The "Savage-Victim-Saviour" Story Grammar of the North Korean Human Rights Industry
Source TitleAsian Studies Review
PublisherTaylor & Francis (Routledge)
University of Melbourne Author/sSong, Jiyoung
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsSong, J. (2021). The "Savage-Victim-Saviour" Story Grammar of the North Korean Human Rights Industry. Asian Studies Review, 45 (1), https://doi.org/10.1080/10357823.2020.1764492.
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The article examines how the “human rights industry” has used the narratives of North Korean human rights activists and how actors are connected through their networks from a discourse-network perspective. It focusses on the coverage of the three most-cited North Korean refugee activists in the English-language Western media in recent years – Shin Dong Hyuk, Park Yeon Mi and Lee Hyeon Seo – and analyses their memoirs, public speeches and newspaper articles. The study finds that Western publishers have followed Makau Mutua’s “savage–victim–saviour” story grammar in their portrayal of the North Korean activists’ public discourses and that politically conservative, economically libertarian, ideologically anti-communist and religiously Christian groups have influenced these activists. While the political and material environments provided similar structural conditions for all three activists discussed in this study, there were variations among them in terms of access to resources and their exercise of individual agency. The author argues that by employing the voices and performances of North Korean activists, the human rights industry has played a significant role in strengthening and legitimising the hawkish policy of political conservatives in Seoul and Washington against Pyongyang.
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