Human Rights in North Korea – A Sorry State of Affairs

Human Rights in North Korea – A Sorry State of Affairs

Author: Kumar Vaibhav
V Year | Central University of South Bihar, Gaya


North Korea is one of the world’s most repressive states. Human rights have no significance in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). People’s condition is terrible because they lack even the most fundamental human rights. Despite the government’s tries to show it supports human rights, there is little evidence to that effect. The government’s recommendations are the basis for all that occurs. People are immediately impacted by the results of the policies that are presented in the document as being for their welfare but are not actually executed.

The DPRK’s limits on things like the internet, travel, electricity, keep its citizens cut off from the rest of the world. According to Human Rights Watch, children are forced to work on farms and construction sites at the behest of the government. Despite being one of the poorest countries in the world, North Korea has been continually and gradually increasing its nuclear capability and conducting numerous ballistic missile tests, both of which have a negative impact on the country’s economy[1]. Additionally, many people in North Korea are malnourished and endure great poverty, yet the leadership ignores their plight, according to several press reports.

International Stance on North Korea:

International Organisations like United Nations, Amnesty International, and European Union are also concerned about the DPRK’s actions. Human Rights Watch and other organizations frequently criticize the nation for ignoring fundamental human rights. Since 2003, the United Nations General Assembly has passed a resolution denouncing the nation’s human rights records every year. According to reports from Amnesty International and the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, by 2017 an estimated 200,000 prisoners were incarcerated in camps that are dedicated to political crimes and subjected to labour, physical abuse, and execution.

A UN Special Commission produced a thorough, 400-page report of the “Unspeakable Atrocities” committed in the nation in February 2014 based on first-hand testimonies. Many countries like the U.S, Australia, and Japan are consistently working to ensure that the DPRK completely, verifiably, and irreversibly denuclearises as demanded by the United Nations Security Council. Additionally, particularly since 2006, the U.S. has placed many of its bilateral restrictions on North Korea[2] in response to its activities that result in the proliferation of weapons, and this sanctions regime is now required by U.S. law. Regarding its breaches of human rights, North Korea is now subject to a number of new penalties.

Shocking Laws in North Korea:

There are many laws in DPRK that blatantly violate human rights. If one’s personal preferences conflict with official government policy, one cannot have them. The state imposes totalitarian laws on the people and removes their constitutional rights. Some of the confounding prohibitions are as follows:

  1. Foreign movies and songs are not allowed.
  2. International calls are prohibited.
  3. Only a particular type of haircut should be followed by the citizen.
  4. Disloyalty to the leader can mean the death penalty.
  5. No one can be allowed to read the bible.
  6. Very strict customs rules in North Korea.
  7. Not allowed to leave the country.
  8. Strict rules for tourists.
  9. Power is cut every night as there is a huge scarcity of energy.
  10. Military service is compulsory.

These laws essentially infringe upon a person’s fundamental human rights, including the freedom of expression, religion, life and movement.

Labour Rights in North Korea:

North Korea is one of the few nations in the world that is not a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO). The life of the labourers is abjectly miserable. Whether they choose to or not, they must perform difficult labour since it is required of them. North Korea violates human rights laws and international labour standards while also subjecting young people to forced labour. The Ministry of Unification told Human Rights Watch that KIC employees could form trade unions if they wanted, but that to date, there have been no such moves.

In addition, only one authorized trade union organization, the General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea, is controlled by the ruling Korean Worker’s Party, and there is no involvement of other trade unions. Employers are required by Article 22 of the KIC Labour Law to provide their employees with  North Korean national holidays, off days, and rest periods, but this is not always the case. The main reason behind this is that the government is neither interested nor does it get involved in fulfilling this obligation. The KIC Labor Law’s failure to safeguard employees’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining at the KIC[3] also worries Human Rights Watch.

Additionally, Article 13 of the KIC Labor Law stipulates that employers “may establish and administer labour standards applicable to all workers by consultation with workers’ representatives”, but this consultation process does not occur and workers are directly impacted by the same.

The KIC Labor Law does not explicitly prohibit dangerous or hazardous work for those who are under 18. The North Korean Labor Law stipulates the minimum working age to be 16, however, it does not forbid dangerous work.


Human rights status is in grave danger in North Korea. The entire globe rejects this dictatorial style of rule. Today, basic human rights are not available to the people of the country. Nothing is worse in the  21st century than for people to be prevented from acting in a way that suits their preferences. Human rights are those liberties that a person is born with and are not bestowed upon them by anyone. Therefore, no one has the right to deny the same person their own rights.

[1] Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) Country Brief, Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Accessible at –’s%20Republic%20of,weapons%20and%20ballistic%20missile%20programs.

[2] Human Rights in North Korea, Human Rights Watch, Accessible at –

[3], [4] North Korea: Workers’ Rights at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, Human Rights Watch, Accessible at –

[5] North Korea: Events of 2020, Human Rights Watch, Accessible at –

[6] Everything you need to know about Human Rights in North Korea.

[7] Ulferts, G., & Howard, T. L. (2017). North Korean Human Rights Abuses and Their Consequences. North Korean Review, 13(2), 84–92.

Editor: Pratik Banerjee

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