According to the latest State Department Human Rights Report, which was just released, North Korea continues to deny its people basic freedoms such as the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, movement, and worker rights.
Furthermore, reports continued of a vast network of political prison camps in which conditions were often harsh and life-threatening and prisoners were subjected to forced labor, starvation, torture, rape, and forced abortions.
Defectors continued to report extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, arrests of political prisoners, and torture. The judiciary was not independent and did not provide fair trials. Reports continued of severe punishment of some repatriated refugees and their family members. There were also reports of female victims of trafficking among refugees and workers crossing the border into China.
"The people of North Korea,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski, “should enjoy the same rights and freedoms as the people of South Korea and the people of every country in the world who are able to speak their minds and elect their leaders and to travel where they want, and not to be . . . placed in labor camps because of something they’ve said or thought or because of who their relatives are."
In recent years inside North Korea, there has been far greater awareness among the population of what their rights are and of how people outside of North Korea live. "What has sustained this regime over many years" said Assistant Secretary Malinowski, "has been its ability to deny people that knowledge. And its ability to do that has eroded considerably in the last few years and we are doing everything we can to try to get knowledge and information to the people of North Korea so that this trend continues."
"Change takes time," said Assistant Secretary Malinowski, "but when it comes it often surprises us and goes very quickly. And I think that day will come when we see that happen in North Korea."