Korea, Democratic People´s Republic of

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Persistent violations
  • High infant mortality and malnourishment[1]
  • Inadequate and inappropriate education, including indoctrination[2]
  • Discrimination against children with disabilities[3]
  • Violence against women and children, particularly domestic violence[4]
  • Trafficking in women and children[5]
  • Participation of children in society and the inability of the child to express his or her views[6]
  • Ill-treatment of asylum-seeking, refugee or migrant children if returned to DPRK[7]
  • Torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of children, including collective punishment[8]
  • Economic exploitation of children and child labour[9]
  • Children involved in armed conflict and the military training of children[10]
  • Inadequate and inappropriate juvenile justice system[11]

For more details, go here

Footnotes
  1. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Human Rights Committee, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea,Universal Periodic Review
  2. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Universal Periodic Review
  3. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Universal Periodic Review
  4. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Universal Periodic Review
  5. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,Universal Periodic Review
  6. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
  7. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Universal Periodic Review
  8. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  9. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  10. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  11. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review



Introduction

Located on the northern part of the Korean peninsula, the DPRK borders Russia, China and, separated by the Demilitarised Zone, South Korea. Divided from the Republic of Korea by the United Nations - contested during the 1950-1953 war - the DPRK is a secretive, repressive and brutal socialist regime, ruled by a small political-military elite and led by hereditary presidency. Accurate information on the internal situation of the DPRK is limited but the scale of human rights abuses is thought to be vast, with repression, detention and execution of dissidents sitting alongside the humanitarian effects of a massive shortfall in development resulting from failed state policies.

Geography

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is located on the northern half of the Korean peninsula between China, and its heavily armed border with the Republic of Korea (ROK). The country's terrain is dominated by mountains and uplands with sizeable coal and other mineral deposits. The capital city is Pyongyang.

Population and language

An estimated 24.5 million people live in the DPRK,[1] a relatively homogeneous population made up almost entirely of ethnic Koreans, with a small Chinese minority. The population almost exclusively speaks Korean, though a form of the language with less borrowed western vocabulary than that spoken to the south. Buddhism, Christianity and Chondo are all officially recognised religions within the country, though are not freely practised.[2]

History and politics

The DPRK came into being as a State after the Second World War as it emerged from its forced annexation by Japan. Within two years of the country's formation, the Soviet backed DPRK invaded neighbouring ROK in a war that became one of the major conflicts of the Cold War when U.S. troops entered the combat on the side of the ROK. By 1953, the modern day border between the two Korean states was established more or less at the same point as prior to the war, along the 38th parallel which roughly marks the modern day border. From the country's formation in 1948 until his death in 1994, Kim Il-sung led the country as a communist dictatorship, and constitutionally retains the title of “the Eternal President”. Upon the death of his father, Kim Jong-il assumed the Korean leadership to be in turn replaced by his son Kim Jong-un in December 2011.[3]

The country is officially a single party socialist state run by the Workers Party of Korea, though real power lies with a military-centred elite. Little is known of operations within the country's borders, the government maintains strict controls over access and the transit of information, its recent history in the international arena has been dominated by the dispute over its nuclear policy and its relations with the ROK. In 2002, the DPRK announced that it had been engaged in clandestine uranium enrichment to produce fissile material, and has been engaging in international talks on non-proliferation whilst developing and testing nuclear weapons. In 2006, seven ballistic missiles were tested including those believed capable of reaching the U.S.,[4] and tests of nuclear and missile technology have continued since.

As early as 1972, the DPRK and the ROK signed a joint communiqué agreeing to work towards a peaceful reunification, though progress has been slow and currently seems unlikely. In November 2010, tensions between the two countries were raised when the DPRK sunk a ROK ship[5] and shelled an island on the shared maritime border.6 Continuing tests of nuclear technology have also served to damage the countries diplomatic relationship.

Economy

When the DPRK gained its independence, it held much of the formerly unified Korea's industry and substantial mineral resources. Since the 1970s, however, while the ROK has grown into one of the world's largest economies, the centrally planned economy to the north has floundered and now relies on agriculture for an estimated fifth of its economic activity.[6] However, despite the economic role of agriculture in the national economy, the country continues to experience serious food shortages which may have reached the levels of famine.[7] In recent years there has been a partial opening up of borders for those seeking to invest and operate businesses in the country, particularly those entering from China. A large scale industrial zone near the border with ROK has allowed South Korean firms to profit from the cheap skilled labour to the north, whilst providing employment for North Koreans.[8] Sanctions have made it difficult for western companies to invest in the country, however, particularly given the continuing U.N. and U.S. policies in this regard.[9]

Media and civil society

The DPRK's ruling regime is among the most controlling and hostile to media freedom in the world and maintains a system of control that allows for the imprisonment of persons for reporting that does not meet the official State line, or even for listening to foreign-based radio. Two U.S. journalists were detained in Pyongyang for reporting on the plight of Korean women on the border with China, and sentenced to 12 years years of “re-education through work”, though they were subsequently released. Koreans communicating with foreigners are also subject to serious risks, as evidenced by the imprisonment of journalist Song Keum Chui who sent film of a public execution abroad. It is possible for foreign press to gain access to the country during cultural or sporting events, or to cover the visit of a foreign leader, but journalists are carefully watched and prevented from speaking to Koreans.[10]

Reporters Without Borders rated the country 178 out of 179 in its Press Freedom Index of 2011/12 indicating that it has the second most hostile environment for media freedom in the world, a position it has held since 2006 when it came bottom of the rankings.[11]

Human rights and people's rights

Accurate information as to the current state of affairs in the DPRK is difficult to access given the extreme control over access to the country. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country was again refused entry to the country in 2011 and the State reports sporadically to the UN Treaty Bodies. Amnesty International were permitted access to the country in 1998, but in response to what was perceived as a “hostile” report, the organisation has not been allowed access since. Nevertheless, it is widely agreed that the country is home to widespread and extreme violations of human rights.

Credible reports have emerged of widespread political detention of as many as 200,000 Koreans, subjected to forced labour in hazardous conditions, beatings, inadequate healthcare and with access to inadequate food. Reports continue to emerge of public executions including for political crimes, and the Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary and arbitrary executions wrote to the country to specifically raise the cases of 37 people reportedly subjected to the death penalty for “financial crimes”.[12]

Among the issues of particular concern for children living in the country are the high levels of infant mortality and child malnutrition, the ill-treatment of children returned to the country after leaving as migrants or refugees, and the widespread exploitation of children in hazardous labour.[13]

  1. UNDESA, "World Population Statistics 2011"
  2. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, "Korea, DPR Country Profile" 18 November 2011
  3. See New York Times, "Young heir faces uncertain transition in North Korea" 19 December 2011
  4. BBC, "Outcry over N. Korea missile test" 5 July 2006
  5. BBC, "'North Korean torpedo' sank South's navy ship- report" 20 May 2010
  6. BBC, "Viewpoint: Kim's death and the NOrth Korean economy" 20 December 2011
  7. The Guardian, "North Korea's giant leap backwards" 17 July 2010
  8. The Economist, "Working together: The capitalist enclave in North Korea belies the country's increasing isolation" 20 July 2009
  9. New York Times, "UN Council to expand North Korea sanctions" 16 April 2012 and Reuters, "Obama widens US sanctions on North Korea" 20 April 2010
  10. Reporters Without Borders, "World Report: North Korea"
  11. Reporters Without Borders, "Press Freedom Index, 2006-11"
  12. Amnesty International, "World Report 2012: The state of the world's human rights"
  13. See CRIN, "Korea, the Democratic Republic: Persistent violations of children's rights"

Sources:

Quick Facts

  • Population: 24,553,700 (UNDP, 2012)
  • Population under 18: N/A
  • Number of internet users: N/A
  • Human Development Index ranking: N/A (UNDP, 2012)
  • Happy Planet ranking: N/A