North Koreans trapped in ‘vicious cycle of deprivation, corruption, repression’ and endemic bribery: UN human rights office

UNICEF/Simon Nazer Children in a newly built clinic in Musan County, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), are checked for malnutrition and given vaccines, Vitamin A and deworming tablets.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Bribery is the main way people in North Korea get food, healthcare, shelter and work, a new UN human rights office report said on Tuesday.

Based on more than 200 first-hand accounts of escapees from the country, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the report asserts that the State-run public distribution system collapsed in the mid-1990s, forcing people to work in informal markets, where they have no choice but to bribe officials to avoid arrest.

It also highlights “appalling” levels of hunger that affects around 10.9 million people – more than 43 per cent of the population – with north-eastern and rural provinces worst-affected.

The report also details how huge resources have been diverted to increasing DPRK’s military capacity and maintaining a huge standing army, which has kept one million young men and women from the workplace.

Among the report’s suggested reforms are a review of the criminal code to end prosecutions for engaging in legitimate market activities, and respect for freedom of movement across the country’s borders – and even inside DPRK.

“The rights to food, health, shelter, work, freedom of movement and liberty are universal and inalienable, but in North Korea they depend primarily on the ability of individuals to bribe State officials”, said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in reaction to the report.

The constant threat of arrest and prosecution provides State officials with a powerful means to extort money and other favours from people desperate to avoid detention in inhumane conditions, the report says. In addition, the living conditions and treatment of detainees can also depend on the payment of bribes.

“I felt it unfair that one could bribe one’s way out of [detention], when another suffers much more as a result of being unable to bribe”, said one interviewee who spoke to UN investigators. “Bribery is effective in North Korea. One cannot lead a life in North Korea if he or she does not bribe his or her way.”

Another interviewee said bluntly, that everyone has to resort to the informal sector, just to survive: “If you just follow instructions coming from the State, you starve to death.”

The report also details how women seeking ways to make ends meet, are particularly vulnerable to further abuse at the hands of third parties, including brokers and traffickers.

The UN rights chief called for far-reaching changes: “Our report is a stark illustration of how important it is that the Government tackles the country’s profound human rights problems.  Only then can the endemic system of corruption which pervades all aspects of life be effectively dismantled,” she said.

The report details how the State has simply not fulfilled its obligations under international human rights law to realize the right of its citizens to an adequate standard of living. It has neither sought to modify a failed public system, nor helped to establish a functional and legal private sector.

“People must not be arrested, detained, prosecuted or subjected to extortion simply for trying to acquire an adequate standard of living,” concluded Ms. Bachelet. “Addressing these issues could open a path to tackling the wider range of human rights concerns that exist in the DPRK today. A significant set of reforms would be in everybody’s interests, including those of the Government and of the international community.”

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Somalia: UN Security Council condemns terrorist attack in which dozens were killed or injured

Security of 5G networks: EU Member States complete national risk assessments

Could this electric ferry’s success herald an era of greener shipping?

3 ways the coronavirus is affecting animals around the world

EU Cohesion policy on the front line of the recovery: €34 billion approved for regions and cities in just 4 months  

The British “nonsense”, the relaxed Commissioner and the TTIP “chiaroscuro” at this week’s Council

IMF: Sorry Greece it was a mistake of 11% of your GDP

Political agreement on new Common Agricultural Policy: fairer, greener, more flexible

The battle for the 2016 EU Budget to shake the Union; Commission and Parliament vs. Germany

Trade Barriers Report: EU continues to open up markets outside Europe in midst of rising protectionism

MEPs want ambitious funding for cross-border projects to connect people

Electric vehicles are half the market in Norway

Spanish and Polish voters are crying out for an imminent European change while US urge now Germany to change route

The challenge for G7 leaders: vaccinate the world and be bolder on climate

Most leaders are missing this crucial character trait

Gig economy: Employment Committee MEPs want to boost workers’ rights

From landlocked to land-linked: how the UN is helping some of the world’s poorest countries

UN ‘comes together in sadness and solidarity’ to honour staff who died on board Ethiopian Airlines flight

MEPs: Focus on crisis response when coordinating economic and budgetary policies

How to Create a Clear Vision For the Future of Healthcare

UN makes ‘declaration of digital interdependence’, with release of tech report

The ethics of the Medical Technology Civilisation era

Death as a Global Public Health Issue

Young people demand a transparent job market: new campaign launches on international interns day

COVID-19 tracing apps: MEPs stress the need to preserve citizens’ privacy

Top cleantech R&D priorities to help tackle climate change

Where is Egypt leading the Middle East and the Mediterranean economy?

EU and Indo-Pacific: natural partners

Human Rights: breaches in Cambodia, Uganda and Myanmar

“Leaked” TTIP document breaks post 8th negotiations round silence and opens door to critics

New Disability Inclusion Strategy is ‘transformative change we need’, says Guterres

Google and Apple suddenly realise that doing business in EU is tough?

Take-home pay growing at lowest level since 2008, as gender-gap persists: UN labour agency

The world’s largest bus system is starting to go electric

3 ways digitalization will help end crime

What empty homes and hipster coffee shops tell us about globalization

Flexible jobs can make work-life balance worse, a German study finds

Shaping the future of democracy in Armenia

Parliament elects Ursula von der Leyen as first female Commission President

“The Belt and Road Initiative should be mutually beneficial for EU and China and every participating country”, Vice-President Papadimoulis of the European Parliament underscores from European Business Summit 2018

Christmas spending: Who can afford not to cut?

Here are 5 reasons why the ocean is so important

UNICEF warns of ‘lost generation’ of Rohingya youth, one year after Myanmar exodus

Why we all need farmers to have access to better seeds

A new global financial crisis develops fast; who denies it?

State aid: Commission approves €1 billion Cypriot scheme to support enterprises and self-employed individuals in context of coronavirus outbreak

MWC 2016 LIVE: Telenor CEO calls on operators to embrace Mobile Connect initiative

How do we design an inclusive energy transition?

Six steps that can help us to tackle homelessness

Europe plans to send satellites into space to monitor CO2 emissions

UN rights chief welcomes new text to protect rights of peasants and other rural workers

You’ve heard of 5G, but what about the quantum internet?

Brexit may finally not really happen; The Brits have second thoughts

European Commission kicks off major EU trade policy review

The Sting’s Values

UN chief appeals for calm as Mali presidential election draws to a close

First peaceful transfer of power in DR Congo ‘an extraordinary opportunity’ for advancing rights

Zilda Arns: the brazilian woman who changed children’s lives

Senior UN official strongly condemns Southern California synagogue attack

China, forever new adventures

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: