North men, women and children currently held as

North Korea’s Inhumane Treatment in Detention Centers North Korea has been ruled by the Kim family and the Workers Party of Korea since 1948 and currently has an authoritarian regime. North Korea describes itself as “self-reliant, socialist state”. But to many, it is deemed the most repressed country in the nation. Currently, the president of North Korea is Kim Jong Un who had taken control after the death of his father Kim Jong II.  North Korea falls short economically compared to the international community. This is due to North Korea’s economic mishandlings and resource misallocations as well as the development of nuclear devices and massive armed forces which have put them at odds with other countries. Because of this, resources have been distributed unequally in which the wealthy receive a great deal more than those who live in poverty. This is further established with the Songbun system that exists in North Korea. The Songbun is a system in which a person’s standing depends on an individual’s actions as well as that of their paternal ancestors. Despite this unfair practice of grouping people based on their socio political status, Kim Jong Un is able to maintain power in North Korea by using systematic widespread tactics of fear, which include imprisonment, torture and enslavement all of which are a violation of Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (OHCHR). North Korea has been known to having the worst human rights record in the world. According to Human Rights Watch, North Korea has ratified four international human rights treaties. In North Korea, there have been multiple violations human rights. For instance, the North Korean government sets limits on freedom of speech, expression, religion, right to food and more. One of the most notorious is the inhumane treatment of prisoners in detention centers. According to Human Rights Watch, there are as many as 80,000 to 120,000 men, women and children currently held as prisoners in what is known as “Kwanliso” (“North Korea”).  Approximately 400,000 people in total have died in the prison in over 50 years (Amnesty International). North Korea holds so many prisoners because people are punished for things that would not be seen as crimes in other countries. For example, listening or watching foreign broadcasts, leaving the country and taking part in market activities. North Korea has also implemented “guilt by association”. This means that often, family members are punished if someone in their family is perceived of wrongdoing. Families can be held in these prisons for as many as three generations. Forced and unpaid labor that occurs for ordinary citizens and prisoners alike are used to keep the people in check as well as sustain the economy. The government also holds many political prisoners. A political prisoner is described as people who “are real, suspected or imagined wrong-doers and wrong-thinkers, or persons with wrong-knowledge and/or wrong-associations who have been deemed to be irremediably counter-revolutionary and preemptively purged from North Korean society”. People are even arrested and executed for offenses that are not under domestic law or are not subject to the death penalty. Specifically, North Korea has violated Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states “No one shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (OHCHR). North Korea has done this by not providing the basic necessities to people they have imprisoned. For instance, many of the people kept captive lack food and other supplies such as bedding and clothing. According to Amnesty International, prisoners have been forced to eat rats, snakes and pig feed to survive as no other food was provided. As many as 40% of North Koreans die of malnutrition (Shadbolt). In addition, many of the prisoners reported living in cells where they were unable to stand or even lie down. Some of the torture techniques include waterboarding and hanging people upside down. In fact, the prisoners were not treated like humans at all. As one former prisoner stated, “When you get to this prison you are not human, you are just like animals, and as soon as you get to this prison, you have to crawl just like animals”. In these prisons, crimes such as infanticide and forced miscarriages can occur because women who had escaped to China and were caught and are pregnant are suspected of having a child fathered by Han Chinese men. Along with murder, this was a form of ethnic cleansing. While North Korea denies the existence of these detention centers, the overwhelming amount of evidence, which includes satellite images and survivor testimony is too much to ignore.  Because of this, in October 2001, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) was established. The purpose of the HRNK is to raise awareness of the injustices occurring in North Korea. In 2014, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI), which is meant to inquire into widespread violations of human rights in the DPRK stated that North Korea had committed countless crimes against humanity in their prisons. As a result from the advice of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI), on December 10, 2015, the UN Security Council had made North Korea’s human rights violations a formal agenda for the second year in a row (“North Korea”). In addition, on March 23, 2016, the UN Human Rights Council permitted the establishment of a group of specialists whose responsibility it is to finding ways of bringing human rights violators in North Korea to assume responsibility for their actions. The purpose of the group of experts is also to recommend different techniques to bring those accountable, such as the calling on the International Criminal Court.  Many individual countries have decided to provide aid to victims of North Korean Human Rights violations. For instance, South Korea recently passed the North Korean Human Rights Act. With this act, South Korea guaranteed to give humanitarian relief to current and former North Korean citizens.   In 2003, the UN Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution in which it expressed its deep disapproval of reports on systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in North Korea which include “torture and other cruel, inhuman degrading treatment or punishment…the existence of large number of prison camps and extensive use of forced labor…” (Alson and Goodman 706). Forced labor includes child labor as well. In addition, North Korea has violated Article 3 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Article 3 states that “Each State Party shall ensure that… its criminal or penal law…of the engagement of the child in forced labour”.  Also, in the resolution, the UN Commission on Human Rights also states that they regret the DPRK haven’t allowed the international community to confirm these reports and to respond to them (Alson and Goodman 706). After receiving no response from North Korea regarding the resolution, the UN Commission designated a Special Rapporteur to North Korea. The purpose of the Special Rapporteur in North Korea is to investigate and report the human rights situation in North Korea. There have been three Special Rapporteurs who have been assigned to North Korea in total. Currently, North Korea has not ever gotten in direct contact with the Special Rapporteur. Therefore, the Special Rapporteurs have never been permitted to visit the country. To be able to collect information that can be reported back to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur often travels to neighboring countries and interviews refugees and officials to gather information about the conditions in North Korea. According to Marzuki Darusman, the second Special Rapporteur assigned to North Korea, he stated, “Human Rights violations are committed in all correctional centres…It is further claimed that human rights abuses, including deaths are rampant inside correctional centres” (Alson and Goodman 706). Darusman suggested that North Korea should cooperate with the international community to correct human rights violations done in the past. Currently, there is a new Special Rapporteur for North Korea, Tomas Ojea Quintana. According to Quintana, although North Korea refuses to be in direct contact with the Special Rapporteur, North Korea is taking part in some UN human rights processes. For instance, North Korea recently invited Catalina Devandas Aguilar, the UN Special Rapporteur on rights of those disabled (North Korea Reluctantly Opens Up on Human Rights). Most recently, in March 2017, the United Nations Human Rights Council had approved a resolution that demanded the prosecution of human rights violations in North Korea. In addition to what has already been done, other measures can be taken to stop or at least lessen North Korea’s chances of committing human rights violations in their prisons and elsewhere. For instance, the United Nations should actively try to shut down the prison system that exists in North Korea. This is important to do because the prison system in North Korea is where much of the manufacturing of products occur. Stopping the prison system in North Korea would aid in overthrowing the North Korean economy. In addition, to stop North Korea from partaking in crimes such as hard labor, lack of resources, child labor and torture in these prisons, we need to hold North Korea more accountable for the crimes they have committed. Experts involved are planning for the ensuing prosecution of North Korean leaders and officials. Furthermore, other countries should make an effort to stop trading with North Korea. This is because according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, the top import origins of North Korea’s goods are China and India which contribute 2.95 billion and 108 million dollars respectively. The top imports of North Korea are refined petroleum ($186M), Delivery Trucks (108M), and Broadcasting equipment ($59.2M) (“North Korea OEC”). South Korea has already taken part in cutting economic ties with North Korea by closing the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). The Kaesong Industrial Complex is a joint enterprise by the southern border of North Korea. The Kaesong Industrial Complex is an area where as many as 124 companies operate. The project has contributed to as much as 2 billion dollars in trade for North Korea. Additionally, neighboring countries, particularly China and South Korea should provide better aid to North Korean refugees who wish to seek asylum. This is because if returned to North Korea (as many of them are despite the North Korean Human Rights Act ), they would be faced with a longer sentencing and worse conditions. According to Human Rights Watch, accountability is necessary for the victims who have been abused in North Korea because it is needed to end the abuses that occur there. To achieve this, having a panel of experts is recommended. This panel would create a legal and institutional framework that should be in place to instill justice. The panel should also “explore options to seek the truth and address the needs of victims and their families” (“North Korea”). The sooner a panel of experts is put together, the sooner change processes can be made. In addition to the initiatives being made, in 2013, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon introduced a “Human Rights Up” plan.  The objective of this initiative is to make a human rights responsibility for the whole organization of the UN. North Korea has been able to undergo many human rights violations because they continue to ignore treaties and documents that emphasize human rights. For instance, as previously stated, North Korea has taken part in forced labor in their prisons. North Korea is not part of the International Labour Organization (ILO). This has allowed the government of North Korea to continue forced labor and child labor throughout the country. In response to the countless actions taken by the UN, North Korea has strongly denounced the international community. Namely, Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, has stated that the resolutions made by the General Assembly are “unlawful”. In addition, the North Korean government has continued to deny the existence of the prisons. Nevertheless, there are still steps North Korea can take to improve the quality of life for its citizens. For instance, North Korea can stop arresting people on insignificant crimes. Also, although it could take many generations, North Korea should make an effort to remove the Songbun system. Removing the Songbun system would pave the way to making a society with more equality between its people. Most importantly, North Korea should make the effort to reach out to the international community for aid and should remove their current political leader and instead make a system in which one person or group of people do not have all control. While many may say that direct intervention is necessary in order to stop North Korea from committing human rights violations, many do not realize that direct intervention can lead to a full blown nuclear war. In addition, countries that share a border with North Korea, such as China are insistent in a peaceful resolution because if the the Kim Dynasty were to collapse, many North Koreans would flood into China. Also, South Korea opposes war with North Korea because of its close proximity to North Korea, South Korea would be particularly vulnerable to North Korea’s attacks (Wong). The concept of sovereignty as well as global and regional politics can affect direct international response. Sovereignty means that a government has full control of affairs within a certain area.  Sovereignty can affect other countries from intervening with a country’s affairs. When China and the US had implemented new sanctions on North Korea for developing nuclear arsenal and for partaking in other violations,  North Korea had argued that it was a “violent violation of our sovereignty” ( News, SBS). Many governments may acknowledge international laws but may go against them because they feel that the international laws may contradict values and customs of that given society. Also, many countries may use traditional values or customs as an excuse to ignore international human rights laws (Reid). Many human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch would argue that traditional practices such as Songbun hinder people’s ability for economic and social growth. Therefore, international laws may not always be effective in maintaining order. When discussing human rights, it can be difficult to allow for sovereignty because lives are being affected. Despite protest from the international community, North Korea has continued to perform human rights violations on its own people. North Korea’s refusal to stop the violations that are occurring inside and outside the prisons are a reflection of the corruption that occurs in the North Korean government. The Songbun system continues to keep the people of North Korea in certain positions. While the fear of torture and imprisonment keep many from questioning the authoritarian regime.  The UN must proceed collecting evidence of the prison systems in North Korea and should aid in the escape and protection of North Korean refugees. In addition, the UN should cut economic ties with North Korea to topple their economy as well as their existing government.