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This article describes and analyzes two approaches in South Korean civil society to the issue of human rights in North Korea: a civil and political rights-based approach and an economic, social, and cultural rights-based approach that emphasizes the right to food. By analyzing the relationship between the policy stances of South Korean administrations in respect of North Korean human rights (NKHR) and NGO (nongovernmental organization) advocacy, this essay argues that South Korean humanitarian and human rights NGOs contributed to the adoption of different human rights norms in South Korean society. Since 2000, South Korean humanitarian NGOs separated civil and political rights (CPR) concerns from economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR) concerns and selectively adopted the latter by limiting these human rights to the “right to food.” Under the hard-line policy of the Lee Myung-Bak administration (2008-2012), South Korean human rights NGOs resumed active advocacy targeting the international community by exposing poor CPR situation in North Korea through transnational human rights networks given the CPR approach and this led to the dominance of the CPR approach in South Korean civil society. Thus, humanitarian and human rights NGOs in South Korea narrowed the focus of human rights norms to CPR and this emphasis influenced and shaped the way later political administrations in South Korea viewed human rights issues related to North Korea.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14672715.2014.863578

Publication date: January 2, 2014

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