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TORONTO –
DISCLAIMER: This story contains details that may disturb some

In a secret letter sent from prison to a best-selling author as a gift, a Korean-Canadian serving time in South Korea said he was being tortured by prison staff. While Canadian officials say they are aware of the case, South Korea’s Justice Department has denied the allegations, calling them “a one-sided claim without any merit.”

Han-Min Seo, a Canadian citizen serving eight years in Daejeon Prison for assault with a weapon causing bodily harm, sent the letter detailing the exact dates and times of the torture and harassment allegations.

Daejeon is about 50 minutes by train from the South Korean capital of Seoul, and serves as a major transportation hub for the country.

The letter, which was addressed to British author Malka Adler under the guise of a gift of South Korean face masks, was opened by his publisher HarperCollins Publishers in London, UK and then forwarded to a media company Canadian at the request of Seo.

CTVNews.ca obtained a copy of the letter in its entirety and authenticated Seo’s identity using details provided by Global Affairs, including his Canadian citizenship, local reports, court documents and information provided in correspondence, including his prisoner number.

Bethan Morgan, associate editor of the HarperCollins One More Chapter affiliate, which opened the letter and forwarded it to CTV News, told CTVNews.ca in an email that “there was no indication why” it was. addressed to Adler, other than the fact that his book “The Brothers of Auschwitz” is one of their biggest international bestsellers and that it is possible that copies were sold or ordered from Daejeon and ended up in prison .

In the letter, Seo details disturbing allegations of harassment, beatings, threats, coercion and torture by prison staff, including the prison’s Critical Intervention Patrol Team (CRPT).

In November 2020, Seo says he went on a hunger strike to protest the punishment of the keepers for feeding pigeons, and claims he was beaten by members of the CRPT while on his way to the local doctor. jail. Seo said in the letter that there were CCTV footage of the incident and that he had filed a complaint against local police.

In April 2021, Seo alleges that the CRPT unnecessarily took him to a “calming” room in the prison, where they put him in constraining “protective gear” and tortured him every 30 minutes by twisting the handcuffs he was wearing. He said they hit him on the head and pushed downward on sensitive parts of his body, including his torso, to cause him to lose air supply.

Seo alleges this was done to get him to withdraw his November charges against the CRPT. Seo said he bent to stop the torture and was beaten again a few days later when police told him he should “admit it all” or be “charged with hit a policeman ”.

In May 2021, Seo alleged that torture, coercion and harassment escalated, describing inward and outward movements of consciousness as the CRPT allegedly cut its oxygen supply repeatedly. Seo said in the letter that he spoke to a local police officer and a lawyer about what was being done to him, but prison guards refused to comply with the police’s request for documentation. Seo alleges that his disclosure of the alleged torture to the police officer and his lawyer prompted prison staff to continue making threats against him – and that he ultimately wrote to the local prosecutor’s office to withdraw his November charges out of fear.

Despite many attempts, CTVNews.ca has not been able to establish independent contact with Seo or its lawyer.

In 2014, Seo, who was a teacher at Suwon Science College, had a dispute that led to a libel and insult lawsuit against his former student and teaching assistant. This ultimately resulted in a mediation meeting at the Suwon local prosecutor’s office.

At one point during the meeting, Seo left the room and reportedly returned with sulfuric acid – spraying his former teaching assistant, the assistant’s family and members of the prosecution, according to local reports.

The teaching assistant suffered second-degree burns to his face, upper and lower body, and his parents and members of the prosecutor’s office suffered burns to his face, hands and thighs, documents say court cases filed for Seo’s 2016 sentencing hearing and local reports.

In an email to CTVNews.ca, Suwon Science College acknowledged that Seo worked at the facility, but declined to comment further because “the matter was a matter between Mr. Seo and the student” and that the he case had been taken to court.

Seo, who did not disclose the nature of the crime for which he is incarcerated in the letter obtained by CTV News, has filed several appeals on various grounds, including human rights concerns.

In a statement to CTVNews.ca, Global Affairs said “Canada takes allegations of torture very seriously” and the organization “is aware of the case of a Canadian citizen serving prison time in South Korea and that consular officers provide ongoing consular services. assistance from the start of the individual’s detention.

“Canada is party to a number of treaties related to the prohibition of torture, including the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the International Covenant on Civil Rights and policies, ”the statement continued. .

Global Affairs said no further information could be released due to the Privacy Act.

In a statement emailed to CTVNews.ca on Wednesday and translated from Korean, South Korea’s Justice Department firmly denied all of Seo’s claims and refuted his claims in detail.

Referring to Seo’s April allegations, the Justice Department dismissed them as “just a one-sided claim without any merit,” the statement said. The statement also describes Seo as a combative prisoner who has been repeatedly disciplined for such things as using “abusive language” towards prison staff and threatening gestures, such as “hitting the wall with his fist and balancer “, which earned him to be put under duress. .

For this particular allegation, the press release states that the prison staff “judged that there was a high risk of self-harm or harm to others, and in accordance with the regulations in force, they [Seo] was housed in the protection room using protective equipment.

The statement said that while Seo “may have felt like he had been subjected to harsh acts”, his allegation of torture by the CRPT linked to cutting off his oxygen supply is categorically “not true.”

The Justice Department noted that with respect to Seo’s ongoing appeal process, he has had seven meetings with his lawyer and two phone calls with the Canadian consulate in English.

Concluding its statement, the Justice Department wrote, “This is only a one-sided argument on the part of the prisoner, and Korean correctional facilities are continually doing their best to protect the human rights of prisoners.

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