Currently ruled by Kim Jong-Un and the Worker’s Party of Korea, North Korea is one of the most oppressive countries in the world. Its leaders and government are adamant about isolating the country to ensure loyalty to North Korea and its communist way of life. In order to do this, many human rights are stripped from individuals living there. Although it is difficult to understand everything about the country given the secrecy and protection that is enforced, there are certain things about human rights in North Korea that have been uncovered.
Here are 10 facts about human rights in North Korea.
- Unauthorized access to media is prohibited, such as non-state radio, newspapers or unapproved TV broadcasts. North Koreans face severe punishments if they are found accessing such material.
- A large majority of North Koreans are forced to participate in unpaid labor at some point in their lives. The government does this to maintain control of its people as well as sustain the economy. In 2014, a former teacher from North Korea escaped and told officials that his school forced students, aging from 10 to 16, to work every day to produce funds to uphold the school, make a profit and pay government officials.
- Citizens of North Korea are divided into three classes based on their loyalty to their “Dear Leader.” The highest class is “core,” followed by “wavering” and ending with “hostile.” The “core” is filled with the most dedicated citizens, whereas the “hostile” contains members of minority faiths, in addition to descendants of alleged enemies of the state. The majority of the wealth resides among the “core,” while the “hostile” group is often denied employment and is even subjected to starvation.
- Citizens of North Korea are often forced to spy on one another, including family members, and they must report any disloyalty they find. The government enforces this through what is called the Ministry of People’s Security. If someone is heard being at all critical toward the government, they will likely be reduced to a lower loyalty group rating, and could be tortured, imprisoned in a concentration camp or possibly even executed.
- Traveling is heavily restricted in North Korea. Citizens caught trying to flee or travel outside of the country may be given the death penalty.
- Except among the ruling class, malnutrition is almost universal because of the restrictions on the lower class. The average seven-year-old in North Korea is about eight inches shorter than the average seven-year-old in South Korea.
- North Korea has 10 active concentration camps that people can be placed into at any time for any crime deemed severe enough. It is believed that between 200,000 to 250,000 prisoners currently reside within them. The conditions in the camps are horrific and have an estimated annual casualty rate of 25 percent.
- The government of North Korea has no due process system, which means it can torture, imprison and execute prisoners whenever it believes it is necessary.
- Anyone who is participating in religious activities that are outside of the state’s permission will have similar consequences to those mentioned above, including imprisonment, torture or execution.
- The North Korean regime attempts to keep disabled citizens hidden from the majority of the population, and they are banned from the capital of North Korea, Pyongyang. Some disabled children are even killed after birth.
In consideration of these facts about human rights in North Korea, it is clear that rights of the citizens are extremely limited. However, although human rights in North Korea may be lacking, there has been some improvement. North Korea’s leadership has ongoing engagement with U.N. human rights treaty bodies. These include the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women.
Committees like these and other organizations are constantly working to spread awareness and improve human rights conditions within North Korea. Further progress is needed in order to dramatically change living conditions in the country, but it is fortunate that measures are already being taken to improve the rights of North Koreans.
– McCall Robison