Honglei Cao, Ph.D Candidate
The rising of one-man protest is one of the remarkable developments in recent years in South Korea. Unlike the collective protest (or massive social movement) that already has its long history in South Korea, one-man protest is still very much young. In December 2000, Jonghun Yoon, a member of the largest civil organization named as “People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy”, staged the first one-man protest against Samsung Group and the National Tax Agency. Yoon held a picket in front of the National Tax Agency against Samsung Group’s illegal succession of wealth and claimed that the National Tax Agency should immediately act a special investigation on Samsung’s business tax.
The appearance of one-man protest was not at random. It firstly was used as a convenient method for avoiding the hard-to-get approval permit from the police. The Assembly and Demonstration Act in South Korea defines the term “demonstration” as an assembly of a group of persons associated under a common objective parading along in some public places available for free movement. In other words, any protest activity by only one single person doesn’t require any reporting to the police and is not controlled by the Act in location. Therefore, many South Koreans then walked out to the streets and expressed their concerns and interests in various social and political issues, ranging from people evicted from their apartments to teenagers asked for political rights to vote as adults. One-man protest has already become one of the most commonly used means to express their personal appeals in South Korea.
That such protest would rise in South Korea is not a surprise to all; it reflects the dynamic interactions between the individual and the state as well as the resurrections of “individuality” and public realm after the third wave demonstration in 1980s. Why one-man protest rose so fast in short ten years? What people appeal? What kind of influence does it have on South Korean society? In answering these questions, this paper will utilize Hannah Arendt’s preeminent explanations on public realm (public sphere) to analyze the emergence of the one-man protest as well as its influence during the last fourteen years. Of structure and methodology, this paper will firstly examine the development of one-man protests by using some historical data; secondly analyze its reasons of popularity as well as its impact on South Korean society. Finally, this paper concludes that the rising of one-man protest provides us a grand new perspective to inspect the rise of public sphere in modern South Korea.
Trond Jørgensen, Lecturer
Intercultural Understanding Program
NLA University College, Bergen
Based on research of how some Japanese relate to the first article of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this paper aims to discuss Japanese anthropology (view of Human Nature) in relation to the key concepts of the first article of the UDHR.
The first article states that: ”All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”. How are the claims that we are ”born free”, ”born equal in dignity and rights” and ”endowed with reason and conscience” perceived by the Japanese informants? And how does the demand to ”act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood” relate to Japanese culture?
Confucian philosophy highly influences Japanese culture and society, as the findings confirm. On the basis of my findings it will be discussed how Japanese Confucianism relates to the claims about human nature in the first article of the UDHR.
Silvia Atanassova Croydon, Assistant Professor
Hakubi Centre for Advanced Research
For at least fifteen years, there have been plans to create a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in Japan which would not only have the remit of resolving a range of individual human rights disputes, but also be involved in devising the government’s policies towards minorities and other vulnerable groups. These plans, however, have not come to fruition.
NHRCs have been established in most developed states since 1993, when the United Nations (UN) introduced guidelines for the functions and operation of such institutions. Within the community of East Asia in particular, most countries, regardless of the stage of development, have created an NHRC. Although in the case of authoritarian regimes NHRCs tend to be installed merely as a political badge of honour, i.e. in order to whitewash human rights violations, even there they nonetheless often manage, in collaboration with the UN and other transnational organisations, to deliver tangible results for the human rights cause. In Fiji, for example, the NHRC has been credited with the abolition of the death penalty. In Mongolia and the Philippines, to cite two other examples from the East Asian region, the NHRCs are said to have been instrumental in revising torture laws. Amongst the more developed countries in the region, in 2001, South Korea too joined the ranks of those states equipped with an NHRC that contributes to the civil society there.
Against this background, it is hardly surprising that the developments with regards to the establishment of an NHRC in Japan, where there exist long-standing human rights conflicts, including the discrimination of Buraku, Ainu and Korean minorities, have been followed with interest by both scholars and human rights campaigners. Aside from the potential impact on domestic human rights policies, the issue of whether a Japanese NHRC will emerge is worth following also because of a development on a regional scale. More specifically, a forum within the Asia Pacific comprised of NHRCs – namely, the Asia Pacific Forum of NHRCs – has recently provided a promise to fill the void in Asia with regards to a regional human rights mechanism. Indeed, the forum in question, which has by now come to resemble, in terms of functions, the inter-governmental human rights arrangements of Europe, North America, the Middle East andAfrica, has, since its 1996 inception, expanded to cover most of the region. Japan, however – a key regional player without whose involvement no initiative in Asia could call itself truly regional, has not yet come on board. Clearly, the prospective establishment of an NHRC in Japan could significantly bolster the credibility of this forum, and so following the developments with regards to the creation of such an institution there is important.
With a view to clarifying the future of human rights protection in both Japan and the region as a whole, this paper proposes to examine the progress towards the establishment of an NHRC in Japan. In particular, the paper will discuss the politics surrounding the submission in Diet on two occasions of an NHRC bill, and the challenges lying ahead.
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