UN says North Korea is like a Nazi state: Main findings

A UN report on North Korean human rights violations lists atrocities in nine major areas.

Read passages from the UN report on North Korean human rights violations

Feb. 16: Protesters shout anti-North Korea slogans with placards of defaced images of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the late leader Kim Jong Il in the background during a rally in Seoul, South Korea. (Ahn Young-joon/Associated Press)

A UN report on North Korean human rights violations lists atrocities in nine major areas. The report calls for security chiefs and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un to face international justice for ordering systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities. Read passages from each rights violation listed below:

Violations of the right to food:

"The rights to food, freedom from hunger and to life in the context of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cannot be reduced to a narrow discussion of food shortages and access to a commodity. The State has used food as a means of control over the population. It has prioritized those whom the authorities believe to be crucial in maintaining the regime over those deemed expendable."

Torture and inhuman treatment:

``The use of torture is an established feature of the interrogation process in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, especially in cases involving political crimes. Starvation and other inhumane conditions of detention are deliberately imposed on suspects to increase the pressure on them to confess and to incriminate other persons.``

Arbitrary arrest and detention:

``Gross human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea involving detention, executions and disappearances are characterized by a high degree of centralized coordination between different parts of the extensive security apparatus. The State Security Department, the Ministry of People’s Security and the Korean People’s Army Military Security Command regularly subject persons accused of political crimes to arbitrary arrest and subsequent incommunicado detention for prolonged periods of time. Their families are not informed of their fate or whereabouts. Persons accused of political crimes therefore become victims of enforced disappearance. Making the suspect disappear is a deliberate feature of the system that serves to instill fear in the population."

The full range of violations associated with prison camps:

``In the political prison camps of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the inmate population has been gradually eliminated through deliberate starvation, forced labour, executions, torture, rape and the denial of reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide. The commission estimates that hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have perished in these camps over the past five decades. The unspeakable atrocities that are being committed against inmates of the kwanliso political prison camps resemble the horrors of camps that totalitarian States established during the twentieth century.``

Violations of the freedom of expression:

"Virtually all social activities undertaken by citizens of all ages are controlled by the Workers’ Party of Korea. Through the associations that are run and overseen by the Party, and to which citizens are obliged to be members, the State is able to monitor its citizens and to dictate their daily activities. State surveillance permeates the private lives of all citizens to ensure that virtually no expression critical of the political system or of its leadership goes undetected. Citizens are punished for any “anti-State” activities or expressions of dissent. They are rewarded for reporting on fellow citizens suspected of committing such “crimes."

Violations of the right to life:

"While conditions have changed since the 1990s, hunger and malnutrition continue to be widespread. Deaths from starvation continue to be reported. The commission is concerned that structural issues, including laws and policies that violate the right to adequate food and freedom from hunger, remain in place, which could lead to the recurrence of mass starvation."

Violations of the freedom of movement:

"In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the State imposes on citizens where they must live and work, violating their freedom of choice. Moreover, the forced assignment to a State-designated place of residence and employment is heavily driven by discrimination based on songbun. This has created a socioeconomically and physically segregated society, where people considered politically loyal to the leadership can live and work in favourable locations, whereas families of persons who are considered politically suspect are relegated to marginalized areas."

Enforced disappearances, including in the form of abductions of nationals of other States:

"Since 1950, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has engaged in the systematic abduction, denial of repatriation and subsequent enforced disappearance of persons from other countries on a large scale and as a matter of State policy. Well over 200,000 persons, including children, who were brought from other countries to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea may have become victims of enforced disappearance."


"The songbun system used to be the most important factor in determining where individuals were allowed to live; what sort of accommodation they had; what occupations they were assigned to; whether they were effectively able to attend school, in particular university; how much food they received; and even whom they might marry."


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