1THE WORLD’S WORST HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATOR OF POLITICAL RIGHTS AND CIVIL LIBERTIES
The worst of the worst human rights repressive Country
Freedom House, an internationally recognized human rights watchdog, has said that North Korea is one of ‘the Worst of the Worst’ among the 12 worst countries in their report ‘Freedom in the World 2014’.
Freedom House has said that North Korea has been given the worst possible rating of 7 in the political rights and the civil liberties categories.
Freedom House states that ‘political rights’ are the rights that enable all citizens to vote in freedom without interference or pressure from the government or an individual, allow the organization of a party, and express their own intention regardless of origin.
Also, Freedom House emphasizes that all citizens should enjoy freedom of expression, movement, residence, labor, education, religious beliefs, assembly, and association.
North Korean Human Rights violation from the purge of Jang Song-taek
Jang Song-taek, who was second-in-command in North Korea, was purged by his nephew Kim Jung-un on December 2013. The world was amazed at the news of the speedy execution process. The Jang Song-taek purge case sums up the explanation of an abnormal system in North Korea. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pointed out that the Jang Song-taek purge case is a fundamental human rights problem.
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) declared that the ”public execution of Jang Song-taek and his close ally is an offense of International human rights law” in its report in March 2015.
Since North Korea created its Criminal Law and the Code of Criminal Procedure in 1950, they have reformed the laws and regulations many times to date. When they reformed the Constitution and criminal law drastically in April 2009, they organized regulations related to maintaining the system and established new articles related to human rights.
Article 8 of the Constitution, Section 2 that was revised in 2009 defines ”Workers’ profit as protected and their human rights as respected.” It clarifies ‘respect and protection of human rights’ by law for the first time.
However, the Jang Song-taek case reveals that North Korea neither respects a person’s human rights nor follows judicial proceedings.
Meanwhile, North Korea joined ‘the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ on September 14, 1981.
Article 6 of this regulation defines ”Every human has a right to life. This right is protected by law. Nobody deprives their life on their own”.
Article 14 defines ”Every human is totally equal at trials and has the right to be tried by an independent and fair court based on laws”.
North Korea does not follow the international covenant that they joined by themselves without coercion or pressure.
NORTH KOREAN WORKERS ABROAD ARE KNOWN AS ‘MODERN-DAY SLAVES’
They work 12 to 16 hours and sleep 4 hours a day
Almost all workers in the new town construction sites in Qatar work till late at night, even after sunset under lights. They are North Korean workers.
The Guardian estimated that the number of North Korean workers abroad are about 65,000 in around 40 countries in early November 2014, but North Korean human rights organizations estimate that there are around 20,000 North Korean workers in China and a total of around 70,000-80,000 abroad. Notably, it is estimated that the workers abroad have increased 2-3 times since the seizure of power by Kim Jung-un.
According to the report recently released by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, the majority of North Korean overseas workers are toiling in remote areas avoided by locals. Due to excessive workload, they work around 12 to 16 hours a day with 4 hours for sleeping.
Notably, the report pointed out that certain groups of workers are sent to dangerous and difficult places, such as logging sites based on the worker’s origin.
‘The small North Korea’ under strict regulations and surveillance
North Korean workers abroad live under strict regulations and surveillance. One ranger per 20 to 30 workers always follows them. Even if North Korean workers live in the free world, they are completely disconnected from the outside, and their activities are conducted under surveillance. It is like they live in ‘the small North Korea’ because they are fenced in.
A few years ago, 5 North Korean workers died of carbon monoxide at a housing construction site in Russia because the door was locked from outside.
Usually, the contract term of labor is 3 years and workers can’t visit North Korea during the contract. They don’t have any vacation but just 1 to 2 days-off a month.
The lowest class people in Kuwait’s society are known as ‘the trade show of foreign workers’, and are North Korean workers. North Korean workers are sent to Kuwait which is the only flight destination in the Middle East for Air Koryo, the national airline of North Korea, since 1995. Around 4,000 North Korean workers have been working in the Middle East region. (The Chosun Ilbo, Dec 19 2014)
The North Korean government earmarks 120 to 150 dollars a month for workers’ average wages but the workers get only 10 to 15% of these wages. The rest of their wages go to the secret account of Kim Jung-un through Office 39 of North Korea’s Workers’ party, a dollar-procurement organization. Office 39, well known as Kim Jung-un’s private safe, has 17 branches abroad and about 100 trading companies, and manages the business for foreign currency.
The report ‘The reality of North Korea’s dispatched workers abroad’ released by the North Korean Strategy Center in South Korea in December 2014 estimated that there are North Korean workers in around 40 countries who send the North Korean government 150 to 230 million dollars a year.
”The salary is 360 dirham. The actual salary is 1,200 dirham but the government takes 700 dirham and I have to give 100 dirham as operating expenses. Then the rest of it is all I get. (1 dirham=around 30 cents) When I get my salary, I exchange it for dollars and send some of it to my family. I don’t have a personal bank account. I think workers from other countries get 5,000 dirham. In our case, the government takes most of our salary and gives us the rest. Also, they take 100 dirham (forcibly) under the name of operating expenses.” (K, male, United Arab Emirates)
This was how the Kim Jung-un administration could increase luxury items, even though the South Korean government broke off economic cooperation after the Cheonan warship was sunk by North Korea.
North Korea’s treatment and management for North Korean workers abroad violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that North Korea has joined on September 14, 1981.
International Communities in the USA and England have raised concerns about the North Korea’s crime against humanity, especially on the issue of human rights abuses suffered by North Korean overseas laborers. International Society attempts to put pressure on North Korea to join the ILO and the international conventions related to the prohibition of slavery.
NORTH KOREA HAS BEEN THE WORLD’S WORST
HUMAN TRAFFICKING COUNTRY FOR 12 YEARS
The constitution, the gender equality law, and the family law in North Korea defines that women are guaranteed equal rights with men in every sector. Furthermore, North Korea joined the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of discrimination against Women in 2001 and propagates that ”the discrimination against women in North Korea was abolished across a long history”.
Also, North Korea uses distorted propaganda stating that women in North Korea enjoy the best lives since Kim Jung-un appeared and women in South Korea are envious of them receiving benefits from the government through various mass media such as the Rodong Sinmun.
But the U.S. State Department classifies North Korea as Tier 3, as their concern for and management of the prevention of human trafficking is the worst in the Trafficking in Persons Report released in June 2014. North Korea has been classified this way every year since 2003.
According to the testimony from An Hye-kyung, who is a former divisional commander of the North Korea Army Unit 567 nursing company, at a press conference about human rights for woman in North Korea held at the Press Center in Seoul on March 3, 2015, female soldiers in North Korea often give sexual favors as bribes to their bosses for joining the party, and many women realize that they are pregnant after their bellies start to protrude because their menstrual cycles are not regular due to poor working conditions and a lack of sexual education.
According to the report, around 10,000 North Korean women and girls have illegally crossed into China in order to avoid the violation of their human rights. However, these women and girls are often forced into marriage, prostitution or labor in China.
Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, Head of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in People, testified that ”The North Korean government has done nothing to make any effort for the prevention of human trafficking, protection of victims, and offender punishment” at the Senate Foreign Committee hearing in July 2014.
THE KIM JUNG-UN ADMINISTRATION BLOCKS INFORMATION
ABOUT THE INCREASED SUPPRESSION OF THE PRESS
The country where the freedom of information doesn’t exist
The ‘World Press Freedom Index 2014’ released by the international media watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) showed that North Korea is in the 179th place among 180 countries and is ranked at the bottom every year since 2002.
RSF evaluates that the bottom-ranked countries in the World Press Freedom Index including North Korea don’t have freedom of information and are also a black hole of news and information, and a hell for journalists who live in those countries.
Benjamin Ismail, head of RSF, Asia-Pacific, pointed out that North Korea controls the press more strictly than other countries and the functions of the press are paralyzed beyond fundamental independence.
He mentioned that there is evidence of suppressing freedom of the press since the Kim Jung-un administration and North Korea enhances border controls and surveillance and strictly block information from outside the country.
Also, North Korea was ranked 197th among 197 countries in the report ‘Freedom of the Press 2014′ released by Freedom House, an international human rights organization.
North Korea is ranked as the worst country that suppresses the press every year since 1980 when Freedom House started releasing their Freedom of the Press report.
This report said that the media environment in North Korea is the worst in the world since Kim Jung-un tightened his grip on power and their only political party, the Korean Workers’ Party, inspects all the press and severely restricts outside information even if the North Korea constitution guarantees freedom of expression.
Also, it showed that all journalists in North Korea are sycophants to the administration and the media is used for consolidation of national unity and as instruments of propaganda for Kim Jung-un.
The country where the freedom of information doesn’t exist
In the UN Human Rights Council for Universal Periodic Review about North Korea in May 2014, Lee Kyung-hoon, head of the legislation in North Korea Supreme People’s assembly, insisted that N.K constitution guarantees democratic freedom. Article 67 of the North Korean constitution states that the people in N.K have freedom of press, publication, assembly, demonstration and association.
Moreover, Lee Kyung-hoon emphasized that North Koreans can express their opinion through media, newspaper, or magazines on their own opinions under the protection of law.
Meanwhile, a North Korean national human rights report released by Josun human rights on September 13, 2014 said that freedom of the press and publication is an essential adjunct to democracy and all North Koreans have the right to research all information and express and deliver their opinion or thought on their own without permission of the North Korean government.
However, Jang Hae-sung who used to be a reporter and writer in the Korean Central News Agency for 20 years and entered South Korea in 1996 said ”North Koreans know that North Korea’s mass media follows Kim Jung-un’s order as means of propaganda and is not objective.”
North Korea’s constitution guarantees North Korean’s freedom of the press and publication formally. But the press in North Korea disregards original functions and focuses on the instigation of the people for the idolization of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jung-il, and Kim Jung-un.
North Korea’s criminal law diversifies and departmentalizes penalties such as monetary penalties, warnings, and labor without paying for acts of ‘disturbing public order’. It means they will control and manage people strictly. There is nobody who can speak freely except Kim Jung-un.
NORTH KOREAN CHURCH MEMBERS
WILL BE EXECUTED IF THEY HAVE A BIBLE
There is no freedom of religion in North Korea unlike their propaganda’s message
The US State Department upholds North Korea as a Country of Particular Concern through the ‘International Religious Freedom Annual Report 2013’ released in July, 2014.
This report pointed out that North Korea is designated as a Country of Particular Concern for religious freedom since 2001 for suppressing unofficial associations and restricting the right to practice religious beliefs.
Also, the report said that North Korea guarantees freedom of religion by law, but true religious freedom does not exist there and criticized that the North Korean government executes people who converted by attending religious activities, or had contact with foreigners or missionaries secretly.
According to a missionary group, there are about 1,200 churches and 200,000-300,000 Christians in North Korea.
Suppression of Christianity has been getting worse since the Kim Jung-un administration
Article 68 of North Korea’s constitution states that North Koreans have freedom of religion and it is guaranteed by establishing religious buildings and allowing religious ceremonies.
The North Korean government said there are religious facilities such as the Bongsu Church and the Jangchung Cathedral in Pyongyang for believers.
However, North Korea is evaluated as the worst country suffering religious suppression in the world. International missionary group Open Doors, said the religious situation in North Korea is very poor in the ‘World Watch List’ released in January, 2014.
Open Doors said that 70,000 Christians in North Korea are persecuted at confinement facilities such as prison camps of political criminals and offender institutions.
They pointed out that Christians who are caught with a Bible in the border area between North Korea and China are imprisoned or executed, and threats against Christians are growing by strengthening fear politics as was the case with Jang Song-taek, since the beginning of the Kim Jung-un administration.
Also, they said that there is no place for any other religion in North Korea where they worship Kim Jung-un and his ancestors and Christianity is oppressed in daily life.
Aid to the Church in Need, pastoral aid organization of the Catholic Church, released their ‘International Religious Freedom Report 2014’ in November, 2014.
This report which evaluates the reality of religious freedom in 196 countries selected North Korea as one of the 20 countries that persecutes religions severely.
The report said that Kim Jung-un suppresses North Korean brutally and at least 80 North Koreans were executed in November, 2013 because they had a Bible or watched TV, and 2 Christians were killed in January.
One of them got shot while crossing the border to attend a Bible class in China, and another one who went back to North Korea from China after becoming a Christian died from torture and forced labor because the government found a bible.
HELL ON EARTH;
NORTH KOREA’S PRISON CAMPS OF POLITICAL CRIMINALS
A maximum of 120,000 prisoners are confined in 4 to 5 prisons
North Korea denies the existence of ‘prison camps of political criminals’ to purge and isolate the opposition forces in the process of the establishment of political power since the late 1950’s and they use the name ‘Management office unit 00’.
When North Korea started establishing the system of rule of the leader and the succession system of Kim Jung-il in the 1970’s, there were 10 prison camps of political criminals and around 200,000 prisoners until the early 1980’s.
The North Korean government closed 4 prisons expropriating 47,000 prisoners in Pyonganbukdo Cheonma, Hamgyeongnam-go Dancheon, etc., and managed 6 prisons expropriating 150,000 prisoners in the late 1990’s because of criticism from the international community.
North Korean authorities denied the existence of prison camps of political criminals but it was revealed that their arguments were false by former guards, prisoners, and residents of the neighborhood. Also, satellite pictures show that prison camps of the political criminals in North Korea are still operating.
The report released by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea (COI) in February, 2014 said that North Korea has been running prison camps of the political criminals consistently for about 60 years and there are 80,000 to 120,000 prisoners still imprisoned. The report assumed that hundreds of thousands of prisoners have died in prison camps of political criminals over the last 50 years.
North Korean human rights white paper 2014 by the Unification Research Institute assumed that a minimum of 80,000 to a maximum of 120,000 political criminals are still imprisoned in 5 prison camps of the political criminals which are Unit 14 (Gaecheon), Unit 15 (Yoduk), Unit 16 (Myeonggan), Unit 18 (Gaechon, old Bukchang), and Unit 25 (Cheongjin).
The North Korean government isolates hostile people and potential threats who threaten the system in prison camps of political criminals based on political judgments outside the criminal trial system. They will be imprisoned forcibly after unilateral investigation by the state political security department, and the collective punishment that their family or relatives get will be executed according to circumstances.
Prisoners are prohibited from contacting the outside and deprived of the fundamental rights of life. Also, they work more than 10 hours a day and don’t get any medical benefits, and get limited food (100~300g). Escaped criminals and tortfeasors are executed in front of other prisoners, and crimes against humanity such as torture and rape are committed in prisons.
Prison camps of the political criminals have expanded drastically since Kim Jung-un administration
Fear politics are more tightened and the scale of prison camps of political criminals has become larger since the Kim Jung-un administration. There are claims that thousands of Jang Song-taek’s relatives and close allies were arrested and imprisoned in prison camps of political criminals separately after his execution in December.
The scale and facilities of prison camps have escalated consistently from 2010 until today. Notably, there are claims that the site of the Unit 16 (Hambuk Myeonggan) prison camp of political criminals is a number of times the Yeouido area after being expanded drastically, and the gross area of prison camps of political criminals in North Korea is 1,247.9 km2, twice the size of Seoul.
Meanwhile, the US Congress passed a law to demand that the U.S. authorities and administration research and report the reality of North Korea prison camps of political criminals in December, 2014.
The reality in prison camps of political criminals such as the number of prisoners, the reason of imprisonment, and the information of North Korean and organizations in charge of prison camps operation are reported by available information sources.
UN’S NORTH KOREAN HUMAN RIGHTS COI
PRESSES FOR INTERVENTION BY THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY FOR NORTH KOREAN HUMAN RIGHTS
On February 17, 2014, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea released a 372 page North Korean human rights report based on the North Korean human rights situation investigation for a year (Mar. 2013 ~ Feb. 2014).
The findings of this report show that the North Korea administration violates human rights systematically and extensively and that intervention of the international community is needed to redress it.
The report pointed out that there are lots of crimes against humanity in North
Korea and it is from the system established by top officials in North Korea.
Those crimes against humanity include murder, enslavement, torture, detention, sexual abuse, forced abortion, persecution caused by politics, religions, race, and gender, forced expulsion, disappearance, and starvation.
COI pointed out infringement of freedom of thought, expression, and religions, discrimination based on origin of people, infringement of freedom of movement and residence, infringement of right to food and life, detention, torture, execution, and prison camps, and foreigner kidnapping and forced disappearances as examples of major human rights violation in North Korea.
The COI report recommends the shutdown of prison camps of political criminals, and guarantee of freedom of the press, thought, religion and movement. Moreover, the recommendations included a range of actions to the international community, the UN Security Council’s referral of the situation in N.K to the ICC.
This report sent a powerful message to North Korea and has further significance since it suggests ways for improvement in North Korean human rights. The report has public confidence more than any other report because it is an official report from an international organization based on objective evidence and data of typical human rights crimes against humanity that happened in North Korea.
UN DESIGNATES PEOPLE OF THE HIGHEST RANKS IN NORTH KOREA AS PRINCIPAL OFFENDERS OF HUMAN RIGHTS
The response of international societies about North Korean human rights conditions has changed from words to action. The North Korean Human Rights Resolution has been referred to the ICC and passed the UN plenary session, after the third committee of the UN General Assembly, with overwhelming ayes.
The North Korean Human Rights Resolution submitted by 60 countries, including countries in the EU and Japan, in the UN General Assembly plenary session was passed with 116 in favor, 20 against, and 53 abstentions. The UN defined North Korea’s human rights suppression as crimes against humanity that need international punishments for the first time, and advised referral of North Korean human rights conditions to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the UN Security Council.
The UN Security Council brought up an agenda about North Korean human rights conditions and discussed it officially for the first time at the UN headquarters in Manhattan, New York, USA in December, 2014.