Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 07:42 GMT

State of the World's Minorities 2006 - North Korea

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 22 December 2005
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2006 - North Korea, 22 December 2005, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) is one of the world's most homogeneous countries in linguistic and ethnic terms, and its government one of the most repressive. There is only a Chinese minority (of perhaps around 50,000). There has in 2004–5 been no change in the language policies of the regime of Kim Jong Il, General Secretary of the Korean Workers' Party (KWP). The Korean language is the exclusive language of state authorities at every level.

Religious minorities do exist and are more significant in demographic terms, and their treatment at the hands of authorities has been one of unabated persecution and repression in 2004–5. There is no majority religion in the country since the total of all religious practitioners is apparently less than 50 per cent, with even traditional religions such as Buddhism now thought to have relatively few active adherents (US State Department, International Religious Freedom Report 2004: Democratic People's Republic of Korea).

While the Constitution in theory provides protection for freedom of religious belief, in practice this is severely restricted by the authorities unless it is under the auspices of officially recognized groups linked to the government. A Russian Orthodox church was, however, being built in 2004 in Pyongyang. Reports in 2004–5 continue to appear from religious and human rights groups of harsh treatment, and even of torture, of members of religious minorities involved in non-sanctioned religious practices.

Widespread condemnation of North Korea's human rights record, and its treatment of its religious minorities in particular, from numerous international organizations and the international community has continued. There was a third resolution at the 2005 session of the UN Commission on Human Rights condemning its human rights record, as well as the appointment in 2004 of a UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The US also adopted a 'North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004' to 'promote human rights and freedom' in that country.

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