Guest Blog Posts


2. Here are two more articles written by Professor Morse Tan about the situation in North Korea.

The first is a topic near and dear to my heart – transitional justice in Korea! As I was writing my LLM thesis, Professor Tan’s article, Finding a Forum for North Korea, was the first article I found that really spoke to me. It was also the first time I realized someone (much more knowledgeable and talented) had already written about the topic. Please read this article if you’ve found yourself wondering what might happen when the Kim regime falls, or if you’re interested in learning more about transitional justice, in general. Finding a Forum For North Korea

And for those of you interested in the nuclear discussions:  NK Nuclear Crisis: Past Failures, Present Solutions.


1. thebearandthetiger’s first guest contributor is Professor Morse Tan. Professor Tan is an expert on North Korea and has published many insightful and important articles about North Korea. Some of them will be published here to allow easy access to his scholarly work.

The first essay featured here is called, A State of Rightlessness: The Egregious Case of North Korea. “This essay proposes to expound on the major violations of human rights in North Korea together with the context that makes such violations possible.”


In the midst of the important discussion of geopolitical security concerns regarding nuclear weapons, the stifled cry of the North Korean people, whose rights have been grossly and systematically trampled upon, pleads for redress. The egregious conditions and unthinkable treatment of the North Korean people by their own government exclaims for worldwide attention. The dictatorships of Kim Jong-Il and his father Kim Il-Sung who reigned before him have defied treaties entered into throughout the international community and have made decisions that focus purely on the gain of the government to the extreme detriment of its citizens.

Media attention regarding these violations has been weak albeit improving. For instance, the United States news sources appropriately informed us about the plight of American journalists in North Korea (who have since been returned); yet not much attention focuses upon the astonishing absence of a free press, free speech, and free-association rights inside North Korea. Media outlets readily cover North Korea’s missile launches, but do not provide such coverage for the concentration camps that can stun even the calloused of heart. The story of North Korean counterfeiting U.S. currency makes for a fine news headline, yet the wrenching narratives of refugees who are sent back to North Korea to face cruel torture, unrelenting labor on less than subsistence rations, and possible execution receive all too little recognition.

The story of Robert Park briefly increased international awareness of human rights violations in North Korea. Park, a courageous man who sought to increase worldwide attention to the human rights atrocities in North Korea, knowingly put himself at risk by walking into North Korea with requests for Kim Jong-Il and other top leadership to desist from their human rights abuses and step down from power. After enduring severe abuse in prison, he was released in February 2010 after spending forty-three days in North Korean custody.[1]

This essay steps into the relative dearth of popular and legal academic treatment to analyze this egregious state of rightlessness (an intentional neologism) and concludes with reflections upon possible judicial redress options. Experts in the human rights field have averred that the human rights situation in North Korea is the worst in the world.[2] The North Korean government denies any human rights abuses, insisting “that ‘there is no human rigths [sic] problem in North Korea.'”[3] This academic work challenges this outright denial by providing an analysis of various human rights abuses persisting north of the most heavily armed border in the world.

North Korea epitomizes and seems to justify the “realist” view of international relations in terms of how it operates. As such, North Korea acts as if neither international law, nor the international treaties it has already ratified, apply to it. Pacta sunt servanda does not constitute North Korea’s modus operandi. Furthermore, North Korea does not allow itself to be accountable to any other country or international organization; rather, it clings only to its own oppressive sovereignty.

Along these lines: “North Koreans claim that ‘”Human rights is [sic] unthinkable apart form [sic] national independence, and what imperialists call rights is their power to do whatever they please; thus, the biggest enemies of human rights are the imperialists who intervene in other states‟ internal affairs under the pretense of protecting human rights.’”[4] The claim that human rights is unthinkable is accurate when put in another context: the current state of rightlessness for many North Koreans causes a bleak sense that under the present government, human rights do seem unthinkable because the government has deprived them of their most basic human rights. The accusation against “imperialists” of “doing whatever they please” actually provides an apt description of Kim Jong-Il, the self-styled Dear Leader, who does whatever he pleases. Unfortunately, doing whatever he pleases for Kim Jong-Il and his “elite” includes massive and egregious violations of human rights, especially against those in the country he rules with an iron fist.

Contrary to the constant denial of the North Korean government, this essay seeks to help establish the case for this state of rightlessness, the egregious case of North Korea. It lays the foundation for a subsequent article regarding judicial redress of these gross and systematic violations of human rights. Before any need for judicial redress raises itself for consideration, the case that cries out for such a forum must receive delineation: this essay proposes to expound on the major violations of human rights in North Korea together with the context that makes such violations possible.

[1] Adam Gabbot, U.S. Human Rights Campaigner Freed by North Korea Returns Home, Guardian, Feb. 7, 2010, park-north-korea-home.

[2] See generally David Scheffer & Grace Kang, Editorial, North Korea’s Criminal Regime, N.Y. TIMES, July 7, 2006, edkang.2131969.html; Stephanie Ho, VOA News, Freedom House Calls for Action on North Korean Human Rights Violations, US FED NEWS, June 6, 2007. North Korea is also included in the report by Freedom House titled The Worst of the Worst 2010: The World‟s Most Repressive Societies, available at special_report/88.pdf.

[3] Sung-Chul Choi, Human Rights in North Korea in the Light of International Covenants, in INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA 53, 56 (Sung-Chul Choi ed., 1996) (quoting a statement by Nam-Joon Paek in 1993 at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna).

[4] Id. at 55 (quoting Kim Jong Il, Socialism is a Science, RODONG SHINMOON [THE LABOR NEWSPAPER], Nov. 4, 1994).


2 thoughts on “Guest Blog Posts

  1. Pingback: Check out thebearandthetiger’s first guest post by Professor Morse Tan! | thebearandthetiger

  2. Pingback: Two more articles by Professor Morse Tan are now up on the “Guest Blog” page! | thebearandthetiger

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