In 2011, Amnesty International reported findings of an expansion of the Kwan-Li-So Camp No. 22 in North Korea. The expansion is presumed to be to help deal with the ongoing over crowding in current North Korean camps. This isn’t just a solution of sorts — along with it comes a bit of a problem Amnesty is afraid North Korea won’t take into consideration.
Kwan-Li-So is located in a rural valley area in North Korea. Many different groups of peasants live among these hills. Amnesty’s fear lies in the future fate of these peasants once expansion is complete. With the entire area, even around the peasants, enclosed what will become of the innocent inhabitants inside? Amnesty believes North Korea’s military and security personnel will begin to treat them just as the prisoners are treated, resulting in an increase in human rights violations. A full report from Amnesty is located below.
So the question is left: Why don’t we just do something about it? Well, as most of life is, it’s just not that simple. There are multiple ways that an intervention could go terribly wrong. People have suggested that we should just invade North Korea to liberate the people. This might work, except North Korea has missiles pointed at South Korea, Japan, and even ones being developed that could reach the U.S. west coast. So if we were to intervene with military force, it probably wouldn’t go over so well.
All that leaves for us to do at this time is provide the most amount of aid we can directly to the North Korean people via the programs available. Check out the “How You Can Help” tab of this website for more information.
Health care in North Korea is supposed to be free and provided by the government. It is, but only what little aid the government spends on health care. With North Korea’s “military first” policy, very little money actually makes it to the health care system. It was reported in 2011 by Amnesty International that North Korea only spends $1 per capita, the lowest in the world. To compare, the global average is $716 per capitia. This results in absolutely horrible health care conditions. Barely any medicine is available in North Korea leading to inability to cure diseases regarded as simple in other parts of the world. Sterilized needles are rare in North Korea leading to the unnecessary spread of diseases. It’s even reported that most surgeries that take place have no anesthesia used causing agonizing pain for the patient. You can find more info on the Amnesty International report by following the link below.
Recently, with North Korea’s major economic turmoil, the government has began outsourcing North Korean laborers to other countries to work for hard currency for the government. The most known case of this is in Siberia, in the far eastern regions of Russia. Kim Jong Il had made deals with the Russian leaders that would send North Koreans to Russia to work for money by logging forests. The North Koreans who are sent over, are sent over on “contracts” in which they work for ten years or so and then are sent back home. While in these camps they live in terrible conditions with very little food. You might be saying to yourself “Well they are outside of the country. Why don’t they try to escape?” The truth is some do, but because these men who work here are around the age of 40, most of them have families back home and trying to escape would lead to punishment for them. An independent news group called VICE did a large video story over these camps in Siberia and I’ve provided a link to the page.
Media in North Korea, as one can expect, is controlled by the government. It’s part of the way they are able to keep that “cult of personality” that I talked about earlier. The government is able to control everything North Koreans read, watch, and hear. North Koreans are only given one side of every story: North Korea is right, and everyone else is wrong. Most stories in the newspapers are just propaganda glorifying the Kim family. It molds the people of North Korea into sheep that follow the government. Here is an example of a North Korea government news agency and their website.
On the other end of the spectrum, North Korea does a very good job of keeping foreign media out of its borders. A large portion of the reason so little is known about North Korea is due to the lack of people who have been into it to collect information. There has been a few exceptions though lately with all the controversy of nuclear missiles in North Korea. Kim Jong Il, before he died, allowed foreign reporters into the country to watch North Korean rocket testing to ease international tensions. Most of the things foreign media is allowed to see is propaganda to sway the truth about what goes on in the country.
Along with all the other restrictions North Koreans live with, they are oppressed spiritually. The North Korean government shuns and punishes people for practicing religion. There is absolutely no public gatherings for religion. According to government statistics, 63% of the population has no religion. The majority of the rest are either some shamanistic religion of North Korea or Buddhist. There are some Christians in North Korea but they are reported to be heavily persecuted by the government. The government officially claims to be religiously tolerant and even has four different churches in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.
Despite the existence of these churches, westerners who have been to North Korea say these churches are actually just propaganda that the government feeds to tourists to make it seem like their country is religiously tolerant.
Many North Koreans have tried to escape the horrors of their homeland by defecting into other countries, but the majority have been unsuccessful. Countries like China refuse to accept North Koreans who escape into their country as refugees. They catch the escapees and send them back to North Korea where they are sent to work camps or executed. China sends back nearly 300 North Korean refugees every week. As a result protests have been started by numerous countries against this policy.
Other countries like South Korea and Japan readily accept the refugees and South Korea even provides them with safety and an “allowance” to live off of until they are stable. Many humanitarian groups around the world help fund the programs that aid the refugees. If you wish to help some refugees look in the “How You Can Help” tab for a link to one of the groups websites.