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Freedom in North Korea 1

Freedom in North Korea

By

James Jung

ID

Trinity Western University

Instructor: Melinda Dewsbury

English 101

March 7, 2011
Freedom in North Korea 2

While the international community has focused on the Kim Jong Il regime in North

Korea primarily for two reasons: its development of nuclear weapons and its support for

international terrorism, they shouldn’t lost sight of the fact that North Korea has the most

egregious human-rights and humanitarian disasters in the world today. North Korea has much

more than an authoritarian government, North Koreans have suffered with failed social,

economic, and political policies, as well as grave human rights abuses such as extensive

prison camps and forced abortions. From a political perspective, the human rights violation of

North Korea are crimes against humanity because they forcefully suppress North Korean’s

freedom with restricting their freedom of movement and freedom of speech, and with

religious persecution of Christians.

North Korea is one of the most oppressive regimes on Earth. The government is

essentially a dictatorship—previously operated by Kim Il Sung, and now operated by his son,

Kim Jong Il. Under the dictatorship, North Koreans have suffered through five decades of

failed social, economic, and political policies, as well as grave human rights abuses (Kang,

1994). They are forbidden to speak their minds freely, religion is forced upon by government,

and movement is controlled because the Kim dynasty fears that “the hermetic seal,” which

preserves the Kim dynasty and its “divinity,” will be punctured (U.S. Commission on

International Religious Freedom, 2005, p.4). The term "hermetic seal" is a metaphor to

describe the fact that the North Korean government fears outside influence. If the North

Korean see the way people live in the rest of the world, they would probably doubt the

divinity of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and would prefer to believe in other religions such as

Christianity. It is a tool to keep citizens from rebelling. That’s why anything that “casts doubt

on the beneficence or omnipotence of the “Dear Leader” has to be repressed” (U.S.

Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2005, p.4). This reveals that the life and the

rights of North Koreans are totally controlled by the government. Moreover, North Korean

citizens are surrounded by “the all-encompassing presence of the “Great Leader” and his son,
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the “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il” from cradle to grave. North Korean parents and schools are

instructed to teach to their children that “they were from birth to venerate Kim Il Sung and

his son Kim Jong Il” (U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2005, p. 3). In

other words, people are completely brainwashed, thanking North Korean leader Jong Il for

North Korean leader Il for


their good fortune

their good fortune North Korean leader


.

Il for their good fortune


While the

government harshly suppressing all freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and religious

belief and brainwashing their thoughts for their own benefits, many North Koreans have

suffered by the extensive prison camps, the arbitrary detention of dissidents extending to

three and four generation of their families, forced abortions, and people beaten down by

constant suspicion, propaganda, and violence (Hawk, 2007). With so much government

control of every aspect of life, citizens necessarily lose all personal and social freedoms.

These include freedom of movement, freedom of speech, and freedom of religious belief.

Overall, restricting their freedom of movement and freedom of speech and religious

persecution of Christians that have committed everyday in North Korea are absolutely crimes

against humanity.

The act of crime against humanity can easily be seen through the government

restricting their citizens’ freedom of movement in North Korea. According to the Universal

Declaration of Human Rights that adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the

United Nations (1948), everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within

the borders of each state. For this reason, citizens can leave any country, including their own,

and to return to their country and they also have the rights to seek and to enjoy in other

countries asylum from persecution. However, freedom of movement does not exist in North
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Korea. Recently, citizens has a bit more freedom in the form to travel outside their main

town, but they still are not allow to go anywhere more than a short distance. North Koreans

are strictly prohibited to emigrate from the country; however, those such as elite

businessmen, government official, athletes, and artists have some access to exit visas

(Freedom House, 2006). This illustrates that only political reliable who are working for the

influx
government and gives benefits to the government such as inflowing

of capital
the capitals from different countries are allowed because Kim

Jong Il fears that cross-border contacts will puncture the hermetic seal that preserves the Kim

dynasty and its “divinity” (U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2005, p.4).

That’s why anything that casts doubt on the beneficence or omnipotence of the “Dear

Leader” has to be repressed. In addition, migration is considered as illegal so returnees are

subject to harassment, arrest, imprisonment, and often torture. According to the survey done

by Congressional Research Service (2007), an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 North Korean

refugees still live in China. Despite the UN’s contention that these North Koreans in China

should be considered to be refugees, the Chinese police regularly forcibly repatriate them

back to North Korea. Those who are repatriated may face several painful punishments such

as the extensive prison camps and labor correction. Another research done by Hawk explains

the North Korean kwan-li-so, literally translated as “political-labor camps” or prison. In his

research, the prisoners have been precisely “removed from the protection of the law” for the

duration of the imprisonment, which for most prisoners is a lifetime. He also emphasizes that

the fact that prison camp officials and guards are regularly able to have sexual relations with

female prisoners that can be judged to “constitute rape or sexual violence” (Hawk, 2007, p.

8). Therefore, these given research clearly reveal that many North Koreans are banished and

imprisoned without any judicial process and have been suffering with forced abortion, sexual

harassment, and harsh labor for their lifetime sentences. In other words, the government’s
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forceful suppression on North Korean’s freedom with restricting their freedom of movement

for their benefits is absolutely crime against humanity.

Another act of crime against humanity can be reflected through the government

restricting their citizens’ freedom of speech in North Korea. According to the Universal

Declaration of Human Rights that adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the

United Nations (1948), it emphasizes that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and

expressional; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek,

receive and information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. In other

words, every person has right to express their own thoughts to others and the government

should not interfere or persecute them even though they express the negative opinion about

the government. However, the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly does not exist in

North Korea. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (2005, p.7) reports

that the government of North Korea asserts that they have “freedom of speech, of the press,

demonstration and association.” However, these freedoms are overshadowed and heavily, if

not entirely, limited and circumscribed by the government. In other words, criticism of the

government and its leaders is strictly banned and making such statement can be cause for

arrest and end up in one of North Korea’s prison camps. Moreover, according to Freedom

House (2006), all media outlets including printed materials, television, film, as well as radio

in North Korea are controlled by the government. Television and radio sets are modified by

the North Korean government to only pick up the channels and stations that are controlled by

them. Internet has recently been installed by the Chinese and South Korean companies, but

access to internet is very limited. All foreign websites are blocked. Landline telephones are

numbered at around 1 for every 23 people, or about 1 million lines. It is easy to say they are

listened to by North Korea's big brother as well. This research clearly shows that the

government strictly restricts the freedom of speech by control the internet, landline telephone,

and media, so there is no way people can express their opinions and communicate each other
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freely. To criticize their government or contact foreign certainly lead to arrest and the

possibility to end up in one of North Korea's infamous prison camps. In addition, Fox News

reported that a North Korean factory chief accused of “making international phone calls on

13 phones he installed in a factory basement was executed by a firing squad in a stadium

before 150,000 spectators” (Fox News, 2007). Clearly, many North Koreans are banned from

communicating with the outside world, and those who against the law are persecuted and

imprisoned with no judicial process. When most people around the world communicate and

share their opinion with others without the government’s interference and control, many

North Koreans are suffering with torture, execution, or imprisonment in one of North Korea's

ten brutal concentration camps. Therefore, the government’s restriction on North Koreans’

freedom of movement with using their power and authority is crime against humanity.

Despite the North Korean government’s assertion to the UN Human Rights

Committee that there are no limitations on religious practice, it is clear that the religious

persecution of Christianity exists in North Korea (U.S. Commission on International

Religious Freedom, 2005). According to the survey done by Kang (1994), there are three

churches, two protestant and one Catholic, were opened in Pyongyang in 1988, but these

churches are operated as showcases for foreign visitors and the one Catholic church has no

direct relationship with the Vatican. This survey reveals that the government is just using

these churches to make it seem like there is religious freedom there. In truth, religious

activities are strictly prohibited by the government and there is no respect for religious

freedom by the North Korean authorities. U.S. Commission on International Religious

Freedom interviewed 40 former North Koreans on various aspects of freedom of religion and

belief, including their knowledge of religious activities. One of interviewees says that “North

Korean law doesn’t allow religious freedom. You cannot have religious activities legally.

There might be underground religious activities, but if those activities are discovered, those

participating in them must be executed” (U.S. Commission on International Religious


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Freedom, 2005, p. 27) In fact, there are about 400 thousands Christians and 267 underground

churches in North Korea, but 7 thousands of them are in prison camps (Nocut News, 2011).

This clearly shows that while people in different countries easy to have religious activities

like go to church during weekend, people in North Korean can’t have religious activity easily

in North Korea because the government forcefully prohibited. According to U.S. Commission

on International Religious Freedom (2005), those who possessing or importing Bibles or for

groups discovered worshipping in secret can be persecuted. One Interviewee who watched

the execution says that “The five leaders to be executed—the pastor, two assistant pastors,

and two elders—were bound hand and foot and made to like down in front of a steam roller”

(U.S Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2005, p. 44). This steam roller is a

large construction vehicle with a heavy and huge steel roller mounted on the front to crush

and level the roadway as well as pouring concrete. Another interviewee says that “I saw an

old man and his daughter executed because the daughter had dropped a Bible while washing

clothes” (U.S Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2005, p. 43). Clearly, the

government severely restricts religious activity by simply kill for their faith in Christ, but

they pulverize with steamrollers and ship them into the prison camp. Severe religious

freedom abuses occur constantly including the arrest, torture, and possible execution of those

conducting clandestine religious activity. Hence, the government’s forceful suppression on

North Korean’s freedom with persecuting the Christians is absolutely crime against humanity.

To sum up, North Korea is one of the most oppressive regimes on Earth. North Korea

finally being recognized for its harsh living conditions for its people and the human rights

violations. Under the Kim’s dictatorship, North Koreans have suffered with failed social,

economic, and political policies, as well as grave human rights abuses such as extensive

prison camps and forced abortions. Therefore, the human rights violation of North Korea are

crimes against humanity because they forcefully suppress North Korean’s freedom with
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restricting their freedom of movement and freedom of speech, and with religious persecution

of Christians.
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References

Congressional Research Service. (2007). North Korean refugees in China and human rights

issues: international response and U.S. policy options.

Retrieved from http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL34189.pdf

Freedom House. (2006). North Korea.

Retrieved from

http://freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=22&year=2006&country=6993.

Fox News. (2007, November 27). 150,000 witness North Korea execution of factory boss

whose crime was making international phone calls. Fox News.

Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,313226,00.html

Hawk, D. (2007). Concentrations of Inhumanity.

Retrieved from http://freedomhouse.org/uploads/special_report/53.pdf

Kang, Y, A. (1994). Min jok tong il gua han guk gi dok kyo (The Korean church and

unification). Seoul, Gyung-Gi-Do: Korea Inter Varsity Press.

The U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. (2005). The hidden gulag.

Retrieved from http://www.davidrhawk.com/HiddenGulag.pdf

The General Assembly of United Nations. (1948). The Universal Declaration of Human

Rights. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml

U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. (2005). Thank you father Kim Il

Sung :Eyewitness accounts of severe violations of freedom of thought, conscience,

and religion in North Korea.

Retrieved from: http://www.davidrhawk.com/ThankYou FatherKimIlSung.pdf