Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor, Political Science, Northeastern Illinois University

Sangmin Bae is a professor of political science at Northeastern Illinois University (Chicago, IL). She received her BA and MA in political science from Ewha Womans University (Seoul, Korea) and her PhD. from Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN). She teaches and does research in the areas of human rights, human security, international norms, and East Asian politics. She has published in various journals including Comparative Politics, International Journal of Human Rights, Asian Affairs, Pacific Affairs, International Politics, and Human Rights Review, among others. She is the author of When the State No Longer Kills: International Human Rights Norms and Abolition of Capital Punishment (SUNY Press, 2007) and Human Security, Changing States and Global Responses: Institutions and Practices (Rutledge 2015).

Award Information

Abe Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Assistant Professor, Political Science, Northeastern Illinois University
Human Security in East Asia: Japan Leading the Way?

Since the United Nations Development Program first suggested a broader and more comprehensive formulation of security in its 1994 Human Development Report, a new concept of human security has attracted considerable attention in international relations. Characterized by a shift from the state to the individual as the primary referent of security, this new paradigm sees human rights and sustainable development as central to national and international security. In much of East Asia, however, human security is a less influential part of governmental policy and practice. Surrounded by the major powers pursuing their respective interests or being a rising world power itself (in the case of China), most governments still advocate traditional security paradigm emphasizing the conventional military means as the best way of responding to threats. In this security environment in East Asia, Japan seeks to carve its own international security and diplomatic niche. Adopting the principle of human security as a pillar of foreign policy and widely using human security language in official policy documents, Japan has been one of the most seminal proponents for human security while it has become the largest donor to the international campaign for human security. Why has Japan been far more active than its neighboring countries in human security campaigns and tasks? What role does the United States play in Japan's human security foreign policy? What role does the United States play in Japan's human security foreign policy? Will Japan remain as a unique outlier in East Asia or will this country have others in the region follow in embracing human security principles and policies? The purpose of this research project is to assess the morally applaudable but politically controversial nature of Japan’s human security roles. In so doing it seeks to address what Japan’s human security leadership means for future regional cooperation. More specifically, this research seeks to discuss the following four issues. First, it discusses the lack of general acceptance of human security discourse and practice among East Asian governments. Second, it traces the origins of human security thinking in the Japanese government. Third, it identifies the impact of the US – Japan alliance on Japan’s human security role. Fourth, it foresees if Japan’s human security foreign policy will remain as a regional outlier or if it is possible that other East Asian countries can follow in the footsteps of Japan ultimately making human security a regional norm. I expect this project to be of intellectual merit to security studies for the following reasons. First, existing research on human security focuses mostly on why and how international norms of human security influence the actions of states. It, however, relatively lacks an analysis on why these norms are influential in some regions but not in others. This project, explaining East Asia’s lack of human security thinking and highlighting Japan’s divergence, seek to fill the gap. Second, while human security has generated a great deal of interest among researchers and practitioners as “a new measure of global security and a new agenda for global action,” a discussion as to who contributes what and why has not developed. This research project attempts to fill this gap by addressing Japan’s specific leadership role in human security its significance in international relations. Third, this project will advance interdisciplinary perspectives as it expands its analysis of the construction of security beyond military threat. Multidisciplinary understanding of security will involve a number of research fields including development studies, human rights, peace studies, international relations, and diplomacy.