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DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a 
dictatorship under the absolute rule of the Korean Workers' 
Party (KWP).  The KWP exercises power on behalf of its leader, 
General Secretary Kim Il Sung, who is also President of the 
DPRK.  Kim Il Sung, in power for 56 years, has largely turned 
over day-to-day control of the Government and the Korean 
People's Army to his son, Kim Jong Il.  The younger Kim ranks 
second in the KWP and, with his father, is the object of a 
personality cult.

The North Korean regime is repressive and subjects its citizens 
to rigid controls.  The regime establishes security ratings for 
each individual which determine access to employment, schools, 
medical facilities, and certain stores as well as admission to 
the KWP, but this loyalty system appears to have been relaxed 
somewhat in recent years.  Individual rights is an alien 
concept that the state leadership perceives as potentially 
subversive to the goals of the State and party.

The State directs all significant economic activity, and only 
government supervised labor activity is permitted.  The North 
Korean economy has contracted significantly due to the 
elimination of Russian/Soviet concessional trade and aid.  
Economic development continues to be hindered by distribution 
bottlenecks, nonproductive allocation of resources, and a poor 
international credit rating stemming from the DPRK's default on 
much of its foreign debt, as well as by the diversion of as 
much as a quarter of gross national product to military 
expenditures.  From time to time in 1993, there were reports of 
sporadic, small scale civil disturbances in some cities, 
apparently caused by food shortages.  Significant amounts of 
food grain were again imported in 1993.  The rationing of food, 
clothing, and energy appeared to continue in most parts of the 
country.  The KWP Plenum in December admitted serious economic 
shortfalls, but claimed a bumper rice crop had been harvested.

*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 visitors the freedom of movement that would 
enable them to assess human rights conditions there.  Most of 
this report, therefore, is based on information obtained over a 
period of time extending from well before 1993.  While limited 
in detail, the information is nonetheless indicative of the 
human rights situation in North Korea today.

North Korea continues to deny its citizens the most fundamental 
human rights.  Unlike in the previous 2 years, the number of 
North Koreans allowed to visit the United States, other than to 
attend U.N. affiliated functions, dropped to zero.  Americans 
continued to be admitted to North Korea, but this number was 
also down significantly compared to the number in the previous 
2 years.

Furthermore, the Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression, 
Cooperation, and Exchange Between North and South Korea, signed 
in December 1991, calls for increased family exchanges and 
established a joint committee to discuss implementation.  After 
some initial progress in 1992, the committee was unable to meet 
in 1993, and no exchanges have taken place under the Agreement.

The North Korean Penal Code is draconian, stipulating capital 
punishment and confiscation of all assets for a wide variety of 
"crimes against the revolution," including defection, slander 
of the party or State, and possessing "reactionary" printed 
matter.  The regime permits no independent press or 
associations, and little outside information reaches the public 
except that approved and disseminated by the Government.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Political prisoners, opponents of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, 
repatriated defectors, and others have been summarily 
executed.  The death penalty is mandatory under Article 52 of 
the Criminal Law for activities "in collusion with 
imperialists" aimed at "suppressing the national-liberation 
struggle," and some prisoners are sentenced to death for 
"ideological divergence" and other "counterrevolutionary 

     b.  Disappearance

There is no reliable information on disappearances within North 
Korea.  There were reports in the 1980's, however, of DPRK 
involvement in the kidnaping abroad of South Koreans, Japanese, 
and other foreign citizens.  The Japanese press estimates as 
many as 20 Japanese may have been kidnaped and are being 
detained in North Korea.  The DPRK denies these reports.

The 1993 Annual Report of Amnesty International (AI) details 
the case of the Shibata family of Japan.  Shibata Kozo and his 
wife Shin Sung Suk, a Korean resident of Japan, in 1960 left 
Japan and resettled in North Korea.  Mr. Shibata in 1965 was 
reportedly charged with spying and sent to a sanatorium.  He 
apparently is in poor health, according to former detainees, 
and there has been no word about his wife and three children 
since 1965.  Mr. Kim Myong Sed, according to AI, has not 
received any news about his wife, daughter, or other family 
members still in North Korea since he applied for political 
asylum in Russia in 1992.

     c.  Torture and  Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

There is no information on recent practices, but credible 
reports indicate that during the 1980's prisoners were 
routinely tortured or ill-treated, and many prisoners died from 
torture, disease, starvation, or exposure.  In some cases 
executions reportedly are carried out at public meetings 
attended by workers, students, and school children.  Executions 
have also been carried out before assembled inmates at places 
of detention.

According to AI, whole families, including children, are 
imprisoned together.  "Reeducation through labor" is common 
punishment, consisting of forced labor (logging, tending crops) 
under harsh conditions.  A small number of people who claim to 
have escaped from North Korean detention camps report that 
starvation and executions are common.  In one prison, clothing 
was issued only once in a 3-year period.  Former inmates have 
produced photographs of an inmate wearing specially designed 
leg irons which permit walking but make running impossible.  AI 
also reports the existence of "punishment cells," too low to 
permit standing upright and too small for lying down flat, 
where prisoners are kept for up to several weeks for breaking 
prison rules.  

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Little information is available on North Korea's criminal 
justice procedures and practices, and outside observation of 
its legal system has not been permitted.

Under North Korean law, prisoners may be held for interrogation 
for a maximum of 2 months, but this period may be extended 
indefinitely.  Family members or other concerned persons find 
it virtually impossible to obtain information on charges 
against detained persons.  Judicial review of detentions does 
not exist in law or in practice.

Defectors claim that North Korea detains about 150,000 
political prisoners and family members in maximum security 
camps in remote areas.  An October 1992 report by two former 
inmates made reference to the severe living conditions in what 
they called "concentration camps."  The severe conditions were 
filmed in the summer of 1992 by a Japan NHK television crew 
when it visited, escorted by local Russian authorities, a North 
Korean-controlled logging camp located in Russia's Maritime 
Province.  North Korean officials deny the existence of such 
gulags or prisons but admit the existence of "education 
centers" for people who "commit crimes by mistake."

One credible report lists 12 such prison camps believed to 
exist in the DPRK.  It is believed that some former high 
officials are imprisoned in the camps.  Visitors to, and any 
form of communication with, detainees, although once allowed, 
are now said to be prohibited.

In July 1991, Cho Kap Chae, a North Korean defector who had 
been a ranking official in the DPRK Ministry of Public 
Security, said that there were two types of detention areas.  
One consists of closed camps from which prisoners never emerge, 
and where conditions are extremely harsh.  In the other, 
prisoners can be "rehabilitated," and Cho reported that a 
prisoner he knew was released after a 3-year detention.

     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, which contains elaborate procedural guarantees.  
Article 138 of the Constitution states that "cases are heard in 
public, and the accused is guaranteed the right to defense; 
hearings may be closed to the public as stipulated by law."  
However, the concepts of an independent judiciary and 
individual rights, as understood in Western democracies, are 
alien to the DPRK.  Also, the Public Security Ministry 
dispenses with trials in political cases and refers them to the 
Ministry of State Security for imposition of punishment.

When trials are held, lawyers are apparently assigned by the 
Government, and reports indicate that defense lawyers are not 
considered representatives of the accused, but rather are 
independent parties who are expected to help the court by 
persuading the accused to confess guilt.  Some reports note a 
distinction between political and common criminals and state 
that the Government affords trials only to the latter.  North 
Korea equates "political criminals" with those who criticize 
the regime.  Numerous other reports suggest that in the past 
political offenses included such forms of lese majesty as 
sitting on newspapers bearing Kim Il Sung's picture.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

Citizens in all age groups and occupations are subject to 
indoctrination designed to shape and control individual 
consciousness.  This effort is aimed at ensuring reverence for 
Kim Il Sung and his family, as well as conformity to the 
State's ideology and authority.  Multiple security 
organizations ensure the indoctrination is evident in the mass 
media and is carried out systematically by schools and worker 
and neighborhood associations.  Koreans with relatives who fled 
to the south at the time of the Korean War appear to be still 
classified as part of the "hostile class" in the DPRK's 
elaborate loyalty system.  Because approximately 10 million 
families were separated by the end of the Korean War, this 
category encompasses a significant percentage of the North 
Korean population.

The defector Cho Kap Chae estimated that the "impure" class may 
comprise 25 to 30 percent of the population.  Members of this 
class may still be subject to some discrimination, although Cho 
claimed that their treatment has improved greatly in recent 

The Constitutional stipulation that "citizens are guaranteed 
the inviolability of person and residence and the privacy of 
correspondence" does not reflect reality.  The Government 
relies upon an extensive system of informers to identify 
critics and potential trouble makers.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Although the Constitution states that "citizens have freedoms 
of speech, press, assembly, association, and demonstration," 
the regime permits such activities only in support of 
government objectives.  Other articles of the Constitution that 
require citizens to follow the "Socialist norms of life" and to 
obey a "collective spirit" take precedence over individual 
political or civil liberties.

The Government strictly curtails the rights of freedom of 
expression and association guaranteed under the International 
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which North Korea 
became a party in 1981.  Persons criticizing the President or 
his policies are liable to punishment by imprisonment or 
"corrective labor."  One defector reported in 1986 that a 
scientist, whose home was bugged through his radio set, was 
arrested and executed for statements made at home critical of 
Kim Il Sung.  In another case, AI reports that a family, 
formerly resident in Japan, was sent into internal exile 
because one of them was accused of having made remarks 
disparaging of the Government.  They were last reported to be 
in a "reeducation through labor" center in 1992.

The Government attempts to control all news that enters and 
leaves the DPRK.  The visits of Western journalists are 
carefully managed.  Russian publications that have written 
critically of North Korea have had access restricted, and 
during 1991 several had their offices closed.  Domestic media 
censorship is strictly enforced, 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 are built to receive only domestic 
programming.  The Government controls artistic and academic 
works, and visitors report that the primary function of plays, 
movies, operas, and books is to contribute to the cult of 
personality surrounding "the Great Leader," Kim Il Sung, and 
"the Dear Leader," Kim Jong Il.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

No public meetings may be held without government 
authorization.  There are no known organizations other than 
those created by the Government.  The State even prohibits 
apolitical groups such as neighborhood or alumni 
organizations.  Professional associations exist solely as 
another means of government control over the members of these 

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides that "citizens have religious liberty 
and the freedom of antireligious propaganda."  In reality, the 
regime firmly discourages all organized religious activity 
except that which serves the interests of the State.  In recent 
years, the regime has facilitated the formation of 
government-sponsored religious organizations to advance its 
foreign policy goals.  The DPRK claims there are 10,000 
Christians who worship in 500 home churches, and the Chondogyo 
Young Friends Party, a government sponsored group based on a 
native Korean religious movement, is still in existence.  There 
are a few Buddhist temples where religious activity is 
permitted, and two Christian churches--one Protestant and one 
Catholic--were built in late 1988.  Some visitors attest to the 
authenticity of the church services and to the faith of the 
several dozen worshipers observed; others say the church 
activity appears staged.

Kim Il Sung, his family, and his juche (self-reliance) ideology 
are revered, and the cult of the Kim family approaches that of 
a state religion.  The regime seems to be seeking a theological 
basis for melding "Kim Ilsungism" (as it is called by North 
Korean media) and Christianity.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The DPRK regime strictly controls internal travel, requiring a 
travel pass for any movement outside one's home village;  these 
passes are granted only for official travel or attendance at a 
relative's wedding or funeral.  Long delays in obtaining the 
necessary permit often result in denial of the right to travel 
even for these limited purposes.  Only a very small elite are 
allowed to have vehicles for personal use.  The regime tightly 
controls access to civilian aircraft, trains and buses, food 
and fuel.  In Pyongyang, there are no taxi cabs, and there are 
only a few buses and street cars.  Most citizens either walk 
or, when it is operating, ride the subway.  Most workers are 
required to live outside Pyongyang and commute to and from work 
on foot, unless mobilized for special government projects when 
they are transported in open trucks.

Reports, primarily from defectors, indicate that forced 
resettlement, particularly for those deemed politically 
unreliable, is common.  Permission to reside in, or even enter 
Pyongyang, the capital, is strictly controlled.  

Foreign travel is limited to officials and trusted artists, 
athletes, and academics.  The regime does not allow emigration, 
and only 1,000 or so defectors have succeeded in fleeing the 
country since 1953.  The regime retaliates against the 
relatives of those few persons who manage to escape.  
Involuntarily repatriated defectors have been jailed or, in 
some cases, executed.  AI reports that Shin Sook Ja and her two 
daughters were detained in 1986 after her husband, Oh Kil Nam,  
requested political asylum in Denmark.  Oh Kil Nam has not been 
able to contact his family since 1986.  In 1991, for the first 
time, a single North Korean citizen was allowed to travel to 
the United States to visit relatives.  He was accompanied by a 
government official and returned after 2 weeks.  The regime 
does not allow students to study outside of Communist or 
friendly Third World countries.  It tightened controls over 
DPRK students studying abroad when six defected from Eastern 
Europe in 1989, and in 1990 called back its students from 
Eastern Europe and the former U.S.S.R.

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, 1,828 of whom still had 
Japanese citizenship, would be allowed to go home to Japan 
every 2 or 3 years, none is known to have returned to Japan and 
most have never been heard of again.  Most of the returnees and 
their families were placed in the "wavering class" and 
generally treated with contempt.  As this became known abroad, 
voluntary repatriation ceased.  In recent years, the treatment 
of Japanese spouses appears to have improved, possibly because 
visiting relatives from Japan bring in hard currency, which is 
in short supply in the DPRK, estimated to be about $600 million 

Over the past decade, the DPRK has gradually permitted an 
increasing number of overseas Korean residents of Japan, China, 
North America, and other countries to visit their relatives in 
North Korea.  Entry by all foreigners was suspended temporarily 
for brief periods in 1993 because of military alerts or for 
unexplained reasons.  Visitors are closely monitored and 
itineraries are usually fixed, although some visitors are able 
to walk freely in the vicinity of their hotels or guest 
quarters.  Prior arrangements are necessary for access to 
apartment buildings, public buildings, stores, and similar 

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens have no right or mechanisms by which they can effect 
transitions in leadership or changes in government.  The 
political system is completely dominated by Kim Il Sung and 
heir-designate Kim Jong Il.  The legislature, the Supreme 
People's Assembly, which meets only a few days a year, serves 
only to rubber-stamp resolutions presented to it by the 

In an effort to create an appearance of democracy, the DPRK has 
created several "minority parties."  Lacking grass roots 
organizations, they exist only as rosters of officials with 
token representation in the Supreme People's Assembly.  Their 
primary purpose appears to be that of promoting government 
objectives abroad as touring parliamentarians.  Free elections 
do not exist in North Korea.  Although elections to the Supreme 
People's Assembly and provincial, city, and county assemblies 
are held regularly, in all cases the Government approves only 
one candidate in each electoral district.  According to the 
government-controlled media, over 99 percent of the voters 
turned out to elect 100 percent of the candidates approved by 
the regime's Korean Workers Party or KWP.  The vast majority of 
the KWP's estimated 3 million members (in a population of 22 
million) work to implement decrees formulated by the party's 
small elite.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

No organizations within the DPRK are permitted to monitor human 
rights conditions or to observe violations of such rights.  
North Korea does not belong to any international human rights 
organizations, but it has for some years sent observers to 
meetings of the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

Amnesty International representatives visited the DPRK in 1991 
and met officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and 
Public Security, as well as with judges, lawyers, and legal 
scholars.  Subsequently, the DPRK has ignored visit requests by 
the AI, Asia Watch, and other human rights organizations.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


The Constitution states that "women hold equal social status 
and rights with men."  However, few women have reached high 
levels of the party or the Government.  Women are represented 
proportionally in the labor force, with the exception of small 
factories where the work force is predominantly female.  

Neither government policy or traditional social norms condone 
violence against women.  The AI has reported that women are 
detained with their families for political offenses committed 
by their spouses.


Social norms reflect traditional, family-centered values in 
which children are cherished.  All children have access to 
state-provided education.  Visitors to Pyongyang report that 
children are well dressed and at least as well fed as the 
general population.  There are no reports of children begging 
or of child labor in factories.  Pyongyang has at least two 
amusement parks and one department store for use primarily by 
children.  The children of KWP members, disabled veterans, and 
"revolutionary heroes" seem to receive preferential treatment.  
Children may be detained with parents deemed guilty of 
political offenses, according to AI.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

North Korea has a largely homogeneous population, except for a 
small Chinese community and the Japanese spouses of former 
Korean residents in Japan.  There are no reports of 
discrimination against the Chinese community.  Systematic 
discrimination is unlikely since China is North Korea's primary 
ally and trading partner.

     People with Disabilities

Traditional social norms condone discrimination against the 
physically handicapped.  Handicapped persons, other than war 
veterans, are reportedly not allowed within the city limits of 
Pyongyang.  According to one credible report, authorities check 
every 2 to 3 years in the capital for persons with deformities, 
including dwarfs, and relocate them to special facilities in 
the countryside.  There are no legally mandated provisions for 
accessibility for the disabled.  

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Nongovernmental labor unions do not exist in North Korea.  The 
Korean Workers' Party purports to represent the interests of 
all labor.  There is a single labor organization, called 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 classical Soviet model, with responsibility for 
mobilizing workers behind productivity goals and state targets 
and for providing health, education, cultural, and welfare 
facilities.  They do not have the right to strike.  North Korea 
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.  
Wages are set by government ministries.  The State assigns all 
jobs.  Ideological purity is as important as professional 
competence in deciding who receives a particular job.  Factory 
and farm workers are organized into councils which do have an 
impact upon management decisions.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

There is no prohibition on the use of forced or compulsory 
labor, and the Government routinely uses military conscripts 
for construction projects.  "Reformatory labor" and 
"reeducation through labor" are common sentences for political 
offenses.  Amnesty International reports that forced labor, 
such as logging and tending crops, is common among prisoners.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

No data are available on the minimum age for employment of 
children.  However, education is universal and mandatory until 
age 15, and it is believed that this regulation is enforced.  

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

No data are available on minimum wages.  They appear to be 
adequate to support a worker and his family at a basic 
subsistence level.  But wages are not the primary form of 
compensation since the State provides all educational and 
medical needs free and only token rent is charged.

The Constitution stipulates an 8-hour workday, but several 
sources report that, during production campaigns, most laborers 
work 12 to 16 hours daily.

[end of document]


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