SEOUL, March 30 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea’s unification ministry made public details of its report on North Korea’s human rights violations for the first time Thursday, highlighting widespread rights abuses by the North, such as public executions and torture.
The 450-page report to be officially published Friday was written based on around 1,600 human rights violation cases testified by 508 North Korean defectors between 2017 and 2022, according to the ministry.
It is the first time that the government has opened to the public its annual report on the North’s dismal human rights record since it began drafting it in 2018 under the North Korean Human Rights Act passed in 2016.
“The publication of the report reflects the government’s commitment to improving the North’s human rights situation in a practical manner,” the ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs said.
The report said North Korean people’s right to life appears to be “seriously” threatened due to North Korean authorities’ “arbitrary” use of power for human rights violations.
The North Korean regime has executed people in a widespread manner and even applied the death penalty for activities that include watching and spreading videos produced in South Korea, as well as religious and superstition-related activities, it said.
In 2020, the North enacted a law that calls for sentencing of up to 10 years hard labor for people who bring and spread outside culture and information in a bid to tighten state control of people’s ideology. Punishment is known to be tougher in cases of those watching and spreading South Korean dramas, movies and music.
Public and summary executions have been frequently carried out in the North, with executions of people under age 18 and pregnant women being reported as well.
The report said a pregnant woman was publicly executed due to the spread of footage in 2017 where she was dancing while pointing her finger at a portrait of the country’s late founder Kim Il-sung.
In 2015, six adolescents aged 16-17 were executed by firing squad in Wonsan as they watched South Korean videos and used opium.
It also listed various other types of human rights abuses, such as torture, sexual violence and other inhumane treatment.
The North has even conducted medical experiments on the bodies of people with mental problems without their consent.
The North is believed to have a total of 11 political prisoner camps across the nation so far, with five currently under operation, the report said.
The ministry said it will publish the English version of the report later in a bid to raise international awareness of the North’s appalling situation.
“The government will unwaveringly move to improve the North’s human rights record by cooperating with the international community until North Koreans will live a humane life,” Unification Minister Kwon Young-se said.