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12 - Discovering Diversity

The Anti-discrimination Legislation Movement in South Korea

from Part III - Mobilizing Rights for the Marginalized

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 April 2021

Celeste L. Arrington
George Washington University, Washington DC
Patricia Goedde
Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul
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Despite more than a decade of repeated recommendations by international human rights bodies to enact comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation, South Korea has not done so. This raises fundamental questions about the conditions under which international human rights mechanisms can affect domestic human rights legislation. This chapter argues that despite the apparent lack of legislative change, Korea’s movement for antidiscrimination legislation successfully brought the international human rights norms of equality and nondiscrimination into Korean society. South Korea has long been regarded as a homogeneous society in which assimilationist forces dominate policymaking and culture. Strong opposition to comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation from conservative Protestant groups paradoxically exposed Korean society’s prevalent but hidden intolerance of diversity, energizing the antidiscrimination movement and increasing the visibility of minorities. This process of “discovering” diversity has catalyzed significant changes in social norms and values, which constitute a critical step toward enacting comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation that embraces all forms of diversity.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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