The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Korea, North

By Vexen Crabtree 2019

#equality #freedom #human_rights #north_korea #politics #tolerance

North Korea
Democratic People's Republic of Korea

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Social and Moral Index168th best
CapitalPyongyang
Land Area 120 410km21
LocationAsia
Population25.5m2
Life Expectancy70.52yrs (2017)3
GNI
ISO3166-1 CodesKP, PRK, 4084
Internet Domain.kp5
CurrencyWon (KPW)6
Telephone+8507

This is a fully totalitarian dictatorship with no pretence to embrace any modern concept of human rights nor personal freedom8,9. N. Korea does worse than average when it comes to LGBT equality10 and in speed of uptake of HR treaties11. It falls into the worst 20 in commentary in Human Rights Watch reports12 (amongst the worst in Asia) and in its nominal commitment to Human Rights13. And finally, it is second-from-the-bottom in supporting press freedom14. Of the millions of North Koreans subject to slavery, the "clear majority" are being held in forced labour by the state itself15. The Lonely Planet guide for traveller says that visiting North Korea is "a fascinating trip into another, unsettling world... with your official minders, you can roam mountain resorts and ancient capitals, though the main attractions remain the bombastic iconography of the North Korean regime and the surreal existence of ordinary people in this troubled, autocratic state"16.


1. North Korea's Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance

#equality #human_rights #morals #politics #prejudice #tolerance

Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance (2020)17,18
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank17,18
1Denmark9.7
2Sweden10.0
3Norway16.1
...
176Iran136.5
177Grenada138.8
178Mauritania139.5
179N. Korea140.1
180Zimbabwe140.2
181Brunei140.7
182Swaziland141.2
183Pakistan141.9
184Sudan144.1
World Avg89.8
q=199.

The best countries in the world at ensuring human rights, fostering equality and promoting tolerance, are Denmark, Sweden and Norway17. These countries are displaying the best traits that humanity has to offer. The worst countries are Tuvalu, The Solomon Islands and Palestine17.

The data sets used to calculate points for each country are statistics on commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, its nominal commitment to Human Rights, speed of uptake of HR treaties, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms, supporting press freedom, eliminating modern slavery, opposing gender inequality, the year from which women could participate in democracy, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice and LGBT equality. The regions with the best average results per country are Scandinavia, Baltic States and Europe17, whereas the worst are Micronesia, Melanesia and Australasia17.

2. Human Rights & Tolerance Data Sets

North Korea is one of the most repressive authoritarian states in the world. In his sixth year in power, Kim Jong-un–the third leader of the dynastic Kim family and head of the ruling Workers´ Party of Korea (WPK) who exercises almost total political control–intensified repressive measures; tightened domestic restrictions on travel and unauthorized cross-border travel with China; and punished North Korean for contacting the outside world. The government continued to generate fearful obedience from citizens by means of threatened and actual execution, detention, and forced labor under harsh, sometimes fatal, conditions. [...]

[The United Nations stated that] the government committed crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and forced abortion. [...]

The North Korean government restricts all basic civil and political liberties for its citizens, including freedom of expression, religion and conscience, assembly and association. It prohibits any organized political opposition, independent media and civil society, and free trade unions. Lack of an independent judiciary, arbitrary arrest and punishment of crimes, torture in custody, forced labor, and executions maintain fear and control.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)9

2.1. Human Rights Watch Comments

#human_rights

Human Rights Watch Comments (2017)12
Pos.Higher is better
Score12
1UK9
2France9
3Germany9
...
114Sudan-10
115Iran-10
116Burundi-10
117N. Korea-10
118Malaysia-10
119Pakistan-10
120Afghanistan-10
121Congo, DR-10
World Avg-1.9
q=123.

Human Rights Watch comments concentrate mostly on negative issues, however, they also make positive comments for those countries that engage in human rights defence around the world, or who make improvements at home. By adding up positive and negative comments (including double-points for negatives that involve large scales and crimes against humanity), the Social and Moral Index turns HRW commentary into quantified values. Some countries may be unfairly penalized because HRW have not examined them, and, some countries "get away" with abuses if they manage to hide it, or if it goes unnoticed - a negative point has been given for those countries in which HRW specifically state that access to investigators has been barred. The points were limited to a minimum of -10 because there are some points at which things are so bad, with abuses affecting so many, it is difficult to be more specific about the depths of the issues.

2.2. Nominal Commitment to HR

#human_rights

Nominal Commitment to HR (2009)13
Pos.Higher is better
Treaties13
1Argentina24
2Chile23
3Costa Rica23
...
174Somalia8
175Eritrea8
176Indonesia7
177N. Korea7
178Sao Tome & Principe7
179Grenada7
180UAE7
181St Lucia6
World Avg15.1
q=194.

There are many international agreements on human rights, and, many mechanisms by which countries can be brought to account for their actions. Together, these have been the biggest historical movement in the fight against oppression and inhumanity. Or, putting it another way: these are rejected mostly by those who wish to oppress inhumanely. None of them are perfect and many people object to various components and wordings, but, no-one has come up with, and enforced, better methods of controlling the occasional desires that states and peoples have of causing angst for other states and peoples in a violent, unjust or inhumane way. Points are awarded for the number of human rights agreements ratified by the country, plus the acceptance of the petition mechanisms for disputes. The maximum possible score in 2009 was 24.

2.3. HR Treaties Lag

#human_rights #international_law #micronesia #politics #small_islands

HR Treaties Lag (2019)11
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Yrs/Treaty11
1Ecuador2.15
2Uruguay2.25
3Tunisia3.65
...
172Montenegro14.20
173USA14.23
174Malaysia14.35
175N. Korea14.52
176UAE14.81
177Comoros14.82
178Fiji14.85
179Samoa14.85
World Avg10.02
q=195.

Human Rights (HR) Treaties Lag is a count of how long it took each country to sign each of 11 key HR treaties. From the date of the first signatory of each treaty, all other countries have one point added to their score for each day they delayed in signing. Results are presented as average time in years to sign each one. The lower a country's score, the more enthusiastically it has taken on international Human Rights Treaties - which are, of course, minimal standards of good governance. The slowest are the countries of Micronesia, Melanesia, Australasia and Polynesia all lagged by over 12 years per treaty. The best regions are The Americas, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.

2.4. Press Freedom

#democracy #freedom #mass_media #politics #UK

Press Freedom (2013)14
Pos.Lower is better14
1Finland638
2Netherlands648
3Norway652
...
171Vietnam7178
172China7307
173Iran7340
174Somalia7359
175Syria7853
176Turkmenistan7914
177N. Korea8390
178Eritrea8483
World Avg3249
q=178.

The freedom to investigate, publish information, and have access to others' opinion is a fundamental part of today's information-driven world. Scores on the Press Freedom Index are calculated according to indicators including pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media, media independence of authorities, self-censorship, legislation, transparency and the infrastructure that supports news and information, and, the level of violence against journalists which includes lengths of imprisonments. The index "does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted".

It must be noted that press freedom is not an indicator of press quality and the press itself can be abusive; the UK suffers in particular from a popular brand of nasty reporting that infuses several of its newspapers who are particularly prone to running destructive and often untrue campaigns against victims. The Press Freedom Index notes that "the index should in no way be taken as an indicator of the quality of the media in the countries concerned".

2.5. Slavery

#burundi #eritrea #france #human_rights #indonesia #slavery

Slavery (2018)19
Pos.Lower is better
% Victims19
1Japan0.03
2Canada0.05
3Taiwan0.05
...
160Pakistan1.68
161S. Sudan2.05
162Mauritania2.14
163Afghanistan2.22
164Central African Rep.2.23
165Burundi4.00
166Eritrea9.30
167N. Korea10.46
World Avg0.65
q=167.

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory20. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends21. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life22. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves23.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery24. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity25. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.26. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi19, Eritrea19, Indonesia27) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery15.

Of the millions of North Koreans subject to slavery, the "clear majority" are being held in forced labour by the state itself15 and the Walk Free Foundation say that when other countries purchase coal from North Korea, there is the "greatest concern" that it is produced via slave labour28. The state enslaves people by withdrawing food rations from people if they don't do the work the state requires; sometimes (far too often) people prefer to be employed rather than unemployed, as being unemployed risks being sent to labour camps for up to 6 months at a time. And so, people find themselves in the absurd position of having to pay their company in order to be listed as an employee even if the (fake) companies they work for have no actual output. But as companies must have output, the employees are made to directly give produce to the company, in order to remain listed as 'employed' there29.

On paper I was a labourer but in reality I did not work as one. It was a place that raised pigs to support the People's Army and shock brigades. It was supposed to raise pigs. But no one actually raised pigs there. There was no space to raise pigs there and no feed for them either. Since the labourers cannot work, they are required to pay a certain amount of money instead. Every month the labourers must give 2kg of pork to the management office.


Female Adult, Respondent No. 23
Quoted in "Global Slavery Index" by Walk Free Foundation (2018)29

3. Gender Equality Data Sets

Women in North Korea face a range of sexual or gender-based abuses, as well as violations of other rights in common with the rest of the population. These include punishment for acts of their husband or other relatives, torture, rape and other sexual abuses in detention facilities, sexual exploitation, or forced marriages of North Korean women in China, and other forms of sexual and genderbased violence and discrimination.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)9

See:

3.1. Year Women Can Vote

#christianity #gender_equality #human_rights #politics #women

Year Women Can Vote
Pos.Lower is better
Year
1New Zealand1893
2Australia1902
3Finland1906
...
55Indonesia1945
56Japan1945
57Togo1945
58N. Korea1946
59Liberia1946
60Romania1946
61Panama1946
62Cameroon1946
World Avg1930
q=189.

Women now have equal rights in the vast majority of countries across the world. Although academic literature oftens talks of when a country "grants women the right to vote", this enforces a backwards way of thinking. Women always had the right to vote, however, they were frequently denied that right. The opposition to women's ability to vote in equality with man was most consistently and powerfully opposed by the Catholic Church, other Christian organisations, Islamic authorities and some other religious and secular traditionalists.

4. Prejudice Data Sets

4.1. LGBT Equality

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #intolerance #sexuality #tolerance

LGBT Equality (2017)10
Pos.Higher is better
Score10
1Netherlands103
2Belgium90
3Sweden86
...
110Gabon10
111Bahamas10
112Kazakhstan8
113N. Korea8
114Rwanda7
115Congo, (Brazzaville)5
116Madagascar5
117Chad5
World Avg12.6
q=196.

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence30. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws31. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries30. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.