The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is not a place typically associated with good human rights standards, and current leader Kim Jong-Un’s regime is certainly not doing anything to change that perception. Recently, a United Nations panel issued a report dealing with North Korea’s various human rights violations under Kim’s command. The UN panel condemns the practices of North Korea’s regime and warns that that North Korea’s supreme leader might even have to go to trial. Of course, putting a leader of an entire nation on trial could be a complicated matter if things get out of control.
The report is very thorough, extensive and details a host of alleged actions from the North Korean government. These range from propaganda and indoctrination to indefinite detention and torture. Things seem to be especially worse for North Koreans who are caught illegally in China and sent back. For example, one North Korean who was repatriated described that he was taken to an underground, cave-like prison. The entrance to his cell was so small that he had to crawl through on his hands and knees.
It seems that North Korea’s regime cannot take any challenge to its authority. People who are accused of politically sensitive crimes are more likely, according to the report, to experience some form of torture. The State Security Department apparently uses such techniques as forced labor, the rationing of food, and extreme beatings in order to secure cooperation. As expected, many people die in the process of interrogation. Although it technically violates the DPRK Code of Criminal Procedure, people are often taken to prison facilities without court order. The United Nations panel was obviously right to condemn the North Korean regime for these abuses.
Information, expression of thought, and religion are all tightly controlled in North Korea. For example, the United Nations panel’s report seems to indicate that Christianity is very much frowned upon, despite there being a few officially approved churches. Most likely, these churches are only approved of because their message is tightly controlled by North Korea’s government. People who do not essentially worship the State are considered a threat in North Korea.
There is very little media freedom in North Korea. According to the report, televisions must be registered. Wire-tapping of telephones also occurs. Internet access is also very strictly controlled. To the North Koreans, South Korea probably seems like a different world.
Exposure to propaganda is a way of life in North Korea. If the report is any indication, its people are essentially required to worship their leaders. The importance of the State and its leaders is emphasized at every turn. This would seem a nightmare scenario for any human being, especially anyone who tends to be opinionated. Opinion does not seem to be something that is allowed much in North Korea. The country is the ultimate example of a government operating without any restraint or check to its power.
The United Nations panel is certainly right to condemn the North Korean regime for these abuses. The question is what, if anything, can be done? Taking legal action will be a long and difficult process. If, in the distant future, military action were needed, it would create even more suffering in the very people that need help the most.
Editorial By Zach Kirkman