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International Relations and Human Rights 2: Refugee Rights, (Plight of North Koreans)

Updated on November 16, 2011
"An image of the Korean Peninsula at night rendered from DMSP observations. The disparity in illumination levels is an indication of the difference in population and energy between the North and South"
"An image of the Korean Peninsula at night rendered from DMSP observations. The disparity in illumination levels is an indication of the difference in population and energy between the North and South" | Source

Refugee rights have been one major national issue that remained overlooked till now. Displaced citizens seek refuge to other countries due mainly of political instability, social upheaval, and cultural differences in their homeland. North Korean refugees for example have been experiencing abused of even the most basic human rights such as domestic freedom, right to practice own religion, and food security among many. The issue regarding refugee welfare must be addressed through the human rights prism. Such concern to address is the wave of refugees who are escaping their country due to economic deprivation. Food shortage and famine in North Korea coupled with the economic collapse of the country have urged some North Korean to seek refuge in China. Second, North Koreans left their country because of human rights violation yet their rights are not better off in China. Most of them suffer abuses from employers, agents and human traffickers. Lastly, and most important of which is the accountability of the international society as to the permanent residence of these refuges. Unable to return from their country of origin, these refugees are entwined and pitted from the web of political and diplomatic limbo (Haggard & Noland, 2006).

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR] has been working to answer the dilemmas and human rights violation of these displaced people. Its main approach to the problem is to honor the rule of law and to pave the road towards peace. The development of peace efforts is to help provide answers to post-conflict societies and guide it towards the path of rehabilitation of the nation. Among the numerous problems face by the UNHCR through this approach are the lack of political will for reform, lack of institutional independence within the justice sector, lack of technical capacity, lack of resources, lack of public confidence in the government, lack of respect for human rights and lack of peace and security. Though peace is signaled through peace treaties, its actual manifestation is not felt overnight. Rebuilding a torn country takes effort that sometimes takes years of hard work. Unfortunately this is not always the case since the path to recovery takes years and even decades before actual progress is even seen or felt (Feller, 2007).

Since this is mostly the case, the focus also shifts to assuring refuge of their rights. Temporary sanctuaries are granted to these displaced individuals while the path to recovery is being assumed to their country. Since the displaced individuals are the marginalized sector—excluded from social, economic, and political power structures, minorities in terms of ethnicity and religion and those who bear the wrath of war and repression, their return is of greatest bearing in the durability and lasting peace. Although forced displacement is at the center of conflict, lingering tension and sporadic violence could be prevented when a symbiotic balance have been restored (Ibid).


The issue of refugee rights is a difficult responsibility to take but UNHCR have been inching its success in assuring protocols regarding the rights of the displaced people. Though the path to recovery is difficult and convoluted, lasting peace efforts will assure that these refugees are still entitled to their human rights. International intervention is definitely of great importance when addressing national issues concerning human rights violation. It provides an avenue for recovery and the much needed help among nations who fail to exercise and provide these very basic human rights.


Feller, E., 2009, ‘Giving Peace a Chance: Displacement and Rule of Law during Peace Building,’ Refugee Survey Quarterly, vol. 28, no.1, DOI: 10.1093/rsq/hdp016, pp. 78-94.

Haggard, S., & Noland, M., 2006, ‘The North Korean Refugee Crisis: Human Rights and International Response,’ U. S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, pp. 1-75


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