“Habits of the Heart”: Japan’s Shintoism and ‘Lived Human Rights’

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S/N Korean Humanities Vol.6 No.2 pp.63-92 ISSN : 2384-0668(Print)
ISSN : 2384-0692(Online)

Mikyoung Kim
Independent Scholar

Received July 29, 2020; Revised version received August 20, 2020; Accepted August 30, 2020


This paper interweaves Japan’s human rights attitudes toward North Korea with indigenous Shinto religion. Normative claims of universal rights protection demand demystification from a careful contextualization where the norms are confronted with ‘lived’ violations. This research analyzes the way in which abduction of Japanese citizens and Chosŏn school are intertwined against the backdrop of ethnocentric Shinto ethos. This analysis contests the rhetoric that all human beings are equal and born with inalienable rights irrespective of time and places. Shintoism, primary cultural fabric in Japan, justifies ethnic hierarchy and prioritization in responsibility to protect in the name of communal tradition. The rights violation of Chosŏn school and preoccupation with abduction of citizens demonstrate a useful contrast. This research concludes by calling for more studies on subtler manifestation of ‘lived human rights’ as a reflection of religious ethos.

Key Words : Japan, human rights, religion, ethos, Shintoism, North Korea, abduction of citizens, Chosŏn school, Shinzo Abe

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