Korea, Democratic People's Republic of
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a dictatorship under the absolute rule of the Korean Workers' Party (KWP). Kim Il Sung led the DPRK from its inception until his death in 1994. Since then his son Kim Jong Il has exercised unchallenged authority. Kim Jong Il was named General Secretary of the KWP in October 1997. In September 1998, the Supreme People's Assembly reconfirmed Kim Jong Il as Chairman of the National Defense Commission and declared that position the "highest office of state." The presidency was abolished leaving the late Kim Il Sung as the DPRK's only president. The titular head of state is Kim Yong Nam, the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly. Both Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il continue to be the objects of intense personality cults. The regime emphasizes "juche," a national ideology of self-reliance. The judiciary is not independent.
The Korean People's Army is the primary organization responsible for external security. It is assisted by a large military reserve force and several quasi-military organizations, including the Worker-Peasant Red Guards and the People's Security Force. These organizations assist the Ministry of Public Security and the KWP in maintaining internal security. Members of the security forces committed serious human rights abuses.
The State directs all significant economic activity, and only government-controlled labor unions are permitted in this country of 22 million persons. Industry continued to operate at significantly reduced capacity, reflecting antiquated plant and equipment and severe shortages of inputs. This decline is due in part to the collapse of the former Soviet Union and East European communist governments and the subsequent sharp decline in trade and aid. Efforts at recovery have been hampered by heavy military spending--which amounted to perhaps one-quarter of gross domestic product before the economy went into decline and is probably now larger as a share of national output. The economy also has been held back by a lack of access to commercial lending stemming from the DPRK's default on its foreign debt, and its inability to obtain loans from international financial institutions. Never food self-sufficient, the country relies on international aid and trade to supplement domestic production, which has been hobbled by disastrous agricultural policies. This is true even when crop production is relatively good, as it was during the year. Since 1995, nearly annual droughts and floods have destroyed crops and ruined agricultural land, and hunger and malnutrition have been widespread. Famine has caused internal dislocation and widespread malnutrition, and an estimated several hundreds of thousands to two million persons died from starvation and related diseases. Economic and political conditions have caused thousands of persons to flee their homes. The Government continued to seek international food aid, produce "alternative foods," and take other steps to boost production. It has permitted the spread of farmers' markets to make up for the contraction of food supplied through the public distribution system. Food, clothing, and energy are rationed throughout the country. The U.N.'s World Food Program provides assistance to children and mothers, the elderly, and persons employed in flood damage recovery efforts. The gross national product (GNP) may have grown slightly in 2000 due largely to international aid and limited South Korean investment, but this followed nearly a decade of steady decline in which GNP is estimated to have shrunk by half since 1993. Most foreign observers note improved food and other economic conditions over the last year.
The Government's human rights record remained poor, and it continued to commit numerous serious abuses. Citizens do not have the right peacefully to change their government. There continued to be reports of extrajudicial killings and disappearances. Citizens are detained arbitrarily, and many are held as political prisoners; prison conditions are harsh. The constitutional provisions for an independent judiciary and fair trials are not implemented in practice. The regime subjects its citizens to rigid controls. The leadership perceives most international norms of human rights, especially individual rights, as illegitimate, alien, and subversive to the goals of the State and party. During the year, the Government entered into a human rights dialogue with the European Union; two meetings were held, but no significant results were reported. The Penal Code is Draconian, stipulating capital punishment and confiscation of assets for a wide variety of "crimes against the revolution," including defection, attempted defection, slander of the policies of the party or State, listening to foreign broadcasts, writing "reactionary" letters, and possessing reactionary printed matter. The Government prohibits freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and association, and all forms of cultural and media activities are under the tight control of the party. Radios sold in North Korea receive North Korean radio broadcasts only; radios obtained abroad by the general public must be altered to work in a similar manner. Cable News Network (CNN) television is available in one Pyongyang hotel frequented by foreigners. Under these circumstances, little outside information reaches the public except that approved and disseminated by the Government. The Government restricts freedom of religion, citizens' movements, and worker rights. There were reports of trafficking in women and young girls among refugees and workers crossing the border into China.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary and Unlawful Deprivation of Life
Defectors and refugees report that the regime executes political prisoners, opponents of the regime, some repatriated defectors, and others (reportedly including military officers suspected of espionage or of plotting against Kim Jong Il). Criminal law makes the death penalty mandatory for activities "in collusion with imperialists" aimed at "suppressing the national liberation struggle." Some prisoners are sentenced to death for such ill-defined "crimes" as "ideological divergence," "opposing socialism," and other "counterrevolutionary crimes." In some cases, executions reportedly were carried out at public meetings attended by workers, students, and school children. Executions also have been carried out before assembled inmates at places of detention. Border guards reportedly have orders to shoot-to-kill potential defectors (see Section 2.d.).
Religious and human rights groups outside the country report that members of underground churches have been killed because of their religious beliefs and suspected contacts with overseas evangelical groups operating across the Chinese border (see Section 2.c.).
Many prisoners reportedly have died from disease, starvation, or exposure (see Section 1.c.).
A South Korean news magazine in December 2000 quoted a defector as stating that the military publicly had executed 19 residents, secretly killed more than 20 persons, and imprisoned 600 more in 1999 in the city of Hyesan, on the border with China. The main targets of the purge were frequent travelers to China and persons addicted to opium.
In August 1998, there were unconfirmed reports that following a March 1998 coup attempt, authorities arrested several thousand members of the armed forces and executed many of them.
In 1998 Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that among those executed in 1997 were a four-star general who ran the Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army and Choe Hyon Tok, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly. According to the AFP, seven persons in this group were executed by firing squad before thousands of spectators.
The Government does not provide accurate information about the number of executions. For example, government officials told Amnesty International in 1995 that only one or two executions had taken place since 1985. This number is not credible.
The Government reportedly is responsible for cases of disappearance. According to defector reports, individuals suspected of political crimes often are taken from their homes by state security officials late at night and sent directly, without trial, to camps for political prisoners. There also have been reports of past government involvement in the kidnaping abroad of South Koreans, Japanese, and other foreign nationals. As many as 20 Japanese may have been kidnapped and detained in North Korea. According to Japanese government officials, these abductions took place between 1977 and 1983. Following a December 1999 meeting between officials from the Red Cross societies of North Korea and Japan, the Government agreed to conduct an investigation into the fate of the missing Japanese nationals. However, on December 17, the Government announced it was suspending the investigation. In addition several suspected cases of kidnaping, hostage-taking, and other acts of violence apparently intended to intimidate ethnic Koreans living in China and Russia have been reported. There were unconfirmed reports that North Korean agents kidnaped a South Korean citizen, Reverend Dongshik Kim, in China and took him to North Korea in January 2000. There is credible evidence that North Korea may have been involved in the July 1995 abduction of a South Korean citizen working in China as a missionary. This missionary subsequently appeared publicly in North Korea and was portrayed as a defector. The DPRK denies that it has been involved in kidnapings.
In November 1997, the South Korean Government arrested several alleged North Korean espionage agents. According to the South Korean Government's report on its investigation, those arrested claimed that three South Korean high school students, missing since 1978, had been kidnaped by the North Korean Government and trained as espionage agents. The three were identified as Kim Young Nam, who disappeared from Son Yu beach, and Yi Myong U and Hong Kyun Pyo, both of whom disappeared from Hong To island beach. According to those arrested, there were several other kidnapings in the late 1970's and early 1980's.
The cases of three ethnic Korean residents of Beijing, China (16, 18, and 20 years of age), reported by Amnesty International in 1995 to have been taken to North Korea against their will, remained unresolved. The three were taken in apparent retaliation for criticism of North Korean human rights violations made by their father, a former prisoner in North Korea, in the Japanese media. The North Korean authorities deny this allegation, claiming that the three brothers were deported to North Korea for breaking Chinese law and that they are living with relatives.
Numerous reports indicate that ordinary citizens are not allowed to mix with foreign nationals, and Amnesty International has reported that a number of North Koreans who maintained friendships with foreigners have disappeared. In at least one case, Amnesty International reported that a citizen who had disappeared was executed for maintaining a friendship with a Russian national.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
While information on recent practices is sparse, credible reports indicate that prisoners are mistreated and that many have died from disease, starvation, or exposure.
The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Human Rights without Frontiers reported refugee accounts that beginning in 2000 prison authorities ordered that newborn babies be put to death, and that a number of babies were killed over the past 2 years. A former North Korean prison guard at a camp reported that guards abused female prisoners sexually.
In 1998 a Polish newspaper reported the experiences of a woman who spent 10 years in a North Korean concentration camp before fleeing first to China and then to South Korea. The approximately 1,800 inmates in this particular camp typically worked 16 to 17 hours a day. The woman reported severe beatings, torture involving water forced into a victim's stomach with a rubber hose and pumped out by guards jumping on a board placed across the victim's abdomen, and chemical and biological warfare experiments allegedly conducted on inmates by the army. South Korean media reported that the DPRK State Security Agency manages the camps through use of forced labor, beatings, torture, and public executions.
Prison conditions are harsh. International NGO's and defector sources contend that whole families, including children, are imprisoned together. "Reeducation through labor" is common punishment, consisting of forced labor, such as logging and tending crops, under harsh conditions. A small number of persons who claimed to have escaped from detention camps reported that starvation and executions are common. In one prison, clothing reportedly was issued only once in 3 years. Amnesty International has reported the existence of "punishment cells," too low to allow standing upright and too small for lying down flat, where prisoners are kept for up to several weeks for breaking prison rules. Visitors to North Korea report observing prisoners being marched in leg irons, metal collars, or shackles. Amnesty International also has received reports that in some places of detention, prisoners are given little or no food and, when they contract illnesses, are denied medical care. Amnesty International believes that many die of starvation and disease.
A former prison camp inmate who later defected to South Korea told the South Korean press that conditions in prison camps became more difficult as the food crisis worsened in the mid-1990s. With the food ration reduced to 2.6 ounces daily in 1996, 20 percent of the inmates in one camp died. Inmates were forced to find shelter in nearby mountains when authorities destroyed the camp's housing area in 1996 in anticipation of a visit by an international human rights group. The majority of prisoners in the camps were those who had contacted South Koreans, attempted to go to South Korea after defecting to China, those who studied abroad, and members of antigovernment groups.
In 1999 credible witnesses reported that prisoners held on the basis of their religious beliefs repeatedly were treated worse than other inmates were. One witness, a former prison guard, reported that those believing in God were regarded as insane, and the authorities taught that "all religions are opiates." He recounted an instance in which a woman was kicked severely and left lying on the ground for days, because a guard overheard her praying for a child who was beaten.
The Government normally does not permit inspection of prisons by human rights monitors.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
There are no restrictions on the ability of the Government to detain and imprison persons at will and to hold them incommunicado.
Little information is available on criminal justice procedures and practices, and outside observation of the legal system has been limited to "show trials" for traffic violations and other minor offenses.
According to an NGO, family members and other concerned persons find it virtually impossible to obtain information on charges against or the length of sentences of detained persons. Judicial review of detentions does not exist in law or in practice.
Defectors claim that the Government detains between 150,000 to 200,000 persons for political reasons, sometimes along with their family members, in maximum security camps in remote areas. The Government denies the existence of such prison camps but admits that there are "education centers" for persons who "commit crimes by mistake."
A defector who had been a ranking official in the Ministry of Public Security stated that there were two types of detention areas. One consists of closed camps where conditions are extremely harsh and from which prisoners never emerge. In the other, prisoners can be "rehabilitated."
One credible report lists 1 dozen political prisoner camps and approximately 30 forced labor and labor education camps in the country. It is believed that some former high officials are imprisoned in the camps. Visitors formerly were allowed, but currently any form of communication with detainees is said to be prohibited.
In mid-1999, an ethnic Korean with foreign citizenship was arrested for unauthorized contact with North Koreans. This person was detained for 1 month before being released.
In May 1998, a foreigner of Korean descent was detained and held incommunicado for nearly 3 months before he finally was released. In September 1998, another foreigner of Korean descent was held incommunicado for more than 1 month for an unspecified "violation of law" before being released and expelled from the country.
In March 1999, North Korean officials in Thailand tried to detain a Bangkok-based North Korean diplomat, Hong Sun Gyong, and his family. Hong and his wife escaped from their abductors and then requested asylum. Their son was taken to Laos by North Korean officials but subsequently was allowed to rejoin his parents in Thailand.
South Korean newspapers reported in 1997 that family members of North Korean defector Hwang Chang Yop, former head of the Juche Research Institute, and a senior advisor to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, who defected to South Korea that year, were either under house arrest or incarcerated in political prisons. However, visiting foreigners have seen some members of his family.
The Government is not known to use forced exile. However, the Government routinely uses forced resettlement and has relocated many tens of thousands of persons from Pyongyang to the countryside. Although disabled veterans are treated extremely well, there also are reports that other persons with physical disabilities and those judged to be politically unreliable have been sent to internal exile. Often those relocated are selected on the basis of family background. Nonetheless, there is some evidence that class background is less important than in the past because of the regime's emphasis on the solidarity of the "popular masses," and united front efforts with overseas Koreans. According to unconfirmed September 1997 foreign press reports, some 500 senior officials were sent into internal exile.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution states that courts are independent and that judicial proceedings are to be carried out in strict accordance with the law; however, an independent judiciary and individual rights do not exist. The Public Security Ministry dispenses with trials in political cases and refers prisoners to the Ministry of State Security for punishment.
The Constitution contains elaborate procedural protections, and it states that cases should be heard in public and that the accused has the right to a defense; under some circumstances hearings may be closed to the public as stipulated by law. When trials are held, the Government apparently assigns lawyers. Reports indicate that defense lawyers are not considered representatives of the accused; rather, they are expected to help the court by persuading the accused to confess guilt. Some reports note a distinction between those accused of political crimes and common criminals and state that the Government affords trials or lawyers only to the latter. The Government considers critics of the regime to be "political criminals."
Numerous reports suggest that political offenses have in the past included such behavior as sitting on newspapers bearing Kim Il Sung's picture, or (in the case of a professor reportedly sentenced to work as a laborer) noting in class that Kim Il Sung had received little formal education. The KWP has a special regulation protecting the images of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. All citizens are required by this regulation to protect from damage any likeness of the two Kims. Beginning in the 1970's, the 10 Great Principles of Unique Ideology directed that anyone who tore or otherwise defaced a newspaper photo of either of the two Kims was a political criminal and punished as such. Defectors have reported families being punished because children had accidentally defaced photographs of one of the two Kims. Families must display pictures of the two Kims in their homes, and if local party officials find the family has neglected its photos, the punishment is to write self-criticism throughout an entire year (see Section 1.f.).
A foreigner hired to work on foreign broadcasts for the regime was imprisoned for 1 year without trial for criticizing the quality of the regime's foreign propaganda. He was then imprisoned for 6 more years (with trial) shortly after his release for claiming in a private conversation that his original imprisonment was unjust. While Amnesty International has listed 58 political prisoners by name, the total number of political prisoners being held is much larger. Several defectors and former inmates reported that the total figure is approximately 150,000, while South Korean authorities stated the total figure is about 200,000.
The South Korean Ministry of National Unification reported to its National Assembly in October 1997 that North Korea held more than 200,000 political prisoners in camps where many had frozen or starved to death, and that famine may have worsened conditions. The report went on to describe the camps as having no electricity or heating facilities. The report claimed that those who attempted to escape were executed immediately. Most camps are located in remote mountain or mining areas. Some reports indicated an increase in the number of political prisoners as more persons had begun to complain more openly about the failure of the Government's economic policies.
According to press reports, in late December the Government announced its intention, effective January 1, 2002, to amnesty a number of persons sentenced to labor or reeducation for committing crimes against the state. The amnesty, the country's first in more than 20 years, reportedly is to mark the birthday of Kim Il Sung. It was not specified how many persons were to be amnestied or what crimes were covered by the amnesty.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Constitution provides for the inviolability of person and residence and the privacy of correspondence; however, the Government does not respect these provisions in practice. The regime subjects its citizens to rigid controls. The state leadership perceives most international norms of human rights, and especially individual rights, as alien social concepts subversive to the goals of the State and party. The Government relies upon an extensive, multilevel system of informers to identify critics and potential troublemakers. Whole communities sometimes are subjected to massive security checks. The possession of "reactionary material" and listening to foreign broadcasts are both considered crimes that may subject the transgressor to harsh punishments. In some cases, entire families are punished for alleged political offenses committed by one member of the family. For example, defectors have reported families being punished because children had accidentally defaced photographs of one of the two Kims. Families must display pictures of the two Kims in their homes, and must keep them clean. Local party officials have conducted unannounced inspections once per month, and if the inspectors find a family has neglected its photos, the punishment is to write self-criticism throughout an entire year (see Section 1.e.).
The Government monitors correspondence and telephones. Telephones essentially are restricted to domestic operation although some international service is available on a very restricted basis.
The Constitution provides for the right to petition. However, when an anonymous petition or complaint about state administration is submitted, the Ministries of State Security and Public Safety seek to identify the author through handwriting analysis. The suspected individual may be subjected to a thorough investigation and punishment.
The regime justifies its dictatorship with arguments derived from concepts of collective consciousness and the superiority of the collective over the individual, appeals to nationalism, and citations of "the juche idea." The authorities emphasize that the core concept of juche is "the ability to act independently without regard to outside interference." Originally described as "a creative application of Marxism-Leninism" in the national context, juche is a malleable philosophy reinterpreted from time to time by the regime as its ideological needs change and is used by the regime as a "spiritual" underpinning for its rule.
As defined by Kim Il Sung, juche is a quasi-mystical concept in which the collective will of the people is distilled into a supreme leader whose every act exemplifies the State and society's needs. Opposition to such a leader, or to the rules, regulations, and goals established by his regime is thus in itself opposition to the national interest. The regime, therefore, claims a social interest in identifying and isolating all opposition.
Since the late 1950's the regime has divided society into three main classes: "core," "wavering," and "hostile." These three classes are further subdivided into subcategories based on perceived loyalty to the Party and the leadership. Security ratings are assigned to each individual; according to some estimates, nearly half of the population is designated as either "wavering" or "hostile." These loyalty ratings determine access to employment, higher education, place of residence, medical facilities, and certain stores. They also affect the severity of punishment in the case of legal infractions. While there are signs that this rigid system has been relaxed somewhat in recent years--for example, children of religious practitioners are no longer automatically barred from higher education--it remains a basic characteristic of KWP political control.
Citizens with relatives who fled to South Korea at the time of the Korean War still appear to be classified as part of the "hostile class" in the Government's elaborate loyalty system. This subcategory alone encompasses a significant percentage of the population. One defector estimated that the class of those considered potentially hostile may comprise 25 to 30 percent of the population; others place the figure at closer to 20 percent. Members of this class still are subject to discrimination, although defectors report that their treatment has improved greatly in recent years.
The authorities subject citizens of all age groups and occupations to intensive political and ideological indoctrination. Even after Kim Il Sung's death, his cult of personality and the glorification of his family and the official juche ideology remained omnipresent. The cult approaches the level of a state religion.
The goal of indoctrination remains to ensure loyalty to the system and leadership, as well as conformity to the State's ideology and authority. The necessity for the intensification of such indoctrination repeatedly is stressed in the writings of Kim Jong Il, who attributes the collapse of the Soviet Union largely to insufficient ideological indoctrination, compounded by the entry of foreign influences.
Indoctrination is carried out systematically, not only through the mass media, but also in schools and through worker and neighborhood associations. Kim Jong Il has stated that ideological education must take precedence over academic education in the nation's schools, and he also has called for the intensification of mandatory ideological study and discussion sessions for adult workers.
Another aspect of the State's indoctrination system is the use of mass marches, rallies, and staged performances, sometimes involving hundreds of thousands of persons. In September 1998, celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the DPRK included hours of carefully choreographed demonstration of mass adulation of the leadership. In October 2000, similar celebrations of the 55th anniversary of the KWP reportedly involved upwards of 1 million persons. According to news reports, hundreds of thousands of citizens were mobilized to greet and perform for China's President, Jiang Zemin, when he visited North Korea in September.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Although the Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, the Government prohibits the exercise of these rights in practice. Articles of the Constitution that require citizens to follow "socialist norms of life" and to obey a "collective spirit" take precedence over individual political or civil liberties. The regime only permits activities that support its objectives.
The Government strictly curtails freedom of speech. The authorities may punish persons for criticizing the regime or its policies by imprisonment or "corrective labor." There have been reports that persons have been placed under surveillance through their radio sets, and imprisoned and executed for statements made at home that were critical of the regime. Amnesty International reports that a family formerly resident in Japan was sent to a "reeducation-through-labor" center because one member of the family allegedly made remarks disparaging the Government.
The Government attempts to control all information. Claiming that the country is under continuing threat of armed aggression, the Government carefully manages the visits of foreign journalists. On occasion, when it serves its agenda, the Government allows foreign media to cover some events. A Russian news agency interviewed Kim Jong Il in July, and a large international press group accompanied a European Union (EU) delegation that visited in May. Members of the press group reportedly were allowed to visit a school and to talk to some ordinary persons. During the June 2000 inter-Korean summit, and during the October 2000 visit of the U.S. Secretary of State, groups of foreign journalists were permitted to accompany official delegations and to file reports, although under strict state monitoring. Also, the presidents of 46 South Korean newspaper and broadcast organizations, led by the South Korean Minister of Culture and Tourism, traveled to the country in August 2000 and met with Kim Jong Il. The regime has allowed foreign journalists to report on the food situation. Foreign journalists also were allowed to report on the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) light-water reactor groundbreaking at Kumho in 1997. Although more foreign journalists have been allowed into the country, the Government still maintains strict control over the movements of foreign visitors. For example, journalists accompanying the U.S. Secretary of State were not allowed to visit a department store or a train station; they were not allowed to talk to officials or to persons on the street. Those who arrived with cellular or satellite phones had them confiscated for the duration of their stay (see Section 2.d.). Domestic media censorship is enforced strictly, and no deviation from the official government line is tolerated.
The regime prohibits listening to foreign media broadcasts except by the political elite, and violators are subject to severe punishment. Radios and television sets receive only domestic programming; radios obtained from abroad must be submitted for alteration to operate in a similar manner. CNN television broadcasts are available in a Pyongyang hotel frequented by foreigners. Private telephone lines operate on an internal system that prevents making and receiving calls from outside the country. International phone lines are available under very restricted circumstances. According to a press report, there may be very limited Internet access in the country for government officials; an Internet service provider based in China has begun e-mail service that may link to an Intranet used by senior officials.
Late in 1997, the Government published threats against the South Korean media for criticizing the North Korean leadership. The first instance was in response to a South Korean newspaper editorial; the second in reaction to a television drama about life in North Korea. The DPRK defended having made the threat and reiterated its criticism of the newspaper during the summer of 2000.
The Government severely restricts academic freedom and controls artistic and academic works. Visitors report that one of the primary functions of plays, movies, operas, children's performances, and books is to contribute to the cult of personality surrounding Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. The Government reportedly has reached an agreement with a foreign NGO to allow the establishment of a university to be run jointly by the Government and the NGO. The university would be the first semiprivate educational institution in the country.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Although the Constitution provides for freedom of assembly, the Government does not respect this provision in practice. The Government prohibits any public meetings without authorization.
Although the Constitution provides for freedom of association, the Government does not respect this provision in practice. There are no known organizations other than those created by the Government. Professional associations exist primarily as a means of government monitoring and control over the members of these organizations.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for "freedom of religious belief;" however, in practice the Government discourages organized religious activity except that which is supervised by officially recognized groups. Genuine religious freedom does not exist. The Constitution also stipulates that religion "should not be used for purposes of dragging in foreign powers or endangering public security."
Although in the past the Government has branded religiously active persons as "counterrevolutionaries" and killed or imprisoned them, in more recent times, it has allowed the formation of several government-sponsored religious organizations. These serve as interlocutors with foreign church groups and international aid organizations. Foreigners who have met with representatives of these organizations believe that some are genuinely religious but note that others appear to know little about religious dogma, liturgy, or teaching. A constitutional change in 1992 deleted the clause about freedom of antireligious propaganda, authorized religious gatherings, and provided for "the right to build buildings for religious use."
The number of religious believers is unknown but has been estimated by the media and religious groups at 10,000 Protestants, 10,000 Buddhists, and 4,000 Catholics. There also are an undetermined number of persons belonging to underground Christian churches. In addition, the Chondogyo Young Friends Party, a government-sponsored group based on a traditional Korean religious movement, still is in existence. There are 300 Buddhist temples. Most of the temples are regarded as cultural relics, but in some of them religious activity is permitted. Two Protestant churches under lay leadership and a Roman Catholic church (without a priest) have been opened since 1988 in Pyongyang. Several schools for religious education exist. There are 3-year religious colleges for training Protestant and Buddhist clergy. A religious studies program also was established at Kim Il Sung University in 1989; its graduates usually go on to work in the foreign trade sector.
There has been a limited revival of Buddhism with the translation and publication of Buddhist scriptures that had been carved on 80,000 wooden blocks and kept at an historic temple. It is not known whether any Catholic priests, whose role is a fundamental element for the practice of the Catholic faith, remain in the country. Seoul Archbishop Nicholas Jin-Suk Cheong, appointed by the Pope as Apostolic Administrator of Pyongyang, was quoted in July 2000 as stating that while there were 50 priests in the country in the 1940's, it is not known if they are still alive today. Hundreds of religious figures have visited the country in recent years, including papal representatives and religious delegations from South Korea, the U.S., and other countries. Overseas religious relief organizations have been active in responding to the country's food crisis. Although some foreigners who have visited the country over the years state that church activity appears staged, others believe that church services are genuine, although sermons contain both religious and political content supportive of the regime. The Government claims that there are more than 500 authorized "house churches."
Persons engaging in religious proselytizing may be arrested and are subject to harsh penalties, including imprisonment and prolonged detention without charge. The regime appears to have cracked down on unauthorized religious groups in recent years, especially persons who proselytize or who have ties to overseas evangelical groups operating across the border with China. The Government appears concerned about religiously based South Korean relief and refugee assistance efforts along the northeast border with China becoming entwined with more political goals, including overthrow of the regime. The food crisis apparently has heightened government concern about antiregime activity. An article in the KWP newspaper in 1999 criticized "imperialists and reactionaries" for trying to use ideological and cultural infiltration, including religion, to destroy socialism from within. South Korean law requires all parties, including religious groups, traveling to North Korea or contacting North Koreans to request permission from the South Korean security agency. This requirement increases suspicions among North Korean officials about the intentions of such groups.
There is no reliable information on the number of religious detainees or prisoners, but there have been unconfirmed reports that some of those detained in the country are detained because of their religion.
Religious and human rights groups outside the country have provided numerous, unconfirmed reports that members of underground churches have been beaten, arrested, detained in prison camps, or killed because of their religious beliefs. One unconfirmed report stated that a dozen Christians have been executed since January 1999. According to another unconfirmed report, 23 Christians were executed between October 1999 and April 2000; some reportedly were executed under falsified criminal charges, and some reportedly were tortured prior to their executions. Seven Christian men, ranging in age from 15 to 58 years, were killed in April 2000, according to an unconfirmed report. A religious NGO quoted an unnamed South Korean pastor's claims that 400 Christians were executed in 1999. These reports could not be confirmed or disproved because of the effectiveness of the Government in barring outside observers. Nonetheless, the collective weight of anecdotal evidence of harsh treatment of unauthorized religious activity lends credence to such reports. The regime deals harshly with its critics and views religious believers belonging to underground congregations or with ties to evangelical groups in North China as opponents. Reports of executions, torture, and imprisonment of religious persons in the country continue to emerge.
Little is known about the actual life of religious persons in the country. Members of government-recognized religious groups do not appear to suffer discrimination; in fact, some reports claim they have been mobilized by the regime. Persons whose parents were believers but who themselves are nonpracticing are able to rise to at least the midlevels of the bureaucracy. Such individuals, as a category, suffered broad discrimination in the past. Members of underground churches connected to border missionary activity appear to be regarded as subversive elements.
The Government deals harshly with all opponents, including those engaging in religious practices deemed unacceptable to the regime. In April 1999, witnesses testified before the U.S. Congress on the treatment of persons held in prison camps through the early 1990's. The witnesses stated that prisoners held on the basis of their religious beliefs generally were treated worse than other inmates were. One witness, a former prison guard, testified that those believing in God were regarded as insane, as the authorities taught that "all religions are opiates"(see Section 1.c.). He recounted an instance in which a woman was kicked repeatedly and left with her injuries unattended for days because a guard overheard her praying for a child who was being beaten. Because of the effectiveness of the Government in barring outside observers, such allegations could not be substantiated.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Although the Constitution provides for the "freedom to reside in or travel to any place," the Government does not respect these rights in practice. In the past, the regime has controlled strictly internal travel, requiring a travel pass for any movement outside one's home village. These passes were granted only for official travel or attendance at a relative's wedding or funeral. Long delays in obtaining the necessary permit often resulted in denial of the right to travel even for these limited purposes. In recent years, it appears that the internal controls on travel have eased significantly. Due to the worsening food conditions in the country, the Government at times has taken a benign approach to those who violate internal travel rules, allowing citizens to leave their villages to search for food, and there are reports of large-scale movement of persons across the country in search of food. Only members of a very small elite have vehicles for personal use. The regime tightly controls access to civilian aircraft, trains, buses, food, and fuel.
The Government strictly controls permission to reside in, or even enter, Pyongyang. This is a significant lever, since food, housing, health, and general living conditions are much better in Pyongyang than in the rest of the country.
The regime issues exit visas for foreign travel only to officials and trusted artists, athletes, academics, and religious figures. It does not allow emigration. Following the collapse of European communism, the regime recalled several thousand students from overseas, but recently has again allowed small numbers of students to study abroad. In recent years, there have been numerous reports of a steady increase in North Korean migrants arriving in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and other Asian countries. The regime reportedly retaliates against the relatives of some of those who manage to escape. According to the Penal Code, defection and attempted defection (including the attempt to gain entry to a foreign embassy for the purpose of seeking political asylum) are capital crimes. Nonetheless, in recent years substantial numbers of persons have fled to neighboring countries in search of food. Many return after securing food. However, there have been unconfirmed reports that some would-be refugees who have been involuntarily returned have been executed (see Section 1.a.). Reports of increased deportations of North Koreans from China may have resulted from China's recent "Strike-Hard" anti-crime campaign. Some migrants have stated that DPRK border guards have received orders to shoot-to-kill persons attempting to cross the border into China, although some border crossings for family visits and trade are permitted.
The Chinese Government states that there are only a few hundred North Koreans in China, others estimate that there are at least tens of thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands. Most have crossed the border clandestinely in small groups to seek food, shelter, and work. In June a family of seven North Koreans that sought refuge in the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugee's (UNHCR) Beijing office were subsequently permitted to leave China for South Korea; according to Amnesty International, the whereabouts of five North Koreans who arrived in China with the family but were forcibly returned to North Korea are unknown. In January 2000, China returned to the DPRK seven persons who had been granted refugee status by the UNHCR in Russia in December 1999 but were forced back into China. How the DPRK authorities dealt with the seven is unknown.
Amnesty International has reported serious human rights abuses involving North Korean workers and refugees living in Russia. There are about 6,000 DPRK workers in North Korean-run camps in the Russian Far East engaged in farming, mining, and construction; these workers were selected by the Government to work in Russia. Conditions in these camps are harsh; food is scarce; and discipline is severe. In the past, there have been allegations that discipline includes physical torture such as placing wooden logs between the knees of offenders, after which they were forced to sit down, causing them excruciating pain. In recent years, offenders have been sent back to the DPRK for punishment due to the increased scrutiny that the labor camps have been under since Russian and foreign media began reporting on the conditions in these camps in the early 1990's.
Other North Koreans in Russia include those who were selected to work in Russia but refused to return to the DPRK and those who have fled into Russia from the DPRK. Until 1993 under a secret protocol, the DPRK Public Security Service reportedly was allowed to work inside Russia to track down workers who fled the camps. Since 1993 many North Koreans have been engaged in business in the Russian Far East.
Many North Koreans in Russia face severe hardship due to their lack of any identification. Workers arriving in Russia usually have their passport and other identification confiscated by North Korean border guards.
The DPRK Government reportedly tried to prevent persons from staying in Russia by using diplomatic channels to influence Russian authorities and international organizations. In a number of cases, North Korean authorities reportedly told Russian authorities that a particular North Korean who had applied for asylum in Russia or elsewhere was a criminal offender in North Korea. An extradition treaty signed by both nations in 1957 requires that persons with criminal records be returned to their country.
From 1959 to 1982, 93,000 Korean residents of Japan, including 6,637 Japanese wives, voluntarily repatriated to North Korea. Despite DPRK assurances that the wives, more than a third of whom still had Japanese citizenship, would be allowed to visit Japan every 2 or 3 years, none were permitted to do so until 1997. Many, however, have not been heard from, and their relatives and friends in Japan have been unsuccessful in their efforts to gain information about their condition and whereabouts.
The DPRK and the Japanese Governments held a series of bilateral meetings in Beijing in the second half of 1997, during which the DPRK Government agreed to allow some Japanese wives resident in the DPRK to visit Japan. The first such visit occurred in November 1997 when 15 Japanese wives arrived for a 1-week visit. An additional 12 Japanese wives visited for 1 week in January and February 1998. However, in June 1999 the DPRK Government cancelled a visit by Japanese wives to Japan, citing "artificial hurdles and inhuman acts on the Japanese side." The visits resumed after the Japanese Government and the DPRK Government restarted normalization talks in April 2000. A group of 16 Japanese wives visited Japan from September 12 to 16, 2000; however, no visits took place during the year.
Although the Government has permitted an increasing number of overseas Koreans to visit their relatives in North Korea over the past decade, most requests for such visits are still denied. In August and December 2000, and in February 2001, the DPRK and the Republic of Korea sent delegations of members of separated families to each other's capitals for family reunion meetings. However, the meetings generally were of limited duration and certain topics were not allowed to be discussed. A fourth reunion was scheduled for October; however, the Government cancelled the meetings citing South Korea's nation-wide security alert issued following the September 11 terrorism attacks in the U.S.. Many foreign visitors to the 1995 International Pyongyang Sports Festival reported that they were denied permission to visit or otherwise contact their relatives, even those who lived only a few miles from Pyongyang.
Although more foreign journalists, diplomats, and representatives of humanitarian organizations have been allowed into the country, the Government still maintains the strictest control over the movements of foreign visitors. For example, journalists accompanying the U.S. Secretary of State in 2000 were not allowed to visit a department store or a train station; they were not allowed to talk to officials or to persons on the street. Those who arrived with cellular or satellite phones had them confiscated for the duration of their stay (see Section 2.a.). In August the Government allowed over 300 South Korean citizens to visit the country to participate in Liberation Day festivities; this was reportedly the largest South Korean delegation ever to visit the country.
Reports, primarily from refugees, indicate that the Government routinely uses forced resettlement, particularly for those deemed politically unreliable.
Although a member of the United Nations, the country does not participate in international refugee forums, and it is not in contact with the UNHCR. There is no known policy or provision for refugees, asylees, or first asylum.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Citizens have no right or mechanisms to change their leadership or government peacefully. The political system is dominated completely by the KWP, with Kim Il Sung's heir Kim Jong Il in full control. Very little reliable information is available on intraregime politics following Kim Il Sung's death. The legislature, the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), which meets only a few days per year, serves only to rubber-stamp resolutions presented to it by the party leadership. In 1997 Kim Jong Il acceded to the position of General Secretary of the KWP. In 1998 the SPA reconfirmed Kim as the Chairman of the National Defense Commission and declared that position the "highest office of State." The presidency was abolished, leaving the late Kim Il Sung as the country's only President. The titular head of state is Kim Yong Nam, the President of the Presidium of the SPA.
In an effort to give the appearance of democracy, the Government has created several "minority parties." Lacking grassroots organizations, they exist only as rosters of officials with token representation in the SPA. Their primary purpose appears to be promoting government objectives abroad as touring parliamentarians. Free elections do not exist, and the regime has criticized the concept of free elections and competition among political parties as an artifact of capitalist decay.
Elections to the SPA and to provincial, city, and county assemblies are held irregularly. In 1998 SPA elections were held for the first time since 1990. According to the government-controlled media, over 99 percent of the voters participated to elect 100 percent of the candidates approved by the KWP. Results of previous SPA elections have produced virtually identical outcomes. The vast majority of the KWP's estimated 3 million members work to implement decrees formulated by the Party's small elite.
The percentage of women in government and politics does not correspond to their percentage of the population. Women reportedly make up 20 percent of the membership of the SPA, but only about 4 percent of the membership of the Central Committee of the KWP.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government does not permit any independent domestic organizations to monitor human rights conditions or to comment on violations of such rights. Although a North Korean Human Rights Committee was established in 1992, it denied the existence of any human rights violations in the country. However, by offering international human rights organizations an identifiable official interlocutor, the Committee helped increase the ability of international human rights organizations to enter into two-way communication with the regime.
Although the World Food Program (WFP) has been given access to most counties in North Korea, it has been excluded from several dozen. The Government has allowed the WFP slightly more access than in the past to visit institutions receiving food aid and has permitted the agency to conduct additional surveys. In September the Government permitted Japanese officials to observe the distribution of Japanese-donated rice for a few days. Foreign aid workers and aid workers from international organizations, who provide substantial food aid, frequently are denied access to sites where this food is distributed, and thus are unable consistently to verify that the aid reaches its intended recipients. Many foreign NGO's report being charged large fees by Government officials to get visas for foreign staff, to set up offices, and to establish programs. There have been reports of abduction of ethnic Korean aid workers by government officials; some victims were required to pay a large fine to obtain their release.
In April 1998, during the 54th meeting of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, the North Korean delegation accused the international community of slandering the Government's human rights record, adding that the DPRK Government would not tolerate "any attempt to hurt the sovereignty and dignity of the country under the pretext of human rights." In July a North Korean delegate reporting to the U.N. Human Rights Committee dismissed reports of human rights violations in the country as the propaganda of "egoistic" and "hostile forces" seeking to undermine the sovereignty of the country.
In 1996 a delegation from Amnesty International visited the country and discussed legal reforms and prisoner cases with senior government officials. The Government has ignored requests for visits by other international human rights organizations, and none are known to have visited. The Government has reestablished diplomatic ties with a number of countries that have sought to engage it on human rights. Following a high-level EU delegation visit to Pyongyang in May, government officials discussed human rights with EU representatives in June; no significant progress resulted. The DPRK participants in the talks told the EU that the Government had ratified all U.N. human rights instruments except those on torture and racial discrimination, which were "being examined."
In August 1997, the U.N. Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities adopted a resolution criticizing the Government for its human rights practices. The DPRK Government subsequently announced that it would withdraw from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), calling the resolution an attack on its sovereignty. In October 1997, the U.N. Human Rights Committee issued a statement criticizing the attempt to withdraw from the ICCPR, noting that countries that had ratified the ICCPR could not withdraw from the covenant. In August 1998, the Human Rights Committee readopted a resolution urging the DPRK Government to improve its human rights record. In 2000 and during the year, the Government submitted reports on human rights to the U.N. Human Rights Committee after failing to submit such reports for 16 years.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution grants equal rights to all citizens. However, in practice the Government denies its citizens most fundamental human rights. There was pervasive discrimination on the basis of social status.
There is no information available on violence against women.
The Constitution states that "women hold equal social status and rights with men." However, although women are represented proportionally in the labor force, few women have reached high levels of the party or the Government. In many small factories, the work force is predominantly female. Like men, working-age women must work. They are thus required to leave their preschool children in the care of elderly relatives or in state nurseries. However, according to the Constitution, women with large families are to work shorter hours. There were reports of trafficking in women and young girls among North Koreans crossing the border into China (see Sections 6.c. and 6.f.).
Social norms reflect traditional, family-centered values in which children are cherished. The State provides compulsory education for all children until the age of 15. However, some children are denied educational opportunities and subjected to other punishments and disadvantages as a result of the loyalty classification system and the principle of "collective retribution" for the transgressions of their parents (see Section 1.f.).
Like others in society, children are the objects of intense political indoctrination; even mathematics textbooks propound party dogma. In addition, foreign visitors and academic sources report that children from an early age are subjected to several hours a week of mandatory military training and indoctrination at their schools. School children sometimes are sent to work in factories or in the fields for short periods to assist in completing special projects or in meeting production goals.
According to the WFP, the international community is feeding nearly every child under the age of 7 years. In some remote provinces, many persons over the age of 6 years reportedly appear to be suffering from long-term malnutrition. A nutrition survey carried out by UNICEF and the WFP in the aftermath of flood disasters found that 16 percent of children under 7 years of age suffered from acute malnutrition and that 62 percent suffered from stunted growth. In 1997 a senior UNICEF official said that approximately 80,000 children in North Korea were in immediate danger of dying from hunger and disease; 800,000 more were suffering from malnutrition to a serious but lesser degree.
In practice children do not enjoy any more civil liberties than adults. In June 1998, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) released its concluding observations on a February 1996 report submitted by the Government, detailing its adherence to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UNCRC found that the Government's strategy, policies, and programs for children do not fully reflect the rights-based approach enshrined in the convention. The UNCRC also expressed concern over de facto discrimination against children with disabilities and at the insufficient measures taken by the state party to ensure that these children have effective access to health, education, and social services, and to facilitate their full integration into society.
In the fall of 1998, the NGO's Doctors Without Borders (DWB) and Doctors of the World closed their offices in the country because the Government reportedly denied them access to a large population of sick and malnourished children. DWB officials stated that they had evidence that orphaned and homeless children had been gathered into so-called "9-27 camps." These camps reportedly were established under a September 27, 1995 order from Kim Jong Il to "normalize" the country. Refugees who have escaped from the 9-27 camps into China have reported inhuman conditions.
Information about societal or familial abuse of children is unavailable. There were reports of trafficking in young girls among persons crossing the border into China (see Sections 6.c. and 6.f.).
Persons with Disabilities
Traditional social norms condone discrimination against persons with physical disabilities. Apart from veterans with disabilities, persons with disabilities almost never are seen within the city limits of Pyongyang, and several defectors and other former residents report that persons with disabilities are assigned to the rural areas routinely. According to one report, authorities check every 2 to 3 years in the capital for persons with deformities and relocate them to special facilities in the countryside. There are no legally mandated provisions for accessibility to buildings or government services for persons with disabilities. In a 1998 statement, the UNCRC criticized "de facto discrimination" in the country against children with disabilities.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Nongovernmental labor unions do not exist. The KWP purports to represent the interests of all labor. There is a single labor organization, the General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea, which is affiliated with the formerly Soviet-controlled World Federation of Trade Unions. Operating under this umbrella, unions function on the classic "Stalinist model," with responsibility for mobilizing workers behind production goals and for providing health, education, cultural, and welfare facilities. Unions do not have the right to strike.
The country is not a member of, but has observer status with, the International Labor Organization.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Workers have no right to organize or to bargain collectively. Government ministries set wages. The State assigns all jobs. Ideological purity is as important as professional competence in deciding who receives a particular job, and foreign companies that have established joint ventures report that all their employees must be hired from lists submitted by the KWP. Factory and farm workers are organized into councils, which do have an impact on management decisions.
There is one free enterprise zone (FEZ) in the Rajin-Songbon area. However, there are no reports of special hiring and other labor practices in the FEZ, and it is believed that workers in the FEZ are carefully screened and selected. The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization negotiated a separate protocol and service contracts for workers at the site of its light water reactor project. The government agency, which supplied the labor to KEDO, bargained effectively on the workers behalf (see Section 6.e.).
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
In its 2000 and 2001 reports to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, the Government claimed that its laws prohibit forced or compulsory labor. However, the Government frequently mobilizes the population for construction projects. Military conscripts routinely are used for this purpose as well. "Reformatory labor" and "reeducation through labor" are common punishments for political offenses. Amnesty International reports that forced labor, such as logging and tending crops, is common among prisoners. School children are assigned to factories or farms for short periods to help meet production goals (see Section 5).
The Constitution requires that all citizens of working age must work in full compliance with working discipline and working hours. The Penal Code provides for the death penalty for any individual who hinders the nation's industry, trade, or the transport system by purposely failing to fulfill a specific duty. It also states that anyone failing to carry out an assigned task properly is subject to at least 5 years in prison (see Section 6.e.).
There are reports of the trafficking of women and young girls among citizens crossing the border into China. Many become brides, but some work in the sex industry. Many reportedly are held as virtual prisoners (see Sections 5 and 6.f.).
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
According to the Constitution, the State prohibits work by children under the age of 16 years. There is no prohibition on forced labor by children, and school children are assigned to factories or farms for short periods to help meet production goals (see Section 6.c.).
There are reports of trafficking in young girls among citizens crossing into China, some to become brides and others forced to work in the sex industry (see Sections 5, 6.c., and 6.f.).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
No data is available on the minimum wage in state-owned industries. Until the recent food crisis, wages and rations appeared to be adequate to support workers and their families at a subsistence level. Wages are not the primary form of compensation since the State provides all educational and medical needs free of charge, while only token rent is charged. The minimum wage for workers in the FEZ is approximately $80 per month; in foreign-owned and joint venture enterprises outside the FEZ the minimum wage is reportedly close to $110 per month. It is not known what proportion of the foreign-paid wages go to the worker and what proportion remains with the State. KEDO, the international organization charged with implementation of a light-water reactor and other projects, has concluded a protocol and a related memorandum of understanding concerning wages and other working conditions for citizens who are to work on KEDO projects. Unskilled laborers receive about $110 per month while skilled laborers are paid slightly more depending on the nature of the work performed (see Section 6.b.).
The Constitution states that all working-age citizens must work and "strictly observe labor discipline and working hours." The Penal Code states that anyone who hampers the nation's industry, commerce, or transportation by intentionally failing to carry out a specific assignment "while pretending to be functioning normally" is subject to the death penalty; it also states that anyone who "shoddily carries out" an assigned duty is subject to no less than 5 years' imprisonment (see Section 6.c.).
Even persistent tardiness may be defined as "anti-Socialist wrecking" under these articles, although as a result of food shortages absenteeism reportedly has become widespread as more time must be spent finding food. A government official described the labor force to an audience of foreign business executives by noting that "there are no riots, no strikes, and no differences of opinion" with management.
In 1994 the authorities reportedly adopted new labor regulations for enterprises involving foreign investments. The regulations on labor contracts set out provisions on the employment and dismissal of workers, technical training, workhours, rest periods, remuneration, labor protection, social security, fines for violations of regulations, and settlement of disputes.
The Constitution stipulates an 8-hour workday; however, several sources report that most laborers work from 12 to 16 hours daily when factories are operating. Some of this additional time may include mandatory study of the writings of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. The Constitution provides all citizens with a "right to rest," including paid leave, holidays, and access to sanitariums and rest homes funded at public expense. Many worksites are hazardous, and the rate of industrial accidents is high. It is believed that workers do not have the right to remove themselves from hazardous working conditions without jeopardizing their employment.
f. Trafficking in Persons
There are no known laws specifically addressing the problem of trafficking in persons. There have been reports of trafficking in women and young girls among citizens crossing the border into China. Some were sold by their families as wives to men in China. A network of smugglers reportedly facilitates this trafficking. Many such women, unable to speak Chinese, are held as virtual prisoners. Many end up working as prostitutes (see Sections 5 and 6.c.).
DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KOREA
*The United States does not have diplomatic relations with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. North Korea does not allow representatives of foreign governments, journalists, or other invited guests the freedom of movement that would enable them to assess fully human rights conditions there. This report is based on information obtained over more than a decade, updated where possible by information drawn from recent interviews, reports, and other documentation. While limited in detail, this information is nonetheless indicative of the human rights situation in North Korea today.