Korea has experienced a drastic transformation in the "rule of law." During the colonization era, it was nearly impossible for Koreans to foster appropriate human rights. The Korean War further seriously damaged the human rights consciousness in Korea. Military governments ruled the country for 30 years, and it was not until the end of the 1980s that democracy returned. In 1998, Dae-Jung Kim who has been persecuted under the former military regime, was elected President and now exemplifies the progression of Korea "from a victim of human rights violations to a human rights leader." Following President Dae-Jung Kim's election promises addressing human rights, representatives of the numerous human rights NGOs gathered and established the National NGO Coalition for the Establishment of an Independent National Human Rights Commission (NHRCK). In 2001, the National Human Rights Commission was finally established under the mandate of the 2001 National Human Rights Commission Act. As an independent national institution with the sole purpose of promoting and protecting human rights, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea has made several remarkable achievements and contributions. This paper argues that just as the civil society movement in 1987 became the tipping point in the democratization process in Korea, the establishment of the NHRCK in 2001 was the tipping point for human rights. While there are still problems in the Commission, it has gradually changed the government's top-down approach toward human rights policy to a more horizontal and cooperative relationship. Overall, the Commission has become an active driver for the promotion and protection of human rights in Korea.
Date of Authorship for this Version
Korea, National Human Rights Institutions
Baek, Buhm-Suk, "Do We Need National Human Rights Institutions?: The Experience of Korea" (2010). Cornell Law School J.S.D./Doctoral Student Papers. Paper 4.