North Korea Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

In North Korea there are systematic and extensive violations of human rights. Citizens are strictly monitored and prohibited from leaving their home country. The general elections held are a democratic facade.

Abbreviated as NK by Abbreviationfinder, North Korea is a dictatorship, controlled by the Kim dynasty, with in practice only a recognized party. There is only one candidate on the ballot papers and turnout is almost 100 percent (see Political system).

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Criticism of the regime and political opposition is severely punished. Political detention centers, often described as concentration camps, are believed to have existed since the Korean War. In recent decades, they have expanded greatly and are estimated to have held around 200,000 people at most. Today, the number of prisoners is estimated by human rights organizations to be 80,000-120,000. In the camps, entire families often live because up to three generations must be punished for crimes that have listened to foreign radio, practiced religion or failed to show sufficient respect for the country’s leader (see also Social conditions).). The prisoners, in practice, live as slaves in so poor conditions that many suffer from starvation, torture and hardship.

Attempts to leave the country are considered treason and may result in camp detention. Since Kim Jong-Un took over as new leader in 2012, the tone has been sharpened and threats of the death penalty have been pronounced for anyone trying to escape. Despite the threats, tens of thousands have crossed the border into China. But China regards them as economic migrants rather than refugees, and sends back most.

The world view of the situation in North Korea is largely based on testimony from those who managed to leave the country. Satellite monitoring reveals the scale of the large detention camps. Foreign visitors to the country are not allowed to move freely and international human rights organizations and UN agencies have no or very limited access to the country.

In 2014, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) presented a report documenting systematic, widespread and serious crimes such as murder, enslavement, torture, rape, forced abortions, forced displacement, “disappearances” and famine and persecution based on politics, religion, race and gender. The investigation, which was based on testimonies from North Koreans who fled their homeland, established that the regime has been guilty of crimes against humanity. It therefore recommended that the regime be held accountable to the International Criminal Court ICC. The UN Human Rights Committee in the General Assembly also adopted recurrent resolutions in the 2010s with the same call.

North Korean society is patriarchal and the proportion of women in higher political positions is small.

Corruption is believed to be widespread in society. The organization Transparency International placed North Korea in 176 of 180 countries in its list of corruption in world countries 2018.

Freedom of expression and media

North Korea is ranked in the absolute bottom tier of the world in terms of freedom of the press, even though it, like freedom of expression, meeting and printing, is enshrined in the Constitution (see ranking list from Reporters Without Borders here). All mass media are strictly censored and used as the regime’s propaganda instrument. Criticism of official politics is prosecuted as “reactionary agitation,” a crime punishable by death. Journalists must belong to the state-carrying Communist Labor Party.

The news that is conveyed is largely about the statements and activities of the political leaders. The state news agency KCNA is the only approved source of official news for the country’s other media. Radio and television sets are locked at official frequencies, and harsh punishments have been inflicted when people have listened to foreign radio broadcasts.

The people are cut off from international media. News of oppression and famine within the country must be smuggled out to reach the outside world. However, the flow has increased in recent years. There are now some Internet cafes, although web surfers can only access sites approved by the authorities.

Judicial system and legal security

According to the constitution, the courts of the country should be independent, but in practice the judiciary is subordinate to the party. North Korea is accused of arbitrary arrests, torture and extra-judicial – and sometimes public – executions. It is common for even the families of convicted persons, especially if they are to have committed political crimes, to be punished.