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North Korea Human Rights

Human Rights Concerns

North Koreans sent to prison camps and detention centers are often subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Prisoners are punished if suspected of lying, not working fast enough or forgetting the words of patriotic songs. Forms of punishment include beatings, forced exercise, sitting without moving for prolonged periods of time and humiliation. Due to the combination of forced hard labor, inadequate food, beatings, lack of medical care and unhygienic living conditions, many prisoners fall ill and die in custody or soon after release.

North Koreans sent to prison camps and detention centers are often subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Many prisoners fall ill and die in custody or soon after release.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans, as well as nationals from other countries, have been abducted by the North Korean government.

North Korean family members of suspected dissidents have disappeared or been punished under the principle of "guilt by association."

Millions of people have experienced the worst hunger in a decade with women, children and the elderly being the most vulnerable. Many have been forced to scavenge for wild foods or accept food substitutes. The government has failed to seek adequate international assistance. In March of 2009, North Korea refused to accept any further food aid from the U.S.

Public executions, even for offenses not subject to the death penalty under domestic law. Death offenses include, "treason against the Fatherland," and "treason against the people".

DPRK law requires that its citizens obtain permission to travel both within the country and abroad. Travel to another country without state permission; this can carry the death penalty. Despite this, thousands cross the border into China. Women are trafficked into forced marriages. Those forcibly returned to North Korea face up to three years in a prison camp. China continues to deny the UNHCR access to the North Koreans in their territory.

All media is controlled by the state and dissent is not tolerated. Listening to broadcasts, retaining information or disseminating information can result in two years in a "labor training camp" or five years of "correction labor." Officials from the Ministry of Public Security regularly conduct inspections in private homes to ensure compliance. Freedom of religion is severely restricted.

Rights and freedoms enshrined in the UDHR and the treaties to which North Korea is a state party remain largely unprotected by domestic legislation.

The government continues to deny access to independent human rights monitors.

North Korea Newsroom



June 8, 2018 • Press Release

North Korea/US Summit: Horrific human rights situation must not be ignored at historic meeting

The near total denial of human rights in North Korea should not be ignored at next Tuesday’s historic meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Chairman Kim Jong-un, Amnesty International said.

May 9, 2018 • Press Release

Release of U.S. Prisoners in North Korea Highlights Pressing Human Rights Concerns

Three U.S. citizens – Kim Dong-chul, Kim Hak-song, and Kim Sang-duk –have been recently released by North Korea after spending months behind bars without a fair trial. Francisco Bencosme, advocacy manager for Asia Pacific at Amnesty International USA, issued the following statement:

April 27, 2018 • Press Release

Korea peace talks: A missed opportunity for human rights

Responding to the joint declaration following talks between the leaders of North and South Korea at Panmunjeom, Amnesty International’s East Asia Researcher Arnold Fang said: “The declaration should be viewed with cautious optimism, but the near-total absence of human rights from today’s agenda was a missed opportunity.” “These are unprecedented talks but governments must not …

April 29, 2016 • Press Release

U.S. Citizen’s Hard Labor Sentence in North Korea Shrouded in Secrecy

The government of North Korea must immediately disclose all details in the court case of U.S. citizen Kim Dong-chul, who was sentenced to 10 years’ hard labor for “spying,” in what appears to be yet another politically motivated decision, said Amnesty International today.

March 10, 2016 • Press Release

Ai Weiwei, Snowden, Pussy Riot take place of online ads to protest censorship

Messages from Edward Snowden, Ai Weiwei and Pussy Riot will be broadcast across the internet by AdBlock and Amnesty International on the World Day against Cyber Censorship, 12 March 2016.

March 7, 2016 • Press Release

North Korea: Tightened controls on communications with the outside world leave families devastated

Ordinary North Koreans caught using mobile phones to contact loved ones who have fled abroad, risk being sent to political prison camps or other detention facilities as the government tightens its stranglehold on people’s use of communication technology, reveals Amnesty International in a new report published today.

March 7, 2016 • Report

Connection Denied: Restrictions on Mobile Phones and Outside Information in North Korea

Ordinary North Koreans caught using mobile phones to contact loved ones who have fled abroad, risk being sent to political prison camps or other detention facilities as the government tightens its stranglehold on people’s use of communication technology, reveals Amnesty International in a new report published today.

February 22, 2016 • Press Release

Amnesty International’s Annual State of the World Report Slams Governments, Including the U.S., for Global Assault on Freedoms

On the launch of its 2015 State of the World report, Amnesty International USA urged President Obama to use his last year in office to bring U.S. laws and policies in line with international human rights standards.

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

February 18, 2016 • Press Release

Your rights in jeopardy, global assault on freedoms, warns Amnesty International

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.