North Korean authorities turn blind eye to domestic violence

North Korea’s MPS personnel are known to decline to intervene in
domestic violence incidents. Image: Daily NK

Ministry of People’s Security officers in Hoeryong City, North Hamgyong Province, have recently become the focus of controversy following their unwillingness to address a domestic violence incident at the scene.

According to sources inside the country, a woman was beaten continuously by her husband for 30 minutes during an incident, and her neighbor reported her screams to the police. However, the security agent who arrived at the scene declined to make any inquiries about her physical condition and left the scene saying that the couple needed to “resolve domestic disputes on [their] own.” 
Following the incident, the husband continued to beat his wife with greater severity, which ended only when the woman fell unconscious and was later admitted to a mental hospital for post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The wife was constantly assaulted by her husband and is now living in a mental hospital. People are saying, ‘How could the police not punish him? The police officers just neglected their duties under the excuse that they cannot interfere in domestic disputes,” a Daily NK source reported on September 13.
North Korea’s Ministry of People’s Security [MPS] is an organization whose stated mission is to protect the lives and property of the state and its people. Its personnel are tasked with maintaining social order, but are said to evaluate each incident according to the potential profits they can make from it.
“MPS officers never get involved in cases they cannot receive bribe money from and don’t even care if someone is dying. The recent incident could have been prevented if the husband had been arrested,” a separate source in North Hamgyong Province added.
Although there are laws and systems in place to prevent such violence in North Korea, they are poorly implemented. The revised criminal code in 2012 stipulates that anyone who assaults another person can face labor training for up to a year (assault), as can a person who abuses someone under their protection (abuse). In addition, Article 2 of the Women’s Rights Protection Act adopted in December 2010 stipulates the principle of equality between men and women.
“The authorities only make false threats, but do not actually take any proper measures. The security agents will not even interfere in public fights in the streets,” a female North Korean defector in her 40s said on condition of anonymity.
“The MPS agents only focus on maintaining Kim Jong Un’s power. They have little interest in the safety or security of the residents.”
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