Defining the limits of the North Korean human rights act: A security and legal perspective

Jaeho Hwang, Jasper Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The introduction of the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 (HR 4011 or the Act) was hailed by many in the U.S. Congress as a significant and much-needed legislative effort that would substantially improve the human rights conditions of North Korea, considered to be one of the most unpredictable and undemocratic regimes in the world today. The passage of HR 4011 effectively marked a new and notable phase within U.S. foreign policy, in which the issue of human rights was directly linked to the issue of North Korean nuclear non-proliferation in a Helsinki-style framework. Relating to the Act, this paper argues from cross-cultural, security, and legal perspectives that HR 4011 may encounter specific limitations, which may hinder the Act from reaching its stated objectives of furthering "respect for and protection of fundamental human rights in North Korea" and "to promote a more durable humanitarian solution to the plight of North Korean refugees." Although improving human rights is a fundamentally important issue, linking human rights with DPRK nuclear non-proliferation through HR 4011's explicit Helsinki-style approach may exacerbate rather than eradicate North Korean human rights violations as well as the DPRK's ongoing nuclear standoff with the international community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-60
Number of pages16
JournalEast Asia
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The second U.S. legislative act targeting the Iranian regime is seen with the Iran Freedom Support Act (IFSA) of 6 January 2005. Much like HR 3107 and HR 4011, the IFSA also has the additional aims of promoting democracy in Iran through "financial and political assistance (including the award of grants) to foreign and domestic individuals, organizations, and entities that support democracy and the promotion ofdemocracy in Iran and that are opposed to the non-democratic Government of Iran." Much like in HR 4011, such assistance may include the award of grants to eligible independent pro-democracy radio and television broadcasting organizations that broadcast into Iran. Thus evidence exists that the U.S. may be applying a "one-size-fits-all" legislative approach to all regimes viewed as unfriendly to its interests, irrespective ofregion specific considerations (which will be discussed in greater detail in the next section).


  • HR 4011
  • Human rights
  • North Korea
  • Northeast Asia
  • United States


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