South Korean Human Rights Monitor

List of Basic Rights

Daniel Corks August 21, 2014

The International Bill of Rights lists and defines the full list of human rights that every person has. Rights can be divided broadly into two categories: civil and political rights; and economic, social and cultural rights.  The following is a summary of these universal rights.
(There are some problems with this type of division. See the notes section below for more details.)


  1. Civil and Political Rights
  2. Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  3. Notes


Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Civil and Political Rights

  • Right to life, liberty and security of person
  • Right to privacy
  • Freedom from slavery and torture
  • Equality before the law
  • Protection from arbitrary arrest, detention or exile
  • Right to a fair trial
  • Right to own property
  • Right to political participation
  • Fundamental freedoms of thought, conscience and religion, and opinion and expression
  • Freedom of peaceful assembly and association
  • Right to take part in the government of one’s country, directly or through freely chosen representatives

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

  • Right to work
  • Right to favourable conditions of work
  • Right to equal pay for equal work
  • Right to form and join trade unions
  • Right to an adequate standard of living (including food, clothing and housing)
  • Right to protection of the family
  • Right to education
  • Right to participate freely in cultural life
  • Right to social security
  • Right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
  • Right to benefit from scientific progress
  • Right to protection of an author’s moral and material interests resulting from scientific, literary or artistic production (ownership and copyright)


There are some reasons for categorizing rights into these types, because of of differences in the nature of how these rights are realized and how much a government needs to be involved to help realize them. That said, the two categories exist like this mostly because of the history of how these rights were first written, not because the two types are fundamentally different from each other.

A more useful way of categorizing rights is not by the nature of the rights themselves, but instead by the groups of people that are often denied these rights. For example, the category of Women’s Rights includes many rights that are very different in nature, such as the right to vote, the right to education and the right to health. It is more often the case that a particular group (e.g. women, migrants, children) are being denied their rights, and much less often the case that the right to education is being denied to everyone equally, so addressing rights violations tends to focus on groups of people, not just on the right itself. This type of categorization is clear from looking at the list of UN special procedures.
Further reading: OHCHR – Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; OHCHR – Key concepts on ESCRs

About Author

Daniel Corks

Daniel worked as an HRM intern before becoming a research fellow at KHRF and taking on the role of editor on the HRM project. He is currently an assistant professor at Dongshin University. View all posts by Daniel Corks →

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