Jude Lal Fernando – « Rethinking Human Security »

Jude Lal Fernando – « Rethinking Human Security in the Korean Peninsula: Practicing Just Peace »


A military solution to the conflict in the Korean peninsula where the USA, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and North Korea are directly involved will result in an unprecedented catastrophe of a global scale. Nevertheless, the stated aim of the competing national security paradigms of each of the main actors who are preparing for war is stability and security in the region.

The main aim of this article is to highlight how the joint peacemaking efforts of North Korea’s Korean Christian Federation (KCF) and South Korea’s National Council of Churches of Korea (NCCK), building on the WCC’s notion of Just Peace, provide resources to critically rethink the ways in which human security has been conceptualized and practiced. It is necessary to reflect on these courageous and little-known efforts of these churches, amidst the noisy beating of war drums that claim to establish human security. 

The concept of human security emerged in an initial narrow sense, as a UN discourse related to protecting citizens from lethal attacks by the state, quickly becoming an instrument for military interventions in the name of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) led by the powerful actors of the international community and their allies. Similarly, human rights discourse, which emerged to secure the rights of citizens, has been utilized to plunge millions of North Koreans into starvation through embargos and to justify further militarization of the region with the intention of changing the regime in North Korea.                            

The latter has mobilized popular support from its citizens for its ICBM program by highlighting US military supremacy and military interventions. South Korean political scientist Suh Bo-hyuk notes: 

From the time of ‘the division of the Korean peninsula, which precipitated the Korean War as a civil war of national reunification, to the present, the United States has been continuously invested in the maintenance of an ongoing state of hostilities on the Korean peninsula.[1]

Human security has come to be enshrined in UN documents in a broader sense, upholding not only freedom from war and violence but also freedom from want. However, in practice, it is neoliberal governmentality that has been imposed with the stated aim of freeing citizens from poverty—the vital core of the human person has thus been reduced to the individual who is portrayed as a bundle of needs and wants. In this sense, human security is meant ‘to empower[individuals] to act on their own behalf’[2]. A regime change in North Korea is envisaged by the USA and its allies not only for strategic purposes in East Asia but also as a means to full incorporation of the country into neoliberal governmentality as it has happened in many post-conflict/post-war countries.

[1] Suh Bo-hyuk, ‘The militarization of Korean Human Rights: A Peninsular Perspective’, Critical Asian Studies, 46:1 (2014), 003–014p. 8.

[2] Commission on Human Security, Human Security Now. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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