Population: 22,800,000
Capital: Pyongyang

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 7
Status: Not Free

Ten-Year Ratings Timeline for Year under Review
(Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)
Year Under Review2001200220032004200520062007200820092010

2010 Key Developments: Following a rare public backlash, authorities apologized in early 2010 for the failed currency reform implemented in late 2009 and allowed market vendors to resume private trading activities. In March, North Korea was accused of sinking a South Korean naval vessel, causing tensions on the peninsula to rise sharply. North Korea made several leadership changes during the year, promoting key members of the ruling Kim family to top positions, presumably to facilitate an eventual dynastic succession. In September, Kim Jong-un, current leader Kim Jong-il's son and heir apparent, was promoted to the Korean Workers' Party Central Committee and formally introduced to the public. While inter-Korean relations had calmed by the fall, tensions flared again in November, when North Korea bombarded South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island in response to joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

Political Rights: North Korea is not an electoral democracy. Kim Jong-il has led the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) since the 1994 death of his father, founding leader Kim Il-sung. North Korea's parliament, the Supreme People's Assembly, is a rubber-stamp institution that meets irregularly for only a few days each year. All candidates for office, who run unopposed, are preselected by the ruling Korean Workers' Party and two subordinate minor parties. A delegates' meeting of the Korean Workers' Party convened in September 2010, the first such gathering since 1966, and took actions including the promotion of several members of the Kim family. Kim Jong-un was elected as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, and was subsequently appointed to the party's Central Committee. Corruption is believed to be endemic at all levels of the state and economy.

Civil Liberties: The constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, but in practice these rights are nonexistent. All media outlets are run by the state. Televisions and radios are permanently fixed to state channels, and all publications are subject to strict supervision and censorship. Internet access is restricted to a few thousand people with state approval, and foreign websites are blocked. Although freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution, it does not exist in practice. Nearly all forms of private communication are monitored by a huge network of informers. Freedom of assembly is not recognized, and there are no known associations or organizations other than those created by the state. Strikes, collective bargaining, and other organized-labor activities are illegal. North Korea does not have an independent judiciary. The UN General Assembly has recognized and condemned severe DPRK human rights violations including the use of torture, public executions, extrajudicial and arbitrary detention, and forced labor; the absence of due process and the rule of law; death sentences for political offenses; and an extensive network of camps for political prisoners. Inmates face brutal conditions, and collective or familial punishment for suspected dissent by an individual is a common practice. There is no freedom of movement, and forced internal resettlement is routine. There have been widespread reports of trafficked women and girls among the tens of thousands of North Koreans who have recently crossed into China.

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