Human rights and the dynamics of inter-Korean relations

Dennis P. Patterson, Jangsup Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While relatively stable throughout the postwar period, inter-Korean relations have been challenged from time to time by events that occurred on the Korean Peninsula or in the Pacific Region. Such events were not uncommon, and, when they occurred, policy makers in Seoul worked to mitigate any negative effects so that stability could be maintained in inter-Korean relations. Recently, however, the issue of human rights has become salient and has had the effect of injecting uncertainty into inter-Korean relations. This may seem somewhat strange since human rights is a positive force in international affairs and most often resisted only by target states and their allies who find such targeting a threat. Despite this, both North and South Korea resisted the targeting of North Korea as a human rights abuser, and this article explains why. Specifically, it shows that Seoul's resistance should have been expected because promoting a human rights agenda in North Korea injects uncertainty into inter-Korean relations and potentially undermines the relative stability that has existed on the peninsula throughout the postwar period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631-656
Number of pages26
JournalKorea Observer
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Human rights
  • Inter-Korean relations
  • Korea
  • North Korea


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