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Two Concepts of Human Rights in Contemporary Korea

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Authors
Cho, Hyo-Je
Issue Date
2010-12
Publisher
Institute for Social Development and Policy Research, Center for Social Sciences, Seoul National University
Citation
Development and Society, Vol.39 No.2, pp. 301-327
Keywords
human rights conceptdemocracymaximalistminimalistKorea
Abstract
The paper looks at the emergence of two distinct concepts of human rights in contemporary Korea. The first, more time-tested concept draws upon the historical experience of pro-democracy movements dating back to the 1970s. The second concept is seen to be a relatively new phenomenon which started as a less conspicuous counterdiscourse of human rights of the past but has gained some prominence in recent years. The divergence of the human rights concept along the two different narratives has had ramifications far beyond the confines of domestic human rights promotion. It is argued that the contrasting concepts have evolved and taken shape over the years following the 1987 democratization. Several broad trends and events in the post-democratization period have helped the competing concepts to develop their distinctive contours and to bring their respective policy options into sharper focus. The contributing trends are four-fold: first, the institutionalization of human rights; second, changes in perceived relationship between human rights and democracy, and the proliferation of rights discourse; third, the predominance and penetration of a neoliberal economic doctrine in many spheres of the society; and fourth, the internationalization of the North Korean human rights issue. The corollary of this trend is the bifurcation between the two seemingly irreconcilable concepts of human rights, i.e. the maximalist, civil society-oriented concept versus the minimalist, less liberal internationalist human rights concept. Each of the two has its own share of strengths and weaknesses. The future of human rights in Korea is likely to depend upon the interplay between, and the possible reconfiguration of, these two concepts.
ISSN
1598-8074
Language
English
URI
http://hdl.handle.net/10371/86740
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College of Social Sciences (사회과학대학)Institute for Social Development and Policy Research (사회발전연구소)Development and Society Development and Society Vol.39 No.1/2 (2010)
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