds of the prison department, Seo responded violently with abusive language when asked to wear his prison uniform and not lie down. The statement said Seo cursed prison staff and “threatened to hit the wall with his fist and swing it,” which resulted in him being handcuffed. The prison staff “judged that there was a high risk of harming yourself or others, and according to the relevant regulations, he has [Seo] was placed in the shelter with protective gear. ”The statement said that while Seo“ felt he was subjected to harsh acts, ”his allegation that he was tortured by the CRPT by cutting off his oxygen supply and that he was beaten was “not true” and “just a one-sided assertion without any”. Base.”

  • In another case in April 2021, Seo was accused of abusing the prison staff. The statement said Daejeon Prison conducted an objective investigation through the confirmation of eyewitness testimony and referred the matter to their Disciplinary Committee, which was attended by three outside members to ensure fairness. A “penalty” was imposed on SEO.

  • The statement confirms that Seo spoke to a Yuseong station police officer in May 2021 regarding his allegations against the prison and the CRPT, but denies that Seo was prevented from handing paperwork to the officer, saying that complaints were verbal Officials can be submitted for investigations. The statement said Seo requested to return his own letters to the Justice Department, the Blue House (the official residence of Korean President Moon Jae-In), the Daejeon District Prosecutor’s Office and the Daejeon District Court, which was done . The statement denies that CRPT threatened Seo because of his letter.

  • The statement categorically rejects Seo’s May 2021 allegation that the CRPT tortured him by cutting off his oxygen supply as a “one-sided and unfounded claim”.

  • The Justice Department confirmed that the CRPT accompanied Seo twice during its attorney visit, including on 10 am or verbal abuse. “

The Justice Department noted that Seo had seven meetings with his attorney and two phone calls to the Canadian consulate in English regarding Seo’s pending appeal, and that although the prison became aware of his November 2020 allegations in December that the same year they did “No action” taken since then to get him to drop the complaint.

At the end of their statement, the Justice Department wrote, “This is only a one-sided argument by the prisoner, and Korean correctional institutions are constantly doing their best to protect the human rights of prisoners.”

Daejeon Prison is the place where conscientious objectors serve an alternate sentence, and the area is well known in Korean history as a massacre of approximately 7,000 political prisoners took place here during the 1950s Korean War.


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