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North Korea after Kim Jong-il: Can We Hope for Better Human Rights Protection?

North Korea after Kim Jong-il: Can We Hope for Better Human Rights Protection?

Kim Kwang Jin, HRNK Non-Resident Fellow
2011

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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.

Lives for Sale: Personal Accounts of Women Fleeing North Korea to China

Lives for Sale: Personal Accounts of Women Fleeing North Korea to China

Lee Hae Young
Oct 01, 2009

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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.

After Kim Jong II: Can We Hope for Better Human Rights Protection?

After Kim Jong II: Can We Hope for Better Human Rights Protection?

Kim Kwang Jin, HRNK Non-Resident Fellow
2009

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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.

Failure to Protect: The Ongoing Challenge of North Korea

Failure to Protect: The Ongoing Challenge of North Korea

DLA Piper
2008

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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.

Legal Strategies for Protecting Human Rights in North Korea

Legal Strategies for Protecting Human Rights in North Korea

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
2007

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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.

Failure to Protect: A Call for the UN Security Council to Act in North Korea

Failure to Protect: A Call for the UN Security Council to Act in North Korea

DLA Piper LLP
2006

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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.

The North Korean Refugee Crisis: Human Rights and International Response

The North Korean Refugee Crisis: Human Rights and International Response

Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland
2006

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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.

Hunger and Human Rights: The Politics of Famine in North Korea

Hunger and Human Rights: The Politics of Famine in North Korea

Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland
2005

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North Korea is well into its second decade of chronic food shortages. With plausible policy adjustments – such as maintaining food imports on commercial terms or aggressively seeking multilateral assistance – the government could have avoided the famine and the shortages that continue to plague the country. Instead, the regime blocked humanitarian aid to the hardest hit parts of the country during the peak of the famine and curtailed commercial imports of food once humanitarian assistance began. The DPRK stopped importing food and gradually reduced the purchase of grain to as low as one-tenth of the needed amount. After over one decade of humanitarian missions on the ground in North Korea, such programs are far from living up to international standards. We have no guarantee that aid is reaching the truly needy, and the communist regime consistently spoils any attempts to control its distribution. The report concludes that we have therefore to pose the question whether the ultimate result of humanitarian aid is the reinforcement of the North Korean regime.

The Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea’s Prison Camps

The Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea’s Prison Camps

David Hawk
2003

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A prominent human rights investigator and advocate, David Hawk, and the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea compiled a full documentation of North Korean political prisoner camps. This report describes a number of penal institutions in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) administered by two different North Korean police agencies: the In-min-bo-an-seong (People’s Safety Agency) and the more political Kuk-ga-bo-wi-bu (National Security Agency). The report outlines two distinct systems of repression: first, a North Korean gulag of forced-labor colonies, camps, and prisons where scores of thousands of prisoners – some political, some convicted felons – are worked, many to their deaths, in mining, logging, farming, and industrial enterprises, often in remote valleys located in the mountainous areas of North Korea; and second, a system of smaller, shorter-term detention facilities along the North Korea-China border used to brutally punish North Koreans who flee to China – usually in search of food, in particular during the North Korean famine of the mid to late 1990s – but are arrested by Chinese law enforcement agents and forcibly repatriated to the DPRK.

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In Illicit: North Korea’s Evolving Operations to Earn Hard Curre­­ncy, Sheena Chestnut Greitens provides a detailed and thoroughly researched account of the role of illicit activities in the North Korean economy. A central conclusion of Chestnut Greitens’ analysis is that in the context of eroding state control over the licit aspects of the economy, illicit activities are also being “privatized” by North Korea’s elite.  As HRNK Co-chair and for

David Hawk interprets reports of changes in North Korea's political prison camps in his most recent report, North Korea's Hidden Gulag: Interpreting Reports of Changes in the Prison Camps. Please view the press release here. 

The newest version of Coercion, Control, Surveillance, and Punishment: An Examination of the North Korea Police State by Ken Gause, updated on May 24, 2013. 

North Korea's Camp No. 25
HRNK & DigitalGlobe, Inc.
Feb 25, 2013

For this report, DigitalGlobe Analytics examined eleven images collected from 2003 to 2013 of the North Korean political prison facility known as Camp 25 (a.k.a. Kwan-liso No. 25, Political Prison Facility No. 25, No. 25 Chongjin Political Concentration Camp, Susŏng Correctional Center) in Susŏng-dong, Ch’ŏngjin-si, Hamgyŏng-bukto, on the northeast coast of the nation. In this analysis, imagery was compared to identify changes in the organization of the camp, including variations in:

North Korea's Camp No. 22 - Update
HRNK & DigitalGlobe, Inc.
Dec 11, 2012

As a follow-up to the October 2012 joint HRNK- DigitalGlobe imagery analysis of North Korea’s Camp 22 (Kwan-li-so No. 22, Korean People’s Security Guard Unit 2209), DigitalGlobe’s Analysis Center was asked to assist in identifying reported activity in and around Camp 22 in Hamgyŏng-bukto. More specifically, the Analysis Center was to examine: The outer perimeter fence, guard towers and guard positions to determine if some, or all, have been razed. The

North Korea's Camp No. 22
HRNK & DigitalGlobe, Inc.
Oct 24, 2012

During late September 2012, the North Korean activist community began reporting that the notorious political penal labor facility Camp 22 had been closed in early 2012. On October 1, 2012, in response to these reports and in partnership with the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, DigitalGlobe’s Analysis Center initiated an imagery analysis of Camp 22.

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.

The Hidden Gulag Second Edition
David Hawk
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.

Taken!
Yoshi Yamamoto
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.

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 ent

North Korea after Kim Jong-il: Can We Hope for Better Human Rights Protection?
Kim Kwang Jin, HRNK Non-Resident Fellow
Dec 31, 1969

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 nati

After Kim Jong II: Can We Hope for Better Human Rights Protection?
Kim Kwang Jin, HRNK Non-Resident Fellow
Dec 31, 1969

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 K

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 i

Legal Strategies for Protecting Human Rights in North Korea
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Dec 31, 1969

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 NG

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 “resp

The North Korean Refugee Crisis: Human Rights and International Response
Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland
Dec 31, 1969

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,