More Than Words: Legal Activism and the Prevention of Torture in South Korea

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 09:00
Oral Presentation
Chan SUH, Boise State University, USA
Past studies have identified the global spread of human rights norms and waves of democratization as two major forces leading to the protection of human rights. Less well-known is the process of how legal professionals exploit these macro-level opportunities to promote human rights. In this case study of torture in South Korea, I use a process-tracing method to suggest that the practice of torture disappeared only through the persistent efforts of legal professionals to establish a rule of law under the new democratic governments. Specifically, I identify three legal reforms initiated by judges and lawyers after the democratization of South Korea to enhance transparency and accountability within interrogation practices: the independence of judiciary, the guarantee of lawyers’ participation in criminal proceedings, and the establishment of the Human Rights Commission. The results offer important implications for understanding how human rights activism by legal professionals can lead to the prevention of human rights violations in new democracies.