Yeonmi Park, a survivor of North Korea’s regime, said that there’s no electricity, nor internet outside Pyongyang, the capital. North Korea is widely known as one of the world’s most repressive countries.
Human rights in North Korea
Human rights in North Korea continue to be a grave concern as the government has faced numerous accusations of egregious human rights abuses. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a landmark document that upholds fundamental human rights, was adopted by 58 countries in 1948, emphasizing the right to life (Article 3) among other essential rights.
The government of North Korea has come under scrutiny for its alleged involvement in a wide range of human rights violations, which include the pervasive exploitation of forced labor, instances of torture, and arbitrary detention. These abuses paint a distressing picture of the prevailing conditions within the country.
In addition to these violations, North Korea severely restricts the freedoms of speech and press, freedoms that are widely protected in many other nations. Citizens are subjected to stringent government surveillance and control, curtailing their ability to express themselves freely. Moreover, the government tightly controls access to information, going so far as to limit citizens’ access to the internet.
The situation regarding human rights in North Korea underscores the urgent need for international attention and action to address these violations and ensure the protection of basic human rights for all individuals within the country.
The creation of the North Korea’s dictatorship
Following the conclusion of World Wars, the United States and the Soviet Union made the decision to divide Korea into two distinct states based on contrasting ideologies. The Republic of Korea, established by the United States, espoused strong anti-communist beliefs, while the North came under a communist regime led by its first leader, Kim Il Sung. Since then, North Korea has been governed as a dictatorship under the Kim Dynasty.
Since 2011, Kim Jong-Un has held the position of dictator in North Korea, exercising control over the state and its people. As of 2021, he leads a population of over 25 million people, with approximately 60% living in poverty and longing to escape the country. Tragically, those who attempt to flee the regime by crossing the border without valid official documentation are subjected to gunfire. This denial of freedom of movement, a fundamental human right, represents a severe infringement on basic liberties.
Inequality among North Korean citizens
In North Korea, the population is divided and classified under the songbun system, a socio-political classification that determines an individual’s social status based on their ancestors’ loyalty to the leader. The system consists of three main categories: the loyal (or core), the wavering, and the hostile, each with further sub-classifications.
The loyalists, who are considered the core supporters, enjoy privileges such as residing in the capital city of Pyongyang and better access to necessities like medicine, food, and education. On the other hand, those classified as hostile may be assigned to dangerous forced labor and receive meager food rations. The wavering class includes artisans, shopkeepers, and traders, residing between the extremes.
Kim Jong-Un shows little concern for the suffering experienced by the populace, including hunger and disease. His primary focus is on maintaining control and preventing any form of betrayal. Individuals who act against the established rules may face execution or be sent to labor camps.
Exacerbating Inequality : The impact of limited internet access
While the internet does exist in North Korea, it is primarily accessible to the elite, comprising those loyal to the leader or the government. This privileged segment can access the World Wide Web, just like the rest of the world. However, the majority of the population has limited access, restricted to an intranet known as “Kwangmyong” (meaning “bright star”), which is heavily controlled by the government. Outside of universities and select offices, owning a computer is considered illegal.
The intranet provides only 28 approved sites, most of which are used for propaganda purposes. The remaining population, apart from the elite, lives under intense state-controlled propaganda. According to BBC News, the websites available in North Korea are “unsophisticated” and extremely slow to load, further limiting access to information.
In 2022, North Korea’s limited internet infrastructure was hacked by an American, and in retaliation, North Korean hackers targeted and took down several propaganda sites. This incident highlights the complex dynamics surrounding the internet in North Korea.
Despite the majority of the population not relying on the World Wide Web for survival, the internet has become a source of inequality. The limited access perpetuates a divide between the elite with unrestricted internet access and the rest of the population, further deepening disparities in information, education, and opportunities.
Master 2 Cyberjustice 2022-2023