Abstract

Abstract:

The question of what to do about North Korean human rights (NKHR) has never been more divisive. Some have explained the division in terms of prioritizing certain rights or movement strategies over others. In this paper, I demonstrate that neither of these explanations is consistent with the last three decades of South Korean public discourse on NKHR. Applying a novel combination of semantic network and discourse analysis on 28,795 South Korean newspaper articles between 1990 and 2016, I arrive at the following argument. The division between NKHR partisans in South Korea is not based on particular stances towards human rights but rather support or opposition to US hegemony and intervention on the Korean peninsula. South Korean partisanship is worth studying as a specific aspect of the NKHR Movement, and because it reflects more generally on NKHR partisanship in the West. We in the NHKR community will be far more effective at improving the actual state of North Korean human rights if we first acknowledge and address our fundamental disagreements over US hegemony and intervention on the Korean peninsula. Lastly, this paper makes a methodological contribution to digital humanities. I use semantic network analysis to visualize partisan dynamics within a corpus of media articles spanning a quarter century. I then sample the most representative articles comprising key network features and use these to conduct a qualitative discourse analysis. It is my hope that future research in Korean Studies will benefit from this complementary application of digital and qualitative methods.

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