Jun 06, 2012
The North Korean government assigns a “songbun” status to every citizen at birth based on the perceived political loyalty of his or her family going back generations. While a small, politically loyal class in North Korea is entitled to extensive privileges, the vast majority of citizens are relegated to a permanent lower status and then discriminated against for reasons they cannot control or change.
Apr 10, 2012
Based on extensive interviews with over 60 defectors and more than 40 satellite photos of North Korean political prisoner camps, the report calls for the dismantlement of the vast North Korean gulag system in which 150,000 to 200,000 are incarcerated.
Nov 30, 2011
TAKEN! provides an in-depth and comprehensive history and analysis of North Korea’s state-sponsored policy of abducting citizens of other countries. This criminal enterprise dates back to the earliest days of the regime, and to policy decisions made by Kim II-sung himself. Those abducted came from widely diverse backgrounds, numerous nationalities, both genders, and all ages, and were taken from placs as far away as London, Copenhagen, Zagreb, Beirut, Hong Kong, and China, in addition to Japan. During the 1960′s, 93,000 Koreans were lured from Japan and held against their will in North Korea. A decade later, children of North Korean agents were apparently kidnapped in order to control their parents. Beginning in the late 1970′s, foreigners who could teach North Korean operatives to infiltrate targeted countries were brought to North Korea and forced to teach spies. Since then, people in China who assist North Korean refugees have been targeted. By our estimation, the staggering sum of these captives who are held against their will is 180, 308.
Kim Kwang Jin, HRNK Non-Resident Fellow
North Korea today is in a state of power transition that could lead to new dangers, instability, and uncertainty. This was not the case during the first succession. Kim Jong-Il had been carefully groomed by his father to succeed him. The process had gone on for twenty years and was directed by Kim Il-Sung himself.
In North Korea, all political power derives from Kim Il-Sung’s reign. At the present, North Korea refers to itself as “Kim Il-Sung’s nation.” In 1998, the North Korean Constitution was changed to enshrine Kim Il-Sung as the “eternal president,” even though he had been dead for four years.
Acting in his father’s name, Kim Jong-Il was able to seize and retain power. His son, Kim Il-Sung’s grandson, must now do the same thing. The regime knows that this basis for power succession cannot be used so easily again, and is rushing to tie the young man to his grandfather’s political legacy.
Even though it is clear that Kim Jong-Il has named his third son, Kim Jong-Eun, as the heir, there is no sure guarantee this time that it will work well. Depending on how the succession proceeds and taking into account many unpredictable developments, a number of possibilities will arise. Before the “next leader” of North Korea takes over, there may be turmoil, confusion, and unexpected rivalries.
Lee Hae Young
Oct 01, 2009
This report calls the world’s attention to the suffering of North Korean women who have become the victims of trafficking and forced marriages after escaping their country to seek a new life in China. Seventy-seven interviews with North Korean women living in China yield 52 personal accounts--life stories of women who leave their home country for survival and safety only to be purchased by Chinese men who abuse and exploit them in China. In spite of finding places to live, North Korean women enter a maze of entrapping political and social difficulties that threaten not just the North Korean women themselves but also their children. The Chinese government defines them as “illegal economic migrants” and sends them back to North Korea where they are punished in prison camps and detention facilities. Lee Hae-young, a dedicated human rights activist, interviewed North Korean women through a series of trips to China, vividly illustrating how a combination of policy and practices on both sides of the border has created an ever widening web of exploitation and degradation of vulnerable women and their children. As troubling as the testimony of these eyewitnesses is, they are among the most fortunate women of North Korea, who have survived the North Korean famine and the perilous road of defection.
Kim Kwang Jin, HRNK Non-Resident Fellow
This report is part of HRNK’s “Occasional Papers,” expressing a viewpoint not necessarily representative of the Committee or its Board of Directors. Rather, this paper is written from the viewpoint of a courageous man who has seen the North Korean system from within and has participated in the workings of that system. The author knows how outcomes are produced in North Korea and which individuals are critical to the political process. Kim Kwang-jin provides an overview of the North Korean regime, stating that, due to Kim Jong-il’s fragile health, power transition is likely to take place in the near future. According to the author, Kim Jong-un, the third son of Kim Jong-il, will likely take up the vacant seat of power. Kim Kwang-jin proposes four different scenarios of hereditary succession: 1. Direct transfer of one-man rule to Kim Jong-eun. 2. Repetition of Kim Jong-il style dictatorship supported from behind the scenes by a collective regency. 3. Takeover by a single regent. 4. Military coup. The report formulates recommendations aiming to promote international involvement and to prepare a foundation for new policies in a post-Kim Jong-il North Korea. The report includes detailed profiles and headshot photographs of influential persons involved in the current power succession in North Korea.
This report is a sequel to the previous report, “Failure to Protect: A Call for the UN Security Council to Act in North Korea” (2006), which called for the UN Security Council to take action. The report identifies concerns with respect to human rights in North Korea. While North Korea has opened up to some international aid, their food policy and inequitable social classification system (“Songbun”) prevents large segments of the population from ever receiving food provided by international and bilateral relief agencies. After the first “Failure to Protect” report, other research has drawn attention to the treatment of political dissenters, detailing North Korea’s continued use of political prison camps to brutally deny basic human rights. Findings also include North Korea’s continued reluctance to earnestly deal with the issue of its abduction of foreign citizens. The report addresses the outflow of refugees and spillover effects, which lead to the creation of a market of victims of trafficking, exploitation, and violence. The report concludes by addressing several policy recommendations to the international community.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
For over sixty years, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has engaged in the systematic, flagrant violation of nearly every human right recognized and protected by international law. This handbook describes the options available to human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) seeking to pursue international legal action against North Korea. The international legal system offers a variety of avenues for action, which NGOs can pursue. This report explores such legal avenues, linking NGOs to a larger framework of international legal institutions. It identifies specific options available in the case of North Korea, explores ways to pursue available options, and analyses the practical advantages and difficulties of each one. By presenting practical information, this report attempts to illustrate how NGOs may conduct their own analysis for legal options most helpful to their respective challenges.
Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland
Concentration on the strategic problem in the national security context is clearly warranted, yet there is another, growing dimension to the North Korean problem that poses a grave challenge: the plight of ordinary North Koreans who are denied even the most basic human rights, and those who risk their lives to escape the world’s worst nightmare, the tyranny of the Kim Jong-il regime. In this report, six experts – Stephen Haggard, Marcus Noland, Yoonok Chang, Joshua Kurlantzick, Jana Mason, and Andrei Lankov – examine in convincing detail the plight of those determined escapees and the problems they have after realizing that the border is only the preliminary hurdle. A study is conducted from August 2004 to September 2005 by 48 trained interviewers. A total of 1,346 refugees are interviewed in Shenyang, Changchun, Harbin, Yangbin, Tumen, Helong, Hunchun, Dandong, Jilin, Tonghua, and Wangqing to broadly reflect the characteristics of the North Korean refugee population and to enhance awareness of their current status. The study outlines who the refugees are, how representative they are of the North Korean population, and whether or not there are reasons to believe that their attitude or experiences may be systematically biased or distinct. The report also identifies the conflicting interests of China and attitude of South Korea towards the North Korean refugee crisis.
DLA Piper LLP
Czech Republic President Havel, Norwegian Prime Minister Bondevik, and Nobel Peace Prize Laurate and Boston University Professor Elie Wiesel commissioned the global law firm DLA Piper LLP to work with the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, because they believed that the security threat posed by North Korea has relegated the human rights concerns in the country to a second-class status. With the unanimous adoption by the UN Security Council of the doctrine that each state has a “responsibility to protect” its own citizens from the most egregious of human rights abuses, this report presents the failure of the North Korean government to exercise its responsibility to protect its own people. Based on a comprehensive review of published information and first-hand interviews, this report concludes that North Korea has violated its responsibility to protect its own citizens from crimes against humanity being committed in the country, that North Korea has refused to accept prior recommendations from UN bodies to remedy the situation, and therefore, that UN Security Council action is warranted. In addition, the report explains that North Korea qualifies as a non-traditional threat to international peace and security and describes the country’s involvement in the production of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.
This report explains how the Kim regime organizes and implements its policy of human rights denial using the Propaganda and Agitation Department (PAD) to preserve and strengthen its monolithic system of control. The report also provides detailed background on the history of the PAD, as well as a human terrain map that details present and past PAD leadership.
HRNK's latest satellite imagery report analyzes a 5.2 km-long switchback road, visible in commercial satellite imagery, that runs from Testing Tunnel No. 1 at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test facility to the perimeter of Kwan-li-so (political prison camp) no. 16.
This report proposes a long-term, multilateral legal strategy, using existing United Nations resolutions and conventions, and U.S. statutes that are either codified or proposed in appended model legislation, to find, freeze, forfeit, and deposit the proceeds of the North Korean government's kleptocracy into international escrow. These funds would be available for limited, case-by-case disbursements to provide food and medical care for poor North Koreans, and--contingent upon Pyongyang's progress
For thirty years, U.S. North Korea policy have sacrificed human rights for the sake of addressing nuclear weapons. Both the North Korean nuclear and missile programs have thrived. Sidelining human rights to appease the North Korean regime is not the answer, but a fundamental flaw in U.S. policy. (Published by the National Institute for Public Policy)
North Korea’s forced labor enterprise and its state sponsorship of human trafficking certainly continued until the onset of the COVID pandemic. HRNK has endeavored to determine if North Korean entities responsible for exporting workers to China and Russia continued their activities under COVID as well.
George Hutchinson's The Suryong, the Soldier, and Information in the KPA is the second of three building blocks of a multi-year HRNK project to examine North Korea's information environment. Hutchinson's thoroughly researched and sourced report addresses the circulation of information within the Korean People's Army (KPA). Understanding how KPA soldiers receive their information is needed to prepare information campaigns while taking into account all possible contingenc
This report is part of a comprehensive long-term project undertaken by HRNK to use satellite imagery and former prisoner interviews to shed light on human suffering in North Korea by monitoring activity at political prison facilities throughout the nation. This is the second HRNK satellite imagery report detailing activity observed during 2015 to 2021 at a prison facility commonly identified by former prisoners and researchers as “Kwan-li-so No. 14 Kaech’ŏn” (39.646810, 126.117058) and
This report is part of a comprehensive long-term project undertaken by HRNK to use satellite imagery and former prisoner interviews to shed light on human suffering in North Korea by monitoring activity at civil and political prison facilities throughout the nation. This study details activity observed during 1968–1977 and 2002–2021 at a prison facility commonly identified by former prisoners and researchers as "Kyo-hwa-so No. 3, T'osŏng-ni" and endeavors to e
This report is part of a comprehensive long-term project undertaken by HRNK to use satellite imagery and former detainee interviews to shed light on human suffering in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, more commonly known as North Korea) by monitoring activity at political prison facilities throughout the nation. This report provides an abbreviated update to our previous reports on a long-term political prison commonly identified by former prisoners and researchers as Kwan-li-so
Through satellite imagery analysis and witness testimony, HRNK has identified a previously unknown potential kyo-hwa-so long-term prison-labor facility at Sŏnhwa-dong (선화동) P’ihyŏn-gun, P’yŏngan-bukto, North Korea. While this facility appears to be operational and well maintained, further imagery analysis and witness testimony collection will be necessary in order to irrefutably confirm that Sŏnhwa-dong is a kyo-hwa-so.
"North Korea’s Long-term Prison-Labor Facility Kyo-hwa-so No. 8, Sŭngho-ri (승호리) - Update" is the latest report under a long-term project employing satellite imagery analysis and former political prisoner testimony to shed light on human suffering in North Korea's prison camps.
Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of Korea: The Role of the United Nations" is HRNK's 50th report in our 20-year history. This is even more meaningful as David Hawk's "Hidden Gulag" (2003) was the first report published by HRNK. In his latest report, Hawk details efforts by many UN member states and by the UN’s committees, projects and procedures to promote and protect human rights in the DPRK. The report highlights North Korea’s shifts in its approach
South Africa’s Apartheid and North Korea’s Songbun: Parallels in Crimes against Humanity by Robert Collins underlines similarities between two systematically, deliberately, and thoroughly discriminatory repressive systems. This project began with expert testimony Collins submitted as part of a joint investigation and documentation project scrutinizing human rights violations committed at North Korea’s short-term detention facilities, conducted by the Committee for Human Rights