- Policy Information
- Human Rights
- Treaties·International Law
- Development Cooperation
- International Organization
- Human Rights
- Bilateral Economic Relations
- Public Diplomacy
Human Rights Diplomacy
The Republic of Korea (ROK), which has made remarkable improvements within the areas of democracy and human rights in a short period of time, upholds the universal value of human rights as a centerpiece of its foreign policy goals. As a state party to seven core international human rights conventions, including the “UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” and “International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” Korea is earnestly striving to implement the provisions of the relevant conventions at the national level through collaborative partnerships with various stakeholders. In particular, with the special attention to the rights of the vulnerable such as women, children, and the disabled, Korea has achieved substantial improvements in the equal and effective enjoyment of human rights.
Furthermore, Korea has proactively participated in the activities of the UN Human Rights Council and the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, working closely with the international community for the protection and promotion of human rights around the world. In particular, Korea has been actively engaged in the international cooperation for the improvement of human rights in North Korea. It has been a co-sponsor of the UN Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DRPK at the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council since 2008.
UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly
Since its entry into the United Nations (UN) in 1991, the Republic of Korea (ROK) has been actively involved in the work of the key human rights organizations of the UN. Korea was a member of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) since 1993 and contributed to the work of the CHR by working closely with the international community for the strengthening of international human rights mechanisms. Furthermore, Korea, which has been a member of the Human Rights Council (HRC) since its establishment in June 2006, was re-elected to the HRC in November 2015 for the 2016-2018 term. During its tenure, the Korean Government has been actively engaged in discussions on major human rights issues, ranging from the protection and promotion of vulnerable groups to country-specific human rights issues such as the human rights situation in North Korea and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
Besides, Korea places great importance on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism of the Council, which involves a review of the human rights records of all 193 UN member states. The Korean Government has fully engaged itself in the entire UPR process in good faith, including the follow-up to the recommendations. In addition, Korea has been actively participating in the UPR Working Group session, with a view to contributing to advancing human rights and responding to serious human rights situations in a timely manner.
Meanwhile, the Korean Government, sharing the deep concerns of the international community over the human rights situation in North Korea, has been actively engaged in the international cooperation for the improvement of human rights in North Korea. Based upon its basic position that the issue of human rights should be dealt with as a universal value, separate from other issues, the Korean Government has constructively participated in discussions on the human rights conditions in North Korea. In accordance with this position, the Korean Government has been co-sponsoring the resolutions on the human rights situation in the DPRK at the UN General Assembly and the HRC since 2008.
Protection and Promotion of Human Rights of Vulnerable Groups
Korea has continued to advocate and contribute to the global efforts to promote gender equality and empowerment of women.
In 1984, the Korean Government ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which provides a set of obligations of State Parties to end discrimination against women. Until now, the Korean Government has submitted seven country reports for consideration by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Furthermore, it acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention in 2006.
The Korean Government has participated actively in gender-related discussions within the UN system. For instance, Korea has long been serving as a member of the Commission on the Status of Women, a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Korea has also expressed its strong support for UN Security Council resolution 1325 in the Council’s open debates on women, peace, and security. In addition, Korea has co-sponsored resolutions of UN bodies such as the General Assembly and the HRC on the elimination of violence and discrimination against women.
The Korean Government has strongly supported supported the creation of UN Women, the UN entit for gender equality and empowement of women, and was elected as one of the inaugural Executive Board members in November 2010.
From then, Korea continued to participate in the Executive Board until present (current term: 2017-2019) and it also assumed the Presidency of the Board in 2012. Currently, Korea is the 15th largest donor government to UN Women.
Furthermore, the Korean Government strives to contribute to the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goals by providing comprehensive support for girls, who are often one of the most vulnerable groups and also have important roles in promoting maternal and child health of the future generation. In this context, Korea is contributing 200 million dollars over 2016-2020 through its Better Life for Girls Initiative aimed at supporting education, health and empowerment of girls in developing countries. The Framework Act on International Development Cooperation, enacted in January 2010, states that ensuring women’s rights and gender equality should be basic pillars in Korea’s development cooperation. In regard to this, the Korean Government is expanding women-targeted projects and striving to introduce gender mainstreaming in all its aid programs.
Korea is one of the most exemplary cases when it comes to the UN’s efforts to protect and promote children’s rights on a global scale.
A war-torn country in the early 1950s, Korea was a recipient of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that helped children in Korea who survived the disastrous war. Since then, however, there has been a dramatic change. In just a single generation, Korea has become UNICEF’s major donor and a member of the Executive Board, contributing to UNICEF’s policy-making process and projects for children in developing countries.
Moreover, the Korean Government has held annual bilateral meetings with UNICEF since 2004 and signed the ROK-UNICEF Framework Agreement in 2009, paving the way for strengthened international cooperation for the protection of children’s rights.
In April 2017, UNICEF officially launched it Seoul Office aimed at promoting its cooperation with Korea, which has significantly increased its contributions for the children all over the world. The opening of UNICEF Seoul Office demonstrates well the country, a former recipient of international supports in child nutrition and education, has now become a major donor of the core UN agency for protection of children’s rights across the world.
Furthermore, the Korean Government has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1991. It is also a member of UNCRC’s two Optional Protocols.
The international community’s efforts to solve the problem of refugees have been fortified with the need to help the post-World War II refugees uprooted in Europe in the 1950s. As of 2016, the number of Persons of Concern to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) amounts to 65.6 million (among whom about 22.5 million are refugees), and the refugee problem is being protracted due to continuous ethnic and religious conflicts.
In 1992, the Korean Government acceded to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, which are core legal instruments in refugee protection. Korea has so far admitted more than 600 refugees as of late 2016, since it launched the refugee status determination procedure in 1994.
In the meantime, Korea has contributed to global efforts for refugeeprotection ever since it joined the Executive Board of UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) in 2000. In 201, Korea joined the UNHCR "20+ million club", informal forum for donors who contributed more than USD 20 million to the agency. Since the establishment of the UNHCR Representative in Seoul in 2001, cooperation between Korea and UNHCR has been further expanded in protecting domestic and foreign refugees. In 2013, Korea became the first Asian country to enforce the independent refugee act, pursuant to which Korea is providing asylum seekers with protection and social welfare.
Persons with Disabilities
The international community paid special attention to the human rights of persons with disabilities by proclaiming the year 1981 as the ‘UN international Year of Disabled Persons’ and by adopting the ‘World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Person’ in 1982. In addition, the recognition of persons with disabilities as a subject of rights gradually expanded after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in December 2006.
Actively participating in the international efforts on the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities, the Korean government played a leading role in the process of drafting the Convention by regulating the article on women with disabilities (Article 6). Korea ratified the Convention in December 2008 and submitted the initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities in June 2011.
In 2015-2016, for the first time as an Asia-Pacific nation, Korea assumed the presidency of the Conference of States Parties to the CRPD. In this occasion, the Korean government not only successfully presided over the Conference for the 8th and 9th sessions, but also extended and reinforced the network with various stakeholders in the field of human rights of persons with disabilities. In addition, it played a crucial role in making the United Nations more disability-inclusive by contributing to both opening and upgrading the Accessibility Centre at the UN Headquarters. Korea also endeavored to mainstream the rights of persons with disabilities in international discussions on different subjects including development policies such as the SDGs. In 2016, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention, Korea convened multiple side events in an effort to urge the international community to pay more attention to the human rights of persons with disabilities and more actively take steps in protecting and promoting their rights.
Promotion of Democracy
Today, The Republic of Korea (ROK) is seen as an exemplary country that has achieved both democratization and economic growth based on the market economy system in just a single generation. Indeed, it is called one of the most advanced democracies in Asia. Taking advantage of its past experience of democratization, the Korean Government has been eagerly and actively participating in regional and international activities aimed at promoting democracy around the world.
The ‘Community of Democracies (CD)’ is a global intergovernmental initiative of democratic countries that was launched in 2000. As the 2nd largest donor country and a member of the Governing Council that leads the activities of the CD, the Republic of Korea (ROK) has been actively involved in the activities of the CD. ROK hosted the 2nd Ministerial Conference in 2002, and also hosted the ‘International Conference on the Strengthening of Regional Cooperation to Promote Democracy’ in April 2011 as a co-chair of the Working Group on Regional Cooperation, which is one of the six working groups of the CD. Furthermore, ROK has actively participated in the ‘Bali Democracy Forum’, which was launched by Indonesia in 2008 for Asia-Pacific countries to share experiences and best practices in the field of democracy. Receiving the invitation of the Indonesian Government, President Lee Myung-bak co-chaired the 3rd Bali Democracy Forum in 2010 and the 5th Forum in 2015. ROK has also taken part in efforts to promote democracy around the globe by making contribution to the UN Democracy Fund to assist societies in the development of democratic institution and values. Recognizing that the promotion of democracy and the peace and common prosperity of the international society are mutually reinforcing, ROK will pursue its road to a more mature democracy domestically, while actively engaging in the efforts to promote and consolidate democracy at regional and international level. dent Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.