South Korean Human Rights Movement and the North Korean Problem - Some Lessons for Global Human Rights Movement


06.10.2010, 00:00 Uhr

South Korea is often said to have achieved a rare combination of industrialization and democratization among developing countries in a short period of time. In this process one cannot underestimate the role of the pro-democracy human rights movement in the democratization and political liberalization of the country. Although the legitimacy, visibility, and moral fortitude of the human rights movement in South Korea were largely undisputed, the movement has recently been scrutinized for its perceived lack of interest with regard to the growing concern about human rights situation in North Korea. What made the traditional human rights movement reluctant to engage with the North Korean human rights issue?

How could such a committed and passionate champion of human rights in domestic arena have been so seemingly reticent toward it? This is rather a perplexing question prompting a point-blank question: Why on earth did they sleep? Several explanations based on structural, institutional, ideational, and psychological premises are critically examined.

Hyo-Je Cho is professor of social science at SungKongHoe University of Seoul and currently guest professor at Free University of Berlin. He teaches sociology of human rights, civil society and democracy. Cho has extensively written on these subjects with numerous authored monographs, edited books and translations. Among them are "A Grammar of Human Rights" (2007) and "Human Rights and Civic Activism in Korea" (2005). He was closely involved with the creation of the National Human Rights Commission of South Korea and a member of the Policy Committee of the Justice Ministry overseeing the penal reform. Dr. Cho studied at Oxford University and the London School of Economics (LSE), and was Visiting Fellow at Harvard Law School.

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