The human rights situation in North Korea remains abysmal. So says the most recent report sent by the U.S. State Department to the U.S. Congress.
Indeed, the report states that serious human rights abuses committed by North Korea include extrajudicial killings, forced labor, torture, and prolonged arbitrary detention, as well as rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence. Many of these abuses are committed in the country’s political prison camps, which hold an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 prisoners, including children and family members of the accused.
The government also maintains an extensive system of forced labor through its rigid controls over workers and restricts the exercise of freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association, religion or belief, and movement.
There is no independent media in North Korea; all media is strictly censored and no deviation from the official government line is tolerated. Authorities prohibit listening to foreign media broadcasts and take steps to jam foreign radio broadcasts. Various ministries are responsible for modifying television and radio equipment to prevent users from accessing material from overseas and other material deemed illegal by the government. Individuals accused of viewing foreign films are reportedly subject to imprisonment or even execution.
This report also details the conduct of persons determined by the State Department to be responsible for the commission of serious human rights abuses or censorship in North Korea.
Topping the list is Kim Won Hong, Minister of State Security. According to the 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea report, the Ministry of State Security is implicated in “widespread gross human rights violations.” It administers the country’s network of political prison camps, where, according to defector testimony and satellite imagery, summary executions and torture are commonplace.
Many others share responsibility for the horrific human rights abuses suffered by the North Korean people on a daily basis. With this latest report, the U.S. gives a voice to the voiceless and reminds the North Korean people that they are not alone and not forgotten.