Abysmal Human Rights in North Korea

Apr 28, 2018

“North Korea is one of the most repressive and abusive regimes in the world,” declared John Sullivan, who at the time served as Acting Secretary of State at the release of the State Department's annual Human Rights report. “The Kim regime systematically neglects the well-being of its people to underwrite and fund its illicit weapons programs via forced labor, child labor, and the export of North Korean workers.”

The people of North Korea faced egregious human rights violations by the government in nearly all reporting categories including, extrajudicial killings. During the year a defector reported being pulled from school to witness the public execution of 11 musicians accused of making a pornographic video. The defector described a brutal process including antiaircraft artillery, used to kill the prisoners, and tanks, which were used to run over the bodies postmortem.

The North Korean government reportedly executed individuals for sleeping during patriotic events.

North Korean defectors and North Korea human rights organizations. (File)
North Korean defectors and North Korea human rights organizations. (File)

Defectors also reported that the government carried out infanticide in cases of political prisoners, persons with disabilities, and where the mother was repatriated from China.

Numerous defector accounts and NGO reports described the use of torture by authorities in several detention facilities. Methods of torture and other abuse reportedly included severe beatings; electric shock; prolonged periods of exposure to the elements; humiliations such as public nakedness; and confinement for up to several weeks in small “punishment cells.”Mothers were in some cases reportedly forced to watch the infanticide of their newborn infants.

While the total number of political prisoners and detainees remained unknown, the 2017 KINU white paper reported that the state detained between 80,000 and 120,000 in the prisons known as kwanliso. NGOs and media reported political prisoners were subject to harsher punishments and fewer protections than other prisoners and detainees. The government considered critics of the regime to be political criminals. Defectors noted they did not expect many prisoners in political prison camps and the detention system to survive.

America will continue to impose consequences on those who abuse human rights, said Mr. Sullivan.“No human rights abuser, no matter where in the world, is out of our reach,” including North Korea.