[Meet the CSOs] Hyunchan Jung, Head of the Policy                                           & Research Team, Human Asia

Hope to become a focal point in forming a human rights protection system in Asia and to continue to expand its network

Hyunchan Jung, Head of the Policy & Research Team, Human Asia

Hyunchan Jung, Head of the Policy & Research Team of Human Aisia, conducting an interview with KEN / July 28, 2020.
PHOTO / Human Aisa

Human Asia, founded in 2006, is a human rights advocacy and development cooperation organisation. Human Asia conducts human rights advocacy activities and campaigns to improve human rights conditions in Asia, on-site activities to provide humanitarian assistance, networking and solidarity with human rights experts, and education and training programs to foster youth human rights activists in an effort to contribute to the establishment of regional human rights protection system that is lacking in Asia.

Featured this month is

Hyunchan Jung, an activist who is also a member of the Steering Coalition of the KEN, and listened to his thoughts on Human Asia and as an activist. 

What kind of organization is Human Asia and what area of activity have they been recently focusing on?

Human Asia is a non-profit civil organization registered under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has the authoritys to negotiate with the public affairs bureau of the United Nations and initiate activities on issues related to human rights. In order to establish a unified human rights protection system – which does not yet exist in Asia - Human Asia helps raise awareness and promote education programs on human rights in Asia. 

Human Asia regularly holds human rights forums involving activists from diverse areas. The Asia Human Rights Forum, which will mark its 13th anniversary this year, is an annual international human rights forum that provides a platform for exchange among international organisations, government, academia, and civil societies. It is quite large in scale and has had a positive effect on civil society-led human rights forums.

These regular international human rights forums can create transnational networks in which  activists with specialized capabilities can work together towards common goals. We can effectively form social expectations and apply pressure through such events to put into effect the major strategies of Human Asia.

Since 2017, Human Asia hosted the Asia Human Rights Forum on Business and Human Rights. In line with the rapid spread of management on human rights at Korean public corporations and institutions, Human Asia established the Asia Business and Human Rights Center (ABHRC) in May this year. The purpose of this Center is on building a database of internal and external data related to the field, and to create a win-win community where various stakeholders can share and consult each other on useful information other based on the transnational network spearheaded by Human Asia.

Corporations and Human Rights may be an unfamiliar combination, but unlike corporations and Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporations and Human Rights emphasizes the role of both the state and corporations in enhancing human rights across society. In addition, Corporations and Human Rights emphasizes a management system that respects the human rights of key stakeholders, including workers and suppliers, in the course of business activities.

In the Republic of Korea, the protection of human rights has been included as an important management evaluation factor for public entities and is spreading very quickly. We are working on advising and raising awareness about this as there is still confusion amongst companies and human rights centers in Asia. We also seek to gradually expand human rights-based development cooperation activities in Asia.
 

Professor Changrok Soh attended the 12th Asia Human Rights Forum (fourth from the left of the upper row) / 2019
PHOTO / Human Asia

What is Human Asia's differentiated strategy for raising awareness and engaging citizens?

Civic groups dealing with general human rights, like Human Asia, are not very common in Korea.

Human Asia hopes to become a focal point in forming a human rights protection system in Asia and to continue to expand its network. It is also our strategy to take joint action within the network of activities of various organizations in Korea for human rights advocacy.

 

For example, hosting the Korea Refugee Film Festival, which is held to improve the awareness of refugees among Koreans, starting with World Refugee Day.

Homepage of Korea Refugee Film Festival, 2020
PHOTO / Human Asia
The live streaming talk show with UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Woosung Jung on the sidelines of the Korea Refugee Film Festival (KOREFF)
PHOTO / Human Asia

What made you become a civil activist, and what is your definition of a civil activist?

While majoring in IR (international relations) in college, I became interested in international law, human rights systems, and related topics. I believe that civic groups are at the forefront of the government’s push for any changes within a system or issue, and that they are relatively free from conflict of interest.

 

I was particularly interested in women’s rights, which led to my internship at the Korean Women’s Associations United (KWAU). I was surprised and happy to see that the slogan ‘성평등이 민주주의를 완성한다’ which translates to ‘Feminism Perfects Democracy’ was still being used. I also interned at the United Nations in New York and got to see first hand how civic groups can influence international organizations when the United Nations adopted agenda proposed by civil societies.

 

Working for a civic group is not easy, but it has a lot of attractive characteristics. I am continuously learning and studying while exploring topics of interest. Civic groups do not always have a positive image so paying close attention to what you say, how you word things, and having a heightened sense of sensitivity helps one evolve.   
 

Is there a European civic group that you would like to benchmark or work with?

Finnwatch is a European civic group that I have been interested in lately.

 

It is a Finnish civic group specializing in corporate accountability and human rights. This organization coordinated the first line campaign (#ykkösketjuun campaign) to push legislation for Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence (mHRDD) in Finland.

 

They are known for influencing the direction taken by  the Finnish government regarding policies, by attracting corporate participation and making clear the role of labor unions, international organizations and civic groups. But above all, Finland is pushing for a bill to mandate the due diligence of human rights. It was impressive to see Finnwatch influence legislation to mandate the due diligence of human rights and the cooperation between various stakeholders into a campaign with a broad network.

SNEHA India Teachers’ Empowerment Workshop (Human Rights Education)
PHOTO / Human Asia

Currently in the Republic of Korea, public entities are implementing the implementation of human rights but it has only been a short while since the first development and distribution of the human rights manuals for public institutions in 2018. I believe it will be a good reference for South Korea as we look to introduce a bill requiring human rights due diligence, and to hold successful events and have voices be heard.

 

Although Finnwatch is not widely recognised in the Republic of Korea and there may well be political, economic, social and geographic differences between Finland and South Korea, it would be nice to look at Finland as a case study. I am curious to know more about how relevant organizations, citizens and non-profit organizations cooperated for the introduction and adopt of legislation, and institutionalized corporate social responsibility. I look forward to finding some of the answers to my questions through active participation in the Korea-EU Civil Society Network (KEN) program

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