The human rights situation in North Korea remains abysmal, according the 2015 State Department Human Rights Report. The country remains an authoritarian state, which has been led by the Kim family for almost 70 years.
The government of Kim Jong Un continues to rule with an iron fist, denying freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement.
One of the most infamous aspects of the North Korean regime’s repression is its network of prison camps. According to the human rights report, there are reportedly between 80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners in North Korea.
Torture continues to be a common occurrence in North Korean detention facilities, according to numerous defector accounts and non-governmental organizations. Abuses include severe beatings, electric shock, prolonged periods of exposure to the elements, humiliations such as public nakedness, and confinement in tiny punishment cells. Mothers were in some cases reportedly forced to watch the infanticide of their newborn babies. According to the United Nations Commission of Inquiry’s 2014 Report, North Korean officials had in some cases prohibited live births in prison and ordered forced abortions as recently as 2013.
The Korea Institute for National Unification, or KINU, a South Korean government-affiliated think tank, reported that in some cases of live birth, the prison guards killed the infant or left the baby to die. KINU also reported cases of guards sexually abusing or exploiting female prisoners.
In past years, defectors reported that authorities subjected Christian inmates to harsher punishment if their faith was made public.
The United States condemns in the strongest terms possible the human rights abuses in North Korea. The U.S. believes all people everywhere, including North Koreans, are entitled to fundamental rights. As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, “People everywhere want to be free and in control of their lives.”