2009 Human Rights Report: Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, U.S. Department of State
2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
March 11, 2010
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) is a dictatorship under the absolute rule of Kim Jong-il, general secretary of the Korean Workers' Party (KWP) and chairman of the National Defense Commission (NDC), the "highest office of state." The country has an estimated population of 23.5 million. Kim's father, the late Kim Il-sung, remains "eternal president." National elections held in March were not free or fair. There was no civilian control of the security forces, and members of the security forces committed numerous serious human rights abuses.
The government's human rights record remained deplorable, and the government continued to commit numerous serious abuses. Citizens did not have the right to change their government. The government subjected citizens to rigid controls over many aspects of their lives. There continued to be reports of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, arrests of political prisoners, harsh and life threatening prison conditions, and torture. There were reports that pregnant female prisoners underwent forced abortions in some cases, and in other cases babies were killed upon birth in prisons. The judiciary was not independent and did not provide fair trials. Citizens were denied freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association, and the government attempted to control all information. The government restricted freedom of religion, citizens' movement, and worker rights. There continued to be reports of severe punishment of some repatriated refugees. There were widespread reports of trafficking in women and girls among refugees and workers crossing the border into China.