DOI: 10.12924/johs2015.11010045 |Publication Date: 14 December 2015

Redefining Human Security for Vulnerable Migrants in East Asia

Jiyoung Song
School of Social Sciences, Singapore Management University, 90 Stamford Road, Singapore
Abstract: This article proposes human security as an analytical framework to understand the current trends of irregular migration (both forced and unauthorised) in East Asia and revisits the seven pillars of human security defined in the 1994 Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It explains how the concepts of human security are parallel to those prescribed in international human rights conventions but different in terms of the attitude towards states. Human security does not directly challenge state authority and adds a sense of urgency and moral authority that requires extra-legal measures by the states. The author argues that human security is the securitisation of human rights and is a better framework and policy discourse than human rights to engage with state and non-state actors, especially in East Asia where political leaders are more receptive to the former idea. The study draws examples from stateless Rohingyas, undocumented sex workers in Thailand and Singapore, trafficked brides from Vietnam and Cambodia, and smuggled North Korean refugees in China to demonstrate the nexus between human security and irregular migration.

Keywords: human security; East Asia; trafficking; smuggling; asylum; undocumented migrants


2012 - 2024 by the authors; licensee Librello, Switzerland. This open access article was published under a Creative Commons Attribution License (