Study: North Korean Human Rights Abuses Have Worsened Under Kim Jong-Un

Kim Jong Un
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Human rights violations and infringements on the right to life have worsened since North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un came to power in 2012, a new study released on Wednesday indicated.

According to a report by the Seoul-based Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB), cases of life infringement such as executions or violence within prisons as a proportion of the country’s total human rights violations rose from 6.2 percent in the 2000’s to 13.3 percent in the 2010s. The center compiled the data after analyzing a database of all the regime’s human rights abuses based on interviews with defectors.

“The number of secret executions and other violations of the right to life may have increased in North Korea due to the regime’s bid to strengthen stability, social order, and public security,” the center said on the report’s publication. “It seems that since the beginning of the Kim Jong-un era, the penalties for repatriated defectors got much tougher and the overall environment in prisons worsened.”

Following former dictator Kim Jong-il’s death in 2011, many international observers hoped that his son and successor, Kim Jong-un, would take a less repressive stance against his population. However, studies indicate the human rights situation has worsened, as it remains a brutal regime characterized by slavery, oppression, and starvation.

Run as a single party communist state, the regime enforces Stalinist style speech codes where citizens must show utmost loyalty and devotion to Kim Jong-un and his regime. Those who underperform at work or are suspected of opposition to the regime are sent to labor camps. Life in these gulags is unimaginably bleak, with thousands of prisoners dying as a result of starvation, illness, exhaustion, accidents, or torture, while many women are also forced to undergo unwanted abortions.

A 2017 report on global religious persecution found that, in North Korea, Christians have undergone “unspeakable atrocities, including extra-judicial killings, forced labor, torture, persecution, starvation, rape, forced abortion and sexual violence.” Documented crimes against Christians include “being hung on a cross over a fire, crushed under a steamroller, herded off bridges, and trampled underfoot.” One estimate suggests that three-quarters of Christians in such camps do not survive.

Yet as western allies such as the U.S. and South Korea continue to negotiate with North Korea over their pledge to end hostilities and get rid of their nuclear weapons, many campaigners have expressed concern that the regime’s egregious human rights record is being pushed to one side as both countries seek to reach a comprehensive peace agreement.

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