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

2 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


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


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