Human Rights in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan

Human Rights in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan

Human Rights in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan

Human Rights in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan


Ian Neary looks in detail at the history of the introduction of human rights ideas into Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and examines how, and to what effect, state and society have incorporated the specific international standards on childrens' and patients' rights into legal systems and social practice. This comprehensively researched, accessibly written book will be a valuable resource for students and scholars of Asian studies, human rights, sociology and politics.


At the start of the twenty-first century human rights issues permeate most dimensions of political discussion. The foreign policies of many states are judged by their contribution to human rights promotion and aspects of domestic policy are assessed by reference to human rights standards created by international organisations. In the last quarter of the twentieth century international organisations brokered general agreements on human rights, conceived as minimum standards below which we should not allow ourselves to fall, about which there is a growing consensus, if not yet unanimity. However these developments have been accompanied by a degree of dissent from political theorists: ‘human rights are just … what we in Western liberal democracies believe. They are not, as they purport to be, universal or timeless nor do they justify intervention in the practices of others’ (Mendus 1995:16).

Meanwhile some practising politicians most notably, though not exclusively, in China, Singapore and Malaysia have argued that human rights are not compatible with ‘Asian values’ and that human rights diplomacy is an extension of colonial policy by other means.

Attempts to rebut the ‘Asian values’ case have largely proceeded at a high level of generalisation. The aim here is to contribute to the discussion on the role of human rights in Asian societies by delving a little more deeply into the argument. If the discussion so far has proceeded largely at the ‘macro’ level, asking such questions as what is so ‘Asian’ about ‘Asian values’? in what follows we will seek to focus on the ‘meso’ levels, the impact of international standard setting on human rights policies in particular East Asian states and the ‘micro’ level of the understanding and implementation of the rights of children and patients.

Asia itself is a slippery concept, by some definitions stretching from Cyprus to the Cook Islands, and a comparative study which uses qualitative data needs to restrict its focus to a small number of these states to be manageable. Here we will confine ourselves to considering the development and implementation of human rights ideas in Japan, the Republic of Korea (RoK, aka South Korea) and the Republic of China (RoC, aka Taiwan). We will begin with a series of country studies which look at the origins and early

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