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All too often narrowly focused on the issue of perceived North Korean abuses, human rights on the Korean peninsula should rather be understood against the militarized legacies of national division, a history in which the United States has played no small role. Rather than isolate one or the other of the two Koreas for censure, this article identifies the hostile mutual interdependence of North Korea and South Korea as a starting-point for understanding human rights in both north and south. Arguing for a comprehensive human rights approach, this analysis demonstrates that the military expenses and militarized tensions on either side of the DMZ as well as the conscription of South Korea to the neo–cold war agenda of the United States within the Asia-Pacific region infringes on the Korean peoples’ right to peace. Positing “Korean human rights” as an alternative framework that aims at once to abolish militarism and to improve human rights through peaceful, cooperative, and constructive means, this article contends that any genuine solution to human rights issues on the peninsula entails more than a unidirectional critique. Durable solutions require critical self-reflection and collaboration on the part of both Koreas.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2014-01-02

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