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The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a 
dictatorship under the absolute rule of the Korean Workers' 
Party (KWP).  Kim Il Sung ruled the DPRK from its inception 
until his death in July.  Although he has not yet assumed his 
father's positions of President of the DPRK and Secretary 
General of the KWP, Kim Jong Il appears to be in control of the 
DPRK following his father's death.  Both Kim Il Sung and Kim 
Jong Il continue to be the objects of intensive personality 

The North Korean regime 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 it may have relaxed this loyalty system somewhat 
in recent years.  The state leadership perceives individual 
rights as an alien concept subversive to the goals of the State 
and party.

The State directs all significant economic activity, and only 
government-supervised labor union activity is permitted.  The 
North Korean economy has contracted by an average of 
approximately 7 percent per year over the last 3 years, largely 
due to the elimination of Russian/Soviet concessional trade and 
aid.  Economic development continues to be hindered by 
distribution bottlenecks, inefficient allocation of resources, 
poor international credit stemming from the DPRK's default on 
much of its foreign debt, and by the diversion of a quarter of 
the gross national product to military expenditures.  The 
rationing of food, clothing, and energy appeared to continue in 
most parts of the country.

(*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 1994.  While limited 
in detail, the information is nonetheless indicative of the 
human rights situation in North Korea today.)

The Government continues to deny its citizens most fundamental 
human rights.  The 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 the regime, repatriated 
defectors, and others (reportedly including military officers 
suspected of plotting against Kim Jong Il) have been summarily 
executed.  Article 52 of the Criminal Law makes the death 
penalty mandatory for activities "in collusion with 
imperialists" aimed at "suppressing the national liberation 
struggle," and some prisoners are sentenced to death for such 
ill-defined "crimes" as  "ideological divergence" and other 
"counterrevolutionary crimes."

     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.

Amnesty International (AI) reports issued in 1993 and 1994 
detail a number of cases, including that of the Shibata family 
of Japan.  Shibata Kozo and his wife Shin Sung Suk, a Korean 
resident of Japan, left Japan in 1960 and resettled in North 
Korea.  Mr. Shibata was reportedly charged in 1965 with spying 
and sent to a sanatorium.  He reportedly 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 Se, 
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 were carried out at public meetings 
attended by workers, students, and schoolchildren.  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.

The law provides that 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."  North Korean officials deny 
the existence of such gulags or prisons but admit the existence 
of "education centers" for people who "commit crimes by 

One credible report lists 12 such prison camps 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.

According to an AI report, the Government is currently 
detaining for political offenses 58 people, some of them for as 
long as 30 years.

     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.  The Constitution contains elaborate procedural 
guarantees.  Article 138 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 accepted international concepts of an independent 
judiciary and individual rights are alien to the DPRK.  The 
Public Security Ministry dispenses with trials in political 
cases and refers defendants 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 those accused of political crimes and 
common criminals, and state that the Government affords trials 
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 forms of 
lese majesty as sitting on newspapers bearing Kim Il Sung's 

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

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 troublemakers.  In some cases, entire 
families are detained for alleged political offenses committed 
by one member of the family.

The authorities subject citizens in all age groups and 
occupations to political and ideological indoctrination.  Even 
after Kim Il Sung's death, his cult of personality and 
glorification of his family and the official "juche" 
(self-reliance) ideology continued to be omnipresent.  The cult 
approaches the level of a state religion.  The goal of 
indoctrination remains to ensure loyalty to the Kim Il Sung 
system and his son and heir Kim Jong Il, as well as conformity 
to the State's ideology and authority.  Indoctrination is 
carried out systematically not only through the mass media, but 
also in schools and through worker and neighborhood 
associations.  Citizens with relatives who fled to South Korea 
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 war, this category encompasses a significant 
percentage of the North Korean population.

The defector Cho Kap Chae estimated that the class of those 
considered politically "impure" 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 years.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

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.  
While freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and 
demonstration are formally guaranteed, they do not exist in 
practice.  The regime permits only activities which support its 

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.  The authorities may punish persons 
criticizing the regime or its policies 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 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 that enters 
and leaves the DPRK.  It carefully manages the visits of 
Western journalists.  The authorities restricted access to 
Russian publications that carried articles critical of North 
Korea, and during 1991 closed several of their offices.  
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, children's performances, and 
books is to contribute to the cult of personality surrounding 
Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Government prohibits any public meetings without 
authorization.  There are no known organizations other than 
those created by the Government.  Professional associations 
exist solely as another means of government control over the 
members of these organizations.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for the rights of "religious liberty 
and the freedom of antireligious propaganda."  However, the 
regime firmly discourages all organized religious activity 
except that which serves the interests of the State.  In recent 
years, it 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 worshipers observed; 
others say the church activity appears staged.

     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 have 
vehicles for personal use.  The regime tightly controls access 
to civilian aircraft, trains, buses, food, and fuel.  Most 
workers are required to live outside Pyongyang, the capital, 
and commute to and from work on foot.

Reports, primarily from defectors, indicate that the Government 
routinely uses forced resettlement, particularly for those 
deemed politically unreliable.  The Government strictly 
controls permission to reside in, or even enter, Pyongyang.

The regime limits foreign travel to officials and trusted 
artists, athletes, and academics.  It does not allow 
emigration, although there have been a limited number of 
defections.  Recently, the number of defectors has increased 
somewhat.  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.  As a 
rule, the regime does not currently allow students to study 
outside of friendly countries.

From 1959 to 1982, 93,000 Korean residents of Japan, including 
6,637 Japanese wives, voluntarily repatriated to North Korea.  
Despite regime 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 done so.  Most have 
not been heard of again.

Over the past decade, the DPRK has gradually permitted an 
increasing number of overseas Korean residents of North 
America, Japan, China, and other countries to visit their 
relatives in North Korea.

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 the KWP, with Kim 
Il Sung's heir Kim Jong Il apparently in control.  (There is 
very little hard information available on intraregime politics 
following Kim Il Sung's death.)  The legislature, the Supreme 
People's Assembly, which meets only a few days a year, serves 
only to rubberstamp resolutions presented to it by the party 

In an effort to create the 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 there is only one government-
approved candidate in each electoral district.  According to 
the media, over 99 percent of the voters turned out to elect 
100 percent of the candidates approved by the 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

The Government does not permit any domestic organizations to 
monitor human rights conditions or to comment on violations of 
such rights.

AI 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 requests for visits by AI, Asia Watch, and 
other human rights organizations.

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

The Constitution grants equal rights to all citizens.  As noted 
above, however, the Government denies its citizens the most 
fundamental human rights.


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 in which the work force is predominantly female.

Neither government policy nor traditional social norms condone 
violence against women.


Social norms reflect traditional, family-centered values in 
which children are cherished.  The State provides education for 
all children.  There is no pattern of societal or familial 
abuse of children.

     People with Disabilities

There are no legally mandated provisions for accessibility to 
buildings or government services for the disabled.  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 and 
relocate them to special facilities in the countryside.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Nongovernmental labor unions do not exist.  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 
production goals 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 punishments for 
political offenses.  AI 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 workers and their families at a basic 
subsistence level.  Wages are not the primary form of 
compensation since the State provides all educational and 
medical needs free of charge, while most goods are distributed 
according to a rationing system and only token rent is charged.

In January labor regulations for foreign-funded enterprises 
were reportedly adopted by the Administration Council.  
Referring to labor contracts, they set out provisions on the 
employment and dismissal of workers, technical training, work 
hours, rest periods, remuneration, labor protection, social 
security, fines for violations of regulations, and settlement 
of disputes.

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


[end of document]


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