GongGam Human Rights Law Foundation
GongGam Human Rights Law Foundation is the first non-governmental public interest law group in South Korea. GongGam (“empathy” in Korean) aims to protect the rights of vulnerable communities and social groups in South Korea through pro bono legal assistance, strategic litigation, and versatile advocacy strategies. GongGam’s pro bono model was adopted by a number of public interest law firms in the Republic of Korea, and collectively they have grown into pro bono networks and other public interest law collaborations. GongGam’s fiscal viability relies on local private sponsorships, voluntary donations, as well as pro bono arrangements with other law firms. GongGam’s main source of revenue is from grassroots donations, comprised of over 2,000 individual donations. This includes lawyers and other citizens that become “members” and donate a small monthly contribution. Donations are encouraged through a pledging scheme. For instance, law school alumni/colleagues pledge one percent of their income to GongGam.
Theory of Change
Engaging in multi-faceted efforts to provide legal support to socially disadvantaged minorities and advocating for their equality, helps change the legal framework and social norms.
GongGam focuses on impact litigation and legal aid. Their area of focus includes women, persons with disabilities, migrants and refugees, poverty and welfare, precarious workers, LGBTQIA, business and human rights, children, disaster and human rights, transnational human rights, as well as public interest law education and promotion of pro bono. Besides offering pro bono legal assistance to individuals, GongGam also provides legal services to NGOs, takes public interest lawsuits, and pursues legal reform campaigns. GongGam engages in advocacy, fact-finding work, awareness raising, legal education, and research, and it also facilitates networks of pro bono lawyers and academics working on human rights related reforms. GongGam works with interns from local law schools and runs a Human Rights Summer Camp for undergraduates, involving local and international experts. GongGam hosts research fellows and law students and graduates, allowing young professionals to learn about public interest litigation and participate in the work of legal NGOs.
GongGam’s research on work conditions for migrant women and investigation of sexual violence culminated in conferences and legal actions to protect agricultural women workers. GongGam has successfully represented Vietnamese migrant women who were trafficked in Korea. They also participated in public hearings regarding the Mental Health Act, which has been reversed as unconstitutional in the Constitutional Court. GongGam led the campaigns for the “Act on the Prohibition of Discrimination of Persons with Disabilities” and the “Refugee Act.” Further, they chaired the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network and the Asian Consortium for Human Rights Based Access to Justice, focusing on enacting these human rights policies across Asia. GongGam has also conducted transnational labor rights investigations into corporate social responsibility and human rights violations in China, the Philippines, and Bangladesh. Findings have supported campaigns to enact stronger accountability mechanisms transnationally.