Members of the left-wing media have fawned over Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong and North Korea’s Winter Olympics delegation this weekend, apparently forgetting the country’s egregious human rights record.
Over the weekend, outlets such as CNN, Reuters, the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, ABC, NBC, PBS, and the Wall Street Journal praised aspects of the country’s delegation, from claiming Kim Yo-jong—the head of North Korea’s “Propaganda and Agitation” department—”stole the show” to Reuters awarding North Korea “diplomatic gold.”
Such reports appear to minimize the severity of the abysmal country’s human rights record. North Korea is arguably the most repressive state in the world.
Here are some examples of their abuses:
Sending Thousands to State-Run Gulags
Thousands of North Koreans have been sentenced to labor camps, often for “crimes” such as underperforming at work or suspected opposition to the government. Life in labor camps is unimaginably bleak. Thousands of prisoners have died as a result of starvation, illness, exhaustion, accidents, or torture.
Stalinist Speech and Behavioral Codes
Freedom of speech in North Korea is non-existent. Police routinely detain and send to labor camps anyone believed to have criticized or disrespected the regime in any way, condemning them to “re-education.”
All forms of media are state-controlled and vigorously promote the regime, often making provocative and false claims. Individuals also have little to no access to foreign information. The government provides all radio, television, and electronic devices. Dozens of people have been executed merely for watching foreign films.
Kim Jong-un and the Korean Workers’ Party have no political opposition. All North Koreans must worship him and his predecessors, “Dear Leader'” Kim Jong-il and “Eternal President” Kim Il-sung, as god-like figures. The last stage-managed election took place in March 2014, and Kim Jong-un won with 100 percent of the vote and a zero abstention rate.
Many defectors have recounted tales of forced abortions, typically for babies that are considered ethnically or genetically inferior.
“Pregnant women were forced into harsh labor all day,” defector Ji Hyeon-A said at a United Nations event last year. “At night, we heard pregnant mothers screaming and babies died without ever being able to see their mothers.”
A gruesome report from the Transnational Justice Working Group detailed the common practice of public executions, which take place everywhere from schoolyards to local marketplaces. In the given report, executions took place for charges such as prostitution, theft, and distributing South Korean media.
Kidnapping of Foreigners
In the 1970s and 1980s, the North kidnapped an untold number of South Korean and Japanese citizens to be trained as spies for the regime. Only a few of these people have ever been returned, and many have already died. The estimated number of victims range from the dozens to the thousands.
A recent defector also warned that North Korea is ready to start kidnapping Americans. Last June, American student Otto Warmbier was returned to the U.S. in a brain induced coma and died soon after. He had been sentenced to 15 years hard labor after stealing pro-government paraphernalia from his Pyongyang hotel.
Persecution of Christians and Other Religious Groups
A 2017 report on worldwide Christian persecution notes that across North Korea, Christians have undergone “unspeakable atrocities, including extra-judicial killings, forced labor, torture, persecution, starvation, rape, forced abortion and sexual violence.”
Documented incidents against Christians include “being hung on a crossover a fire, crushed under a steamroller, herded off bridges, and trampled underfoot.” One estimate suggests that three-quarters of Christians in the North Korean camps die as a result.
Other formerly practiced religions, such as Chondoism, Buddhism, and Korean Shamanism are heavily discouraged.
Threatening Nuclear War
Although no shots have yet been fired, North Korea has aggressively pursued a nuclear weapons program with the stated aim of waging war against the U.S. and potentially other regional allies.
Among other claims, North Korea has repeatedly threatened to attack the U.S. through an “unimaginable strike at an unimaginable time” and turn the country into a “pile of ash.”
This reckless pursuit of nuclear arms has caused a major concern among the international community and is widely seen as the greatest threat to world peace. Last November, senior Pentagon officials warned that a conflict that “could result in hundreds of thousands or even millions of deaths in just the first few days of fighting.”