PYONGYANG — Under the rule of the Kim dynasty, human rights in North Korea have dwindled significantly. North Korea has been one of the most restrictive countries in the world for several decades.
North Korea heavily monitors expression and speech. The U.S. Department of State reports: “There are no independent media in the country; all media is strictly censored and tolerates no deviation from the official government line. The government allows no editorial freedom; all stories are centrally directed and reviewed to ensure that they are in line with the state ideology.”
Additionally, only select individuals are granted the internet or international telephone access. North Koreans found with Chinese phones run the risk of prosecution. Amnesty International reports that “the misconfiguration of a server in North Korea revealed to the world that the network contained only 28 websites.” Deviation from the prescribed media the North Korean government provides its citizens can result in imprisonment or a death sentence.
North Korea has held several foreigners captive. The Guardian reports that Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, receives many foreign prisoners and supposedly treats them “more leniently than the estimated 200,000 to 300,000 North Koreans” held captive elsewhere in North Korea.
This is alarming speculation considering recent news of a North Korean prison camp releasing the U.S. student Otto Warmbier with nearly 14 years left on his hard labor sentence. His parents learned a week before his release in March 2016 that he was in a coma. He arrived in the U.S. on June 13, 2017, and died one week later.
In addition to forced labor, North Korean prisoners face the threat of torture and rape. The government sometimes holds relatives and children of offenders in detention as well. Those convicted of offences against the state often face prosecution with little evidence for seemingly innocuous violations. Many who escaped into China have faced torture and even death after Chinese authorities deported them back to North Korea.
Human rights in North Korea severely lack for state workers. United Press International states that the government sends upwards of 100,000 Korean workers to other countries. Those in Europe “typically work 10-12 hours for six days a week, but must remit 90 percent of their earnings to the Kim regime.”
The Cornell Daily Sun outlines the growing threat of North Korea’s defense system. It comes as no surprise that violations of human rights in North Korea have been increasing alongside the growth of North Korea’s arsenal. Although North Korea has recently given brief indications of a willingness to communicate with the United States, it has shown no inclination toward denuclearization. Nuclear weapons in North Korea have drawn attention away from the continuing human rights crisis in North Korea.
Human rights in North Korea will only improve with diplomatic pressure on North Korea. The United States may play a role in the improvement, but South Korea and China could also take the lead in denuclearizing North Korea in order to address human rights peacefully.
– Emma Tennyson