Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD)


This dissertation study is an examination of transitional justice issues in dealing with human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the context of future unification of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the DPRK. The systemic, widespread, and gross violations of human rights in the DPRK, which have been deemed to entail crimes against humanity, underscoring the urgent necessity of accountability and transitional justice. However, because the DPRK has not been taking any meaningful steps to improve the human rights situation or hold those responsible for human rights violations accountable, a scenario of unification of the two Koreas provides the best if not the only opportunity to properly deal with the human rights violations in the DPRK. Thus it is important to visualize such a scenario and the requirements it would entail for achievement of transitional justice.

Because transitional justice is a challenging process involving formidable tasks, it needs well-thought-out approaches and preparation. Transitional justice needs to be designed based on a deep understanding of context and planned comprehensively to redress victims effectively. Thus, in this dissertation the unique context of the ROK and the DPRK and some critical guiding principles for transitional justice are examined, including discussion of how a future unified Korea should prepare, design, and implement transitional justice to achieve genuine reconciliation and healing of the society. Specifically, it is argued that a victim-centered approach should be taken as a foundational guiding principle to adequately redress gross and serious human rights violations, with emphasis on the victim’s effective participation. Furthermore, transitional justice design should be based on a comprehensive understanding of the country’s context and needs, reflecting the views of the affected community obtained through consultation conducted in a way that promotes national ownership of the process. At the same time, the transitional justice process of future unified Korea should be designed and implemented in compliance with international norms and standards, taking a comprehensive approach that incorporates various measures to best serve large objectives, with due respect to gender and child status as well as other vulnerable groups.

Available for download on Friday, December 29, 2023