For the better part of its modern history, Korea’s approach to human rights has been a difficult issue.1 As a textbook case of a so-called developmental state headed by a series of authoritarian rulers who were obsessed with achieving rapid industrialization and safeguarding the nation from communist aggression, the Republic of Korea was commonly seen by the international community, at least up until the late 1980s, as one of the worst violators of human rights. It was a fixture on the various international human rights groups’ lists of countries with a poor human rights record. Under the political climate of the day, the very term “human rights” had a subversive connotation, for anyone who dared to raise issues about the government’s policy and practice regarding human rights was routinely criticized and even silenced as, at best, idealistic daydreamers impeding the task of economic development or, at worst, communist sympathizers undermining the constitutional order of Korea. Thus, the label “human rights lawyer” almost automatically made one a political dissident, and membership in the Minbyun, the Korean acronym for the Lawyers’ Group for Democratic Society, usually meant a life of constant surveillance and frequent harassment by the authorities.