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North Korea doubles down on reign of terror: white paper

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects a munitions factory in an undisclosed location in North Korea,<strong></strong> in this photo released on Wednesday by its state media. Despite international calls for the improvement of human rights, the regime in Pyongyang is doubling down on its reign of terror with draconian new laws and cruel practices, according to this year's white paper on North Korea's human rights. Yonhap

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects a munitions factory in an undisclosed location in North Korea, in this photo released on Wednesday by its state media. Despite international calls for the improvement of human rights, the regime in Pyongyang is doubling down on its reign of terror with draconian new laws and cruel practices, according to this year's white paper on North Korea's human rights. Yonhap

Witnesses say pandemic rule violator publicly executed, crackdown on K-content rampantBy Jung Min-ho

Despite international calls for the improvement of human rights, the Pyongyang regime is doubling down on its reign of terror with draconian new laws and cruel practices, according to a white paper released, Wednesday.

In one example, a person who violated North Korea’s pandemic rules amid its effort to contain COVID-19 was publicly executed, an eyewitness who escaped North Korea last year said.

Speaking at Wednesday’s press conference for the 2023 White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea, those who participated in the study refused to disclose the details of the killing due to safety concerns for their families in the North.

However, based on interviews with 71 people, including 32 who arrived in South Korea last year, the researchers said North Korea is tightening control over its people, particularly in the cultural sector.

According to the report, many witnesses said media content from South Korea, such as music, films and TV shows, are among the regime’s key targets; they said its crackdown on such content had intensified in recent years due to its growing influence over how people talk, dress and behave there.

“I heard that watching one of those anti-socialist South Korean videos may get you executed publicly,” a North Korean defector said.

Those unfortunate to be caught watching South Korean content during its clampdown could be punished severely as a warning to others, said another defector.

“I didn’t recognize that it was from South Korea at first as what was shown in the video was very different from what I had learned about the country. Many people in their 20s started to mimic South Korean style as they perceived it as a rich country,” the interviewee added.

Kim Chun-sig, president of the Korea Institute for National Unification, speaks during a media conference for the 2023 White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea at Press Center in Seoul, Wednesday. Courtesy of Korea Institute for National Unification

Kim Chun-sig, president of the Korea Institute for National Unification, speaks during a media conference for the 2023 White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea at Press Center in Seoul, Wednesday. Courtesy of Korea Institute for National Unification

In line with the regime’s tough stance against the infiltration of South Korea’s culture, North Korean authorities began enforcing the Pyongyang Cultural Language Protection Act in 2023 to preserve its version of the Korean language. Those who are caught using South Korean slang terms or its distinctive way of speaking could face hard labor for life or execution under the law.

The report also said that there are at least four political prison camps currently under operation ― in Chongjin, Myonggan County and two in Kaechon. Anyone who condemns the regime or attempts to escape its violent rule by crossing its borders could be detained there for months, years or even decades.

But little is known about the legal basis or proceedings concerning who is detained in those facilities. “Such decisions are made solely by its ministry of state security without trial. Those decisions are not notified even to their families,” the white paper said.

If there is any aspect that North Korea seems to have made progress in, it was in the status of women.

The report says women’s rights have improved under Kim Jong-un, its 40-year-old leader. Many witnesses said an increasing number of women are now working for the state or its agencies. But they said their expanding roles have also created more social problems in the male-centric country such as a rising number of divorces.

 

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