Human Rights in South Korea: Fault Lines and Frontiers

This paper maps out current challenges for human rights and the human rights movement in South Korea. It argues that, while recent political developments in the country may appear to give us reason for optimism, they also mask fault lines that the human rights movement must address, including issues surrounding gender rights, LGBT rights, and economic inequality. Some of these fault lines, such as those triggered by widening economic gaps, are consonant with global challenges for human rights. Others involve dynamics that are specific to Korea. Important among these is the complex relation between the twentieth-century democracy movement in Korea and the contemporary human rights movement. The paper concludes with some tentative recommendations for the latter.

Social Rights of Non-Nationals and Constitutional Values in a Diverse Society

In 2017, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recalled that all people, including asylum-seekers and refugees, as well as other migrants, under the jurisdiction of the State concerned should enjoy the Covenant rights. This statement was adopted against the backdrop of large movements of refugees and migrants and many barriers for them to access to public health care, adequate housing, education, and essential social security. With the influx of migrants and refugees, South Korea has also become an increasingly multi-ethnic society. However, only nationals are entitled to social rights in the constitution. Even progressives are divided in the constitutional amendment debate about whether the guarantee of social rights should be extended, in principle, to all residing in the territory. This paper discusses that Korea needs to revisit its Constitutional values in multi-ethnic society, with a view to enhancing solidarity with inclusion.

Non-Citizens’ Rights and Judicial Review for Inclusive Democracy

Citizenship still defines boundaries of political membership and democratic participation in most states. On the other hand, many constitutions acknowledge certain, if not all, basic rights for non-citizens and enable them to challenge law or government actions when those rights are violated. Democratic theories do not require excluding those persons subject to law based on their nationalities. Democracy can and should take more inclusive and transnational forms to adhere to its principles. Participation of non-citizen rights holders in norm-making processes through judicial review can play an effective role in this transformation. Examples in this paper show that constitutional rights review empowers disfranchised individuals by providing them with an institutionalized way of democratic participation other than voting. The cases also suggest a way how international human rights and constitutional law can work together in concertizing rights of individuals in transnational situations.

Brexit: Constitutional identity as an obstacle to multilevel governance?

The UK’s planned exit from the EU is a constitutionally momentous decision. Significant constitutional questions regarding the causes and consequences can be raised. One important aspect is the constant undercurrent of British constitutional dissatisfaction with supranational multilevel governance. Key questions are the following: First, why has EU multilevel governance been perceived as a threat to British constitutional identity? Second, why is the UK currently confronted with domestic confusion over the constitutionally appropriate procedures for Brexit? Third, whether the UK eventually leaves the EU or not, has the time come for the UK to adopt a codified constitution? Faced with uncertainty over the UK’s future international standing, it may become imperative for the UK to operate within systems of multilevel governance, and relevant constitutional hurdles have to be addressed.