Korea, Democratic People's Republic of

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) remains a repressive, closed, and highly militarized society under the absolute rule of Kim Jong Il, general secretary of the Korean Workers' Party. An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 persons are believed to be held in the kwan li so political prison camps. Defectors report that many prisoners have died from torture, starvation, disease, exposure, or a combination of these causes. North Korean officials reportedly prohibited live births in prison, and forced abortions were performed. The regime controlled many aspects of citizens' lives, denying freedom of speech, religion, the press, assembly, and association. A number of repatriated North Koreans faced severe punishment upon their return, including possible execution. The regime also severely restricted freedom of movement and worker rights. There were widespread NGO reports of North Korean women and girls being trafficked in China.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The United States consistently works to raise international awareness about the DPRK's human rights abuses and to identify concrete ways to improve human rights conditions. The United States seeks to improve citizens' access to outside sources of information and to provide opportunities to increase their engagement with, and exposure to, the outside world.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

In 2008 the U.S. Special Envoy on Human Rights in North Korea worked to raise international awareness of the country's human rights abuses. U.S. programs provide funding to NGOs that raise international awareness about the country's human rights record and document abuses. In addition, the U.S. Government continues to expand efforts to increase the flow of independent information, primarily by supporting radio broadcasts into the country. The United States also takes a leading role in urging other countries to undertake efforts to address the country's abuses, including cosponsoring resolutions on the North Korean human rights situation at the UN General Assembly and supporting requests from the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK for access to the country.

U.S. officials raise awareness of the country's human rights abuses with the international community in both bilateral and multilateral fora. U.S. officials also urge other governments to call for improvements in North Korean respect for human rights as an important component of their bilateral relations with the country.