U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - North Korea
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - North Korea, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa551c.html [accessed 19 April 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This 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.|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KOREA *The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a dictatorship under the absolute rule of the Korean Workers' Party (KWP). Kim Il Sung led the DPRK from its inception until his death in July 1994. Since then his son Kim Jong Il appears to have had unchallenged authority. Kim Jong Il was named General Secretary of the KWP in October, although he has not assumed his father's position as President. Both Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il continue to be the objects of intense personality cults. The regime emphasizes juche, a national ideology of self-reliance. The judiciary is not independent. The Korean People's Army is the primary organization responsible for external security. It is assisted by a large military reserve force and several quasi-military organizations, including the Worker-Peasant Red Guards and the People's Security Force. These organizations assist the Ministry of Public Security and cadres of the KWP in maintaining internal security. Members of the security forces committed serious human rights abuses. The State directs all significant economic activity, and only government-controlled labor unions are permitted. The economy contracted in 1997, as it has each year since the beginning of the decade. This decline is due in part to the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the elimination of Soviet and Chinese concessional trade and aid. It is also due to distribution bottlenecks, inefficient allocation of resources, lack of access to international credit stemming from the DPRK's default on much of its foreign debt, and the diversion of an estimated quarter of the gross national product to military expenditures. For the last 3 years, bad weather damaged crops, forced thousands from their homes, and aggravated an already difficult economic situation. In the summer, a severe drought destroyed crops and a tidal wave damaged reclaimed farmland on the west coast. The harvest fell significantly short of minimum needs. While attributing the food shortages only to adverse weather, the Government has admitted publicly that it is suffering from them and sought international food aid as well as other forms of assistance. Food, clothing, and energy are rationed throughout the country. The Government continues to deny its citizens human rights. Citizens do not have the right peacefully to change their government. There continued to be reports of extrajudicial killings and disappearances. ________________________________________________________________ *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 fully assess human rights conditions there. This report is based on information obtained over more than a decade, updated where possible by information drawn from recent interviews, reports, and other documentation. While limited in detail, this information is nonetheless indicative of the human rights situation in North Korea today. Citizens are detained arbitrarily, and many are held as political prisoners; prison conditions are harsh. The constitutional provisions for an independent judiciary and fair trials are not implemented in practice. The regime subjects its citizens to rigid controls. The state leadership perceives most international norms of human rights, especially individual rights, as illegitimate, alien social artifacts subversive to the goals of the State and party. The Penal Code is draconian, stipulating capital punishment and confiscation of all assets for a wide variety of crimes against the revolution, including defection, attempted defection, slander of the policies of the party or State, listening to foreign broadcasts, writing reactionary letters, and possessing reactionary printed matter. The Government prohibits freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and association, and all forms of cultural and media activities are under the tight control of the party. Radios sold in North Korea are constructed to receive North Korean radio broadcasts only; radios obtained from abroad must be altered to work in a similar manner. Under these circumstances, little outside information reaches the public except that approved and disseminated by the Government. The Government restricts freedom of religion, citizens' movements, and worker rights.