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Human rights commission asks government to improve housing quality, affordability

South Korea’s public human rights watchdog asked the government on Wednesday to improve basic residential standards and increase the availability of housing for disadvantaged groups.

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea said in a report addressed to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport that the country’s minimum requirements for housing needed revisions in order to ensure better protection of housing rights.

National Human Rights Commission of Korea
National Human Rights Commission of Korea

In the report, the commission quoted the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 2019 report on the housing situation in South Korea, in which further government efforts were recommended for enhanced quality, security and affordability of accommodations.

In May 2018, the UN special rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, expressed concerns over housing inadequacies in metropolitan areas during a 10-day visit to the country, urging shifts in the approach to housing policy.

She said the growing unaffordability of housing forced young people and low-income households to “live in substandard housing” while “paying exorbitant rents,” leaving them “at the mercy of landlords’ arbitrary decisions to raise the rent.”

According to a Statistics Korea survey, the number of households living in inadequate housing has surged markedly over 10 years, from approximately 54,000 in 2005 to 360,000 in 2015.

The commission in particular raised the alarm about the safety of residents in single-room units, which often fail to meet government-set standards.

It also said the lack of human rights protection in housing was considered an infringement of the basic rights to life, a healthy environment and freedom of privacy.

By Kim Arin (