Korea University Human Rights Center Hosted the 2019 International Model UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review
-Sets the stage for students from four Northeast Asian countries including South Korea, Japan and China (Hong Kong) to discuss major human rights issues in these countries
-Helps them understand the UN system of human rights protection and the current status of human rights in UN member states across Northeast Asia
-Gives them a chance to develop human rights diplomacy and enhance human rights sensitivity through international cooperation
The Korea University Human Rights Center hosted the 2019 International Model UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review from August 11 to 14 at the Global Conference Hall in KU's Centennial Memorial Samsung Hall.
This year marks the sixth anniversary of the program, which this year was co-organized by the Korea University Human Rights Center, Human Asia, City University of Hong Kong and International Christian University of Japan and was sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, the UN Human Rights Office Seoul, and the Daesan Agriculture Foundation in cooperation with Seinan Gakuin University and Ritsumeikan University of Japan.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council launched in 2008 that reviews human rights issues of all UN member states and recommends actions for improvement every four-and-a-half years. After completing the first (2008-2011) and second cycles (2012-2016), the UPR is now in its third cycle (2017-2021), during which South Korea was reviewed by the UPR in 2008 and 2012. South Korea played a pivotal role in the 2016 UPR session as the chair country.
In October 2013, Human Asia hosted the 1st International Model UN Human Rights Council UPR for undergraduate and graduate students for the first time in Korea in collaboration with the Seoul National University Human Rights Center and Korea Human Rights Foundation. Since 2018, the KU Human Rights Center has co-hosted the program, making it an international event open to undergraduate/graduate students from Japan and Hong Kong as well as Korea.
This year’s event was attended by about 60 people, including students, the jury, and faculty members of the partner universities. On the first day of the program, participants from across the world, including South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Italy, Ecuador, France, Finland and the UK, introduced themselves and had a chance to understand different cultures at the “Social Night” event.
The finals were held for two days, during which the participants experienced the principles of the UN human rights protection mechanism and discussed human rights issues in four major Northeast Asian countries: South Korea, North Korea, China and Japan. In this year's International Model UPR, the participants had in-depth discussions, particularly about the status of the rights of persons with disabilities, children, women, science and technology, and privacy rights, as well as the rights of prisoners and detainees and how to address human rights violations. They also agreed on the need of a human rights protection system for Asia, where there is no system of this kind in place, and had the opportunity to cultivate human rights knowledge and sensitivity.
During the two-day finals, human rights essays were presented following a review of the human rights records of the four countries. The four finalists, who had passed the initial documentation screening, shared their views on human rights issues in South Korea, Japan, China and North Korea, which was followed by a Q&A session. The presenters expressed their opinions as individuals, not as national delegates, exchanging ideas on how to promote human rights in Northeast Asia.
The final jury was composed of human rights experts from home and abroad to ensure fair and professional judgment. The top two teams received the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Award and the UN Human Rights Office Seoul Award. The third-place team was awarded the Korea Academic Council on the United Nations System Award and the fourth-place team won the Co-Organizers' Award. In addition, the Best Teamwork Award was given to all the team members that best represented their country. Furthermore, the human rights essay winner was awarded the Best Essay Award, and the second-, third- and fourth-place essay writers were given Co-Organizers' Awards.
On August 14, the participants visited the Seodaemun Prison History Hall in Seoul to raise awareness of human rights. In the afternoon, a panel consisting of Changrok Soh, professor at the KU Graduate School of International Studies and a UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee member, and officials from the UN Human Rights Office Seoul and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, convened to enhance the students’ understanding of related organizations and structures to help them in pursuing the promotion of human rights in the international community in the future.
Serving as the director of the Korea University Human Rights Center, president of Human Asia, and member of the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, Professor Soh said, “I believe that the International Model UN Human Rights Council UPR will provide the opportunity for participants to understand dynamic Northeast Asian situations and various human rights issues in the region and to seek ways to improve human rights through international cooperation. I hope that this program will become a valuable opportunity for the young people of Northeast Asian countries, future human rights leaders, to discuss global human rights issues, broaden their worldviews and enrich their human rights sensitivity.