nl en

The Discursive Construction of Human Rights: The Case of Korea‡


Admission requirements

This course is available for students of the Humanities Lab
If you have received your propaedeutic diploma within one academic year, your academic results are good and you are a very motivated student, you may apply for a place in the Humanities Lab.


The precise status of human rights in North Korea is a strongly contested topic. While the DPRK human rights situation is so bad it is ‘without parallel’ according to the UN, the DPRK maintains the UN stance is politically motivated and ideologically faulty: the DPRK has its own set of human rights that are not necessarily compatible with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In between these two sharply contrasting discourses, several other discourses on North Korean human rights exist: those constructed by the South Korean state, by NGO’s, by the media, by academics. In this course we will analyse these different discourses and attempt to link them to empirically verifiable realities regarding human rights in North Korea. To this end, we will pay ample attention to the narratives of refugees and exiles from North Korea.

The course consists of five lectures followed by five seminars. The course is capped by group productions of your own discourse on North Korean human rights.

Course objectives

By the end of the course, participants will have the ability to:

  • Reveal the core relationship between the empirical and discursive realities of human rights particularly with regard to the DPRK

  • Critically think and argue with regards to the political implications of research into (the discursive practices regarding) human rights in North Korea

  • Link discourses and narratives regarding human rights to political agendas, in particular with an eye on current international developments

  • Understand the possibilities and limitations of the sources relating to human rights in North Korea

  • Convey intelligently and lucidly the essence of the discourses analysed during the course


Courses of the Humanities Lab are scheduled on Friday afternoon from 13.00 to 17.00.
For the exact timetable, please visit the following website.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

Course Load

This course is worth 5 EC (140 hours):

  • Lectures: 5 x 2 hrs

  • Practical work: 5 x 2 hrs

  • Preparation tutorials: 10 x 4 hrs

  • Study of compulsory literature: 30 hrs

  • Assignment(s):
    weekly critical discussion 4 x 2 hrs
    final assignment 42 hrs

Assessment method


The weekly critical discussions (4 x) are critical 500-word reviews of the lecture of the preceding week.
The final assignment is a joint project in which you will produce your own discourse. The class will be divided in two groups. Each group (7-8 students) will produce a critical argument. One group will argue in favor of the central question (to be announced), the other group will argue against it. The final assignment will take the shape of a multimedia project. Whether this is a video, a website, or something else will be decided in consultation with the instructor. The assessment of each group’s effort will be valid for all group members.


The final mark is determined by:
1. Presence (10%)
2. Weekly critical discussions (40%)
3. Final assignment (50%)


Attendance is compulsory for all meetings (lectures, seminars, excursion). If you are unable to attend due to circumstances beyond your control, notify the Humanities Lab coordinators in advance, providing a valid reason for your absence, and hand in your weekly assignment in writing to the lecturer (if applicable). Being absent without notification and valid reason may result in lower grades or exclusion from the course.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Brightspace will be used for:

  • literature

  • communication with students

Reading list

Will be provided via Brightspace.


Students of the Humanities Lab will be registered via uSis by the administration of the Humanities Lab. More information about registration for courses will be provided on Brightspace.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Lecturer: R.E. Breuker
Humanities Lab office: e-mail


This course is part of the Humanities Lab programme, visit the website for more information.
Visit the Honours Academy website for more information about the Honours College.