North Korean Human Rights Violations Pose Threat to International Security

North Korean Human Rights Violations Pose Threat to International Security
Photo by Micha Brändli via Unsplash


Vedran Muftic

East and South Asia Human Rights Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence,

Julie Turner, nominee for U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights stated that North Korean human rights abuses directly affect international security. Turner stated that profits from Pyongyang’s export of overseas labor are funneled back into the country’s illegal weapons program. In order to counteract this problem, Turner said that she will work hard with partners and allies such as South Korea. These actions include increasing access to uncensored information in North Korea, reinvigorating accountability efforts at the U.N., and urging North Korea to respect human rights. [1]

While Human rights issues are common within North Korea, human rights abuses among North Korean workers overseas are also present. Pyongyang sends citizens to work abroad in harsh conditions. Citizens are exploited and work under heavy surveillance while their wages are being confiscated. It is reported that Russia and China are where most of the overseas labor force is located [2]. Citizens have been reported working in logging camps, farms, restaurants, construction, and shipyards. Parents and children of citizens are left back in North Korea as hostages and their passports are confiscated to prevent them from fleeing to South Korea. One successful defector tells how he either lived in shipping containers or in apartment buildings still ​under construction [3]. 

In 1981, North Korea signed and ratified the International Covenant of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights [4]. Several of the instances of overseas work observed do not comply with the covenant’s articles. The right to fair wages as well as safe and healthy working conditions are both guaranteed under Article 7. By placing its citizens in dangerous and unfair working conditions such as the ones observed overseas, North Korea stands in violation of the ICESCR.    


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