Contentious Diffusion of Human Rights: Evidence from South Korean Print Media, 1990-2010


Jeong-Woo Koo, Sungkyunkwan University, and Sookyung Kim, Korea University

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Abstract: The current scholarship on the human rights diffusion is not well equipped to account for the remarkable dynamics that are notable in the cycle of diffusion in a national society. Our alternative model seriously considers contestation as an intrinsic element in the process of diffusion; this contentious diffusion might stem from complex domestic processes coupled with local cultural responses, political disagreement, and ideological competition. To support these claims, we code and analyze 2,134 newspaper articles that appeared in South Korean print media during the period between 1990 and 2010. Notwithstanding strong evidence pointing to a remarkable diffusion of human rights in South Korean media in the 1990s, the boom period came to an end from the mid-2000s, substantially slowing down human rights coverage as well as making its overall tone increasingly negative. The findings from the South Korean print media lend support for the existence of a dynamic cycle of human rights diffusion, and the need to identify the causal pathways leading to the contentious diffusion of human rights.

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