Imago Dei and Human Rights: A North Korean Case Study

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In this article, I examine the significance of the theological concept of Imago Dei for shaping social structures to protect the human rights of trafficked stateless women. My case study will consider North Korean stateless women who had been trafficked in China and who currently reside in South Korea. The victims lived as stateless persons during their stay in China. Even after their escape to and arrival in South Korea, they have continued to suffer from the long-term impacts of trafficking. I explore the types of social transformation that are necessary for these North Korean victims’ healing and social reintegration in South Korea. I first examine Imago Dei as a theological concept that grounds the fundamental dignity inherent in all human beings. I explore how Imago Dei serves the role of public theology by critiquing the unjust social structures that exacerbate human rights violations faced by migrants, and furthering social transformation. I engage with the primary literature dealing with Catholic social teaching on human dignity and human rights. I then investigate the maladjustment and human rights violations faced by North Koreans after their arrival in South Korea, and the social structures that exacerbate their difficulties. I employ academic journals and books that contain theoretical, historical, and empirical data about this population. Semi-structured interviews with eight North Korean women who were trafficked in China and who currently reside in South Korea were conducted. Finally, I explore how the implications of Imago Dei can provide justification and motivation for the protection of North Korean women's human rights. I also make suggestions for possible institutional changes that could be pursued by the South Korean government and non-governmental organizations to support North Korean trafficked women's resettlement in South Korea and to guarantee their human rights.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-183
Number of pages18
JournalTheology Today
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jul

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies


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