Otto Warmbier versus the Republic of Torture

By Robert Collins

As he announced the re-listing of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism on November 20, President Trump referred to the death of Otto Warmbier while in North Korean custody. The young Ohio native’s death was a tragedy, and just the latest occurrence of the unbelievable cruelty that human beings suffer at the hands of the Kim family regime. The parents of Otto were interviewed on national television about the arrival of their son from North Korea and the terrible condition he was in. Mr. Warmbier expressed how it was obvious to him that his son had been tortured due to the condition of his teeth and a severe cut on his foot.

When Otto arrived back home, doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center could not determine the exact nature of the injuries that left Otto with “an extensive loss of brain tissue.” Following that, local coroners stated that they could not see decisive evidence or proof of torture. However, the human rights community is well informed on North Korea’s use of torture against those imprisoned by the regime’s party-state. Historically, tens of thousands of North Koreans have suffered the same fate as Otto–death at the hands of the regime’s security apparatus–as have other foreigners in decades past.

North Korea’s criminal justice system is guided by the Kim regime’s political ideology far more than criminal law. Regime founder Kim Il-sung and his son-successor Kim Jong-il publicly stated that the law exists to serve political purposes and those purposes are designed to serve the North’s supreme leader. Consequently, those who are accused of a political crime are automatically treated as an enemy of the state. The worst “enemies” are those that slander the personage or name of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, or Kim Jong-un. Otto allegedly tore down a propaganda poster praising Kim Jong-il. Under the Kim regime, such an act is regarded as a direct threat to the security of the supreme leader. In notorious North Korean practice, such a crime is punishable by the most draconian of methods, as evidenced by the regime’s slaughter for the past five and a half years of hundreds of ranking military, government, and Party cadre perceived as opposing or disrespecting Kim Jong-un. Hundreds of testimonies from North Korean defectors confirmed torture while imprisoned or being investigated.

For those arrested by the Kim regime’s security apparatus, torture begins immediately after arrest. The Ministry of People’s Security (MPS) is North Korea’s national police, and MPS officers are stationed at every level of North Korean society down to the village level. Unlike countries where the police conduct their mission according to law, MPS officers, as well as their counterparts in the Ministry of State Security (MSS), employ the Korean Workers’ Party’s (KWP) doctrinal “ten principles of monolithic ideology” (TPMI) as their base justification for arrest. Though North Korea has a criminal code delineating what constitutes a crime, the TPMI is used to judge the type, severity, and nature of the crime. Every North Korean is responsible for memorizing these principles in school, the workplace, and at home. Police officers, members of the other security services, and legal officials are evaluated weekly in a KWP format on their performance of duty in relation to the TPMI. Individual careers are forged through showing the chain of command thoroughness in vetting alleged, potential, and actual “criminals” through the prism of the TPMI.

After Otto was arrested, standard North Korean police practice would have handed him over from the Pyongyang Police Bureau to the MPS Pretrial Examination Bureau (PEB). MPS PEB officers are responsible for criminal investigations and for reporting the results of the investigations not only to the local prosecutor’s office, but also to their KWP representatives. The latter are those within the Party that judge the MPS PEB officers and their counterparts in the MSS PEB on their efficiency in protecting the supreme leader and the regime. PEB officers are notorious in North Korea for their ruthless investigative methods based on extracting confessions from the accused. As attested by numerous North Korean escapees, confessions are the “queen of evidence” and torture is employed systematically and ruthlessly to obtain such confessions. To succeed in their specific profession, each PEB officer must develop competency in torture to extract the confessions that prosecutors employ in criminal trials. Depending on the nature of the case, this torture continues during and even after the trial if the prisoner does not comply with instructions on behavior and obedience to directives. In the case of many arrested for political crimes, trials are bypassed and torture becomes part of the retribution and sentencing as the arrested are sent directly to political prison camps. PEB officers are professionally rewarded for their efficiency.

The type of torture Otto must have experienced is quite telling in terms of his likely resistance. The vast majority of foreigners succumb to the pressures and threats of torture early and comply with directives while in custody. However, resistance to the demands of the PEB officers and prosecutors–whether those demands be for propaganda purposes (which is the case most of the time) or actions in support of regime intent in foreign policy–will result in further and more specific torture.

This torture does not apply to all. Many foreigners who are arrested are handled for eventual release to suit a diplomatic purpose—but not all. Even as far back as the 1960s, Venezuelan Ali Lameda and Frenchman Jacques Sedillot served as translators in North Korea but were subsequently accused of being spies and imprisoned. They were tortured regularly and the latter died in Pyongyang. In 1982, Joseph White deserted from the U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry Division and crossed the DMZ. He suspiciously ended up drowning in a North Korean river two years later.

Otto’s condition upon arrival in Cincinnati indicates that Otto resisted PEB officer demands. For the time period Otto was tortured, it is apparent that he bravely resisted the torturers face-to-face, thus the torture. The intensity of the torture should not be underestimated. The PEB officers likely miscalculated the intensity and impact of their torture on Otto in terms of what they thought they could get away with. Several forms of torture would not have left visible external trauma, including water-boarding, electrical shock, and physical confinement in small boxes.

Those who understand the functioning of the North Korean internal security system in detail will be able to tell that Otto likely displayed courage in the face of torture by the most brutal of modern regimes.

North Korea’s practice of torture of individuals in detention violates Articles 7 and 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which North Korea acceded to in 1981. Article 7 states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” while Article 10(1) states, “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.” As part of two Universal Periodic Review cycles for North Korea to date, 19 recommendations by UN Member States to North Korea have explicitly addressed torture. These recommendations call for North Korea to accede to or ratify the Convention against Torture, take immediate steps to stop the use of torture and ill-treatment in all instances of deprivation of freedom, and grant the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Special Rapporteurs on Torture and Violence against Women access to its detention facilities.

Should change come to the Korean peninsula, MPS and MSS PEB officers who conduct this torture in North Korea must be held accountable under future transitional justice mechanisms. 

An Urgent Letter to Mr. President: Remember the People of North Korea

Mr. President, Remember the People of North Korea

Rabbi Abraham Cooper
Associate Dean, Director Global Social Action Agenda
Simon Wiesenthal Center

Greg Scarlatoiu
Executive Director
Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK)

Dear Mr. President Trump,

We understand that a trip to the DMZ may not be included in the agenda of your upcoming trip to South Korea. We would respectfully argue that a presidential DMZ visit and address would be critical to efforts to bring peace, security and freedom to the Korean people and other nations in Northeast Asia as well as the security of the United States.  Against the backdrop of unprecedented nuclear missile-rattling, all eyes would be focused on our president as he stands at the DMZ straddling North and South Korea. Would you continue to verbally joust with the ‘rocket man’ or come armed with a bag of carrots?

Mr. President: Whatever body language you use; we urge you to use this opportunity for a long-neglected global teaching moment.

First, the world has long forgotten the Korean War, and the more than 60,000 US servicemen and women who were killed or went missing in action, the 100,000 wounded, and the more than 7,000 captured. Their gallant sacrifice, and that of our allies, preserved the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and became the cornerstone of the Miracle on the River Han. After going through a few decades of rapid economic development, South Korea has become the world’s 12th largest economy. Free, democratic, prosperous South Korea, a fully responsible and engaged member of the international community, has become a role model for others in Northeast Asia and beyond.

In stark contrast with the South, North Korea has remained a human rights toxic wasteland. Run by three generations of an evil family cult, North Korea today is a post-communist, post-industrial, dynastic kleptocracy. The fundamental strategic objective of the Kim Jong-un regime, just like the Kim Il-sung and the Kim Jong-il regimes before, is its own survival. Adamantly refusing to open up to the world and to undertake reforms that would benefit its citizens, the Kim regime believes that nukes, ballistic missiles and keeping its elites wealthy—content but afraid—will guarantee its survival.

In order to produce its tools of death and fuel its giftpolitik, Kim Jong-un needs hard currency and resources. The regime extracts these critical resources by severely exploiting its people at home and abroad, and through exercising merciless coercion, control, surveillance and punishment of its entire population.

Mr. President, we hope that you would use the DMZ platform to signal most of North Korea’s 25 million people, victimized by Kim Jong-un’s fearpolitik, that they are not forgotten. Today, 120,000 North Korean men, women, and children are held at five political prison camps in North Korea. Three generations of the same family are punished for the alleged wrongdoing of a suspected political offender—all snatched from their homes in the middle of the night, victims of enforced disappearances. Many other perceived political offenders undergo a semblance of judicial process and receive prison sentences at reeducation through labor forced labor camps, where they are mixed with the common prison population. All prisoners are subjected to a vicious cycle of forced labor and induced malnutrition, while many of them are tortured or executed, publicly or secretly.

In February 2014, a UN Commission of Inquiry found that many of the egregious human rights violations perpetrated in North Korea pursuant to policies established at the highest levels of the state amount to crimes against humanity.

But North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats have all but buried these grave abusive human rights practices.

Mr. President, you could use your DMZ speech to expose the undeniable nexus between North Korea’s human rights violations and the security threats the Kim Jong-un regime poses to its Asian neighbors and the world. This is a regime which fuels its weapons programs through ruthless exploitation of its people and denial of basic human rights.

Today, the DMZ separates not only South from North Korea, but freedom from tyranny and prosperity from abject poverty. The DMZ may not be the Berlin Wall—it’s probably much worse. Mr. President, as you prepare for your upcoming visit, you are correctly warning Kim Jong-un to stand down. But the most important words you could utter as you look across the border are those you could address to the people of North Korea. Tell them they are not forgotten and will not be forsaken; that this president will ensure that the fate of everyday North Koreans, especially those trapped in the unyielding gulag systems, remains at the forefront of our prayers and actions.

Lest We Forget: Haunting Image of Otto Warmbier Demands Action Against North Korean Regime

By Abraham Cooper

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and a Board Member of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. 

(Image Credit: Japan Times)

“One death is a tragedy, a million deaths a statistic” is a quote attributed to the late Soviet dictator and 20th century mass murderer par excellence, Josef Stalin.

Today, even in our overloaded social media world, it is still true that a single image can sometimes awaken our auto-pilot apathy.

One such image was the sight of a catatonic 22 year-old dumped on America’s doorstep by the brutal North Korean regime just days before Otto Warmbier battered brain stopped functioning altogether.

The North Korean regime arrested young Warmbier for allegedly stealing a poster, sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor and returned a shell of a person—unable to communicate—to die.

But Americans would be wrong to assume that Warmbier’s death was “a senseless act of violence.” Or that he was released as a humanitarian gesture. It wasn’t. It was murder. The North Koreans put him in a coma, hid that fact for over a year and then sent back the destroyed young man so he wouldn’t die on their watch.

Rather than avert our eyes from this brutal episode and unspeakable crime, we’d best be paying close attention to what happened and drawing necessary conclusions:

Why was this young American arrested and brutalized? 

First, is because the North Korean regime hates America and Americans.

As long-time observer of North Korea, Joshua Stanton observed:
“Pyongyang has made the hatred of Americans a national virtue. It indoctrinates its little children to hate us. All that prevents it from murdering us on a greater scale is that it still lacks the means to do so.”

Secondly, for North Korea, apparently there is an empowering nexus between the arrest, incarceration and brutalization of helpless Americans like Wambier, and Pyongyang’s escalating missile and nuclear provocations targeting and taunting the US and her allies. Punishing an American citizen for the crimes—alleged or real—of the United States government is a perfectly legitimate response in Kim Jong-un’s warped world. In his mind there are zero degrees of separation between the government of the US and its citizens.

Clearly, no American, whatever their political beliefs, should venture into North Korea until there is a regime change.

Third, as we grieve with and for the Warmbier family we should know that millions of unknown North Koreans are similarly subjected to the brutality of Kim Jong-un’s regime. More than 100,000 men, women and children are being tortured, starved, and abused in North Korea’s political prison camps. This continuing outrage demands international action; not only tougher sanctions, but also a serious effort to help uncover and disclose the truth about the regime’s unspeakable crimes against its own people.

Fourth, the viciousness of Kim’s regime underscores the very real threat posed to the world by a nuclearized North Korea, capable of launching missiles at the US, South Korea, and Japan. For if Kim Jong-un and his lackeys murder their own people, they will have no compunction in mass-murdering our people.

Finally, we shouldn’t be surprised or fooled by North Korea denying that they are responsible for Otto Warmbier’s death. Such tactics were deployed by 20th Century tyrants like Stalin.

But is important for new generations in the 21st century that there will always be those among us who lack to courage to call evil out even when its victims are dumped on our doorstep. Instead they will blame the victim, boldly declaring that young Otto Warmbier got what he deserved,” perhaps because he was too “white” or maybe even a Zionist spy.”

To remember Otto Warmbier and to ensure his brutal death is not forgotten, we should support the dedicated activists and NGOs who strive against all odds to inform, persuade, and inspire leaders of civilized nations to take action against the regime in Pyongyang. A single death has forced us to confront North Korea’s challenge to global security and human decency. At a time when bipartisanship is virtually extinct in Washington, every member of the US Senate and House of Representatives should take one last look at Otto Warmbier's picture. Republicans and Democrats alike should reach across the aisle and foster bipartisan support for the millions of faceless, nameless North Korean victims, by elevating the importance of their forgotten human rights, on equal footing with the Administration’s efforts to counter Pyongyang’s burgeoning nuclear threat.

Former UN COI Chair Kirby on the Death of Otto Warmbier

By The Honorable Michael Kirby

The Honorable Michael Kirby is the former chair of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.


SYDNEY, 21 JUNE 2017 


Image Credit: CNN

This week the family of Otto Warmbier announced, in their polite, understated American way, “It is our sad duty to report that our son has completed his journey home. Otto died today at 2pm.”

The apparently healthy, well-nourished American university student from Wyoming, Ohio, made a fateful decision in China at the end of 2015. Instead of returning directly to his studies at the University of Virginia, he signed up for a short trip to the ‘hermit kingdom.’ His idea was to spend the New Year break in North Korea. During his stay at a Pyongyang hotel, he entered a staff room which was off bounds. He removed a propaganda banner that lauded the achievements of the Korean Workers’ Party and proclaimed undying loyalty to the ‘Great Leader,’ Kim Jong-un.

This act, doubtless conceived as a cheeky gesture, was not perceived that way by the North Korean authorities. The young Otto was arrested and separated from his group who left for home. He began his journey into grossly excessive punishment. He was tried and obliged to tender abject apologies. He was sentenced to 15 years hard labour. He joined other, mostly American, prisoners whose extreme punishments were probably designed to serve as inducements for outlandish concessions and to signify humiliation and submission. During 18 months of detention something happened that plunged Otto into an unresponsive coma. A deal was struck last week to return the comatose prisoner to his family. Wyoming, Ohio welcomed him back. But he died without recovering responsiveness. Otto Warmbier was foolish in the way that young people can sometimes be. But his jailers were brutal, secretive and neglectful. His ‘punishment’ was totally disproportionate. Proportion and moderation are features of universal human rights and democratic politics. They are not features of the society of North Korea that the young Otto so offhandedly decided to visit as a New Year lark. The tour company has now cancelled tours for Americans. The family condemn what they see as the wrong done to their son by North Korea. The world looks on and draws its conclusions.

In May 2013, I was appointed to chair a UN commission of inquiry on human rights violations in North Korea. Nothing in my previous 35 years as a judge in Australia had prepared me for the ‘systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations’ that were disclosed in the evidence about the conditions in that country. We were denied entry by the regime. We never expected that they would submit themselves to close up inspection. However, we had no problem gathering reliable and convincing evidence. More than 30,000 North Korean refugees are now living in South Korea where they have a constitutional right to citizenship. In understated public testimony, available online, many of them came forward to tell a horror story of what is going on in their country.

North Korea is a land of ceaseless propaganda. Of torture and inhuman treatment. Of arbitrary arrest and detention. Of public executions to which school children are brought to look and to learn what happens to state enemies. Detention camps exist where family members must join the accused so as to rid society of their contagion. It is a place where freedom of movement is strictly controlled. Where Korean, Japanese and other nationals have been abducted to serve the purposes of the Kim dynasty. Where starvation of thousands is a recurring nightmare because of the failures of the economic system, a left-over of the world’s last Stalinist society.

North Korea rejects the evidence and findings of the UN inquiry about the gulags containing the ‘hostile class’. Yet they reject UN demands to permit inspectors to examine the places we can identify. Satellite images confirm the testimony provided by our witnesses. In today’s world it is less easy than once it was to hide widespread wrongdoing.

After the UN report was delivered to the Human Rights Council in March 2014, it was impossible to deny, with any conviction, the serious state of affairs in North Korea. According to our findings ‘the gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.’ It is ‘a totalitarian State: a State that does not content itself with ensuring the authoritarian rule of a small group of people, but seeks to dominate every aspect of its citizens’ lives and terrorises them from within.’

The young Otto Warmbier had been specifically told by the tour company that he should not go into staff quarters in his hotel. He had been warned of the hyper-sensitivity of North Korea’s leadership to slights and to challenges to their leadership. Perhaps, as in his own country, that was just the challenge he needed to make his sudden, gesture to pilfer the propaganda symbol. But North Korea is a pitiless place. Especially so for uppity, well-fed American tourists. What he was not counting on was the pervasiveness of surveillance and the subordination of elite hotel employees to loyalty to their Leader.

Young Otto did not suffer detention in the political camps. His fate was incarceration in the ordinary prison system of the country. If, before setting out to Pyongyang, he had read the report of the UN commission on North Korea, he would have learned of the findings of grossly inhumane acts committed there against ordinary prisoners. Of extermination and murder, torture, rape and other grave sexual violence happening in the prisons. Of conditions similar to enslavement which persist behind prison walls. Of shocking shortages of food and hygiene. And the crimes against humanity that are a feature of daily life in North Korea. Had he read our report, he might have thought twice about going to such a country to celebrate the New Year. And if he had gone, he would have been aware of the brutality that attends trivial infractions, especially by foreigners, particularly by Americans. But he was just a high spirited student with his life ahead of him. Suddenly by an act he would have regarded as harmless, he became a dispensable pawn in a great international chess game.

A seemingly minor player on the geographical chess board (North Korea) has suddenly aspired to be a King. Despite comparative poverty and disadvantage it has developed nuclear warheads. It has tested sophisticated missiles. It has experimented with submarine launching facilities that will allow it to threaten more than its neighbours. The established players in the game do not seem to know how to declare checkmate to this new would-be King. A tiny pawn, like Otto Warmbier, can quite easily be removed from the game, and even from life. When and how the young Otto’s brain damage first occurred may never be known. Like much else about North Korea, it is shrouded in obsessive secrecy and mystery. Perhaps this is what intrigued Otto and caused him to take his fateful decision.

How should we remember Otto Warmbier from Ohio? His plight should draw our attention to the sufferings of an entire people subjected in North Korea to daily acts of fearsome disproportion and violence. Accidently perhaps, Otto’s incarceration, coma, removal and death, once again, call to notice the sufferings of the other prisoners, languishing in the jails of North Korea. A young American’s fate becomes a metaphor, a kind of symbol, of a big story about thousands of nameless statistics locked up and oppressed in North Korea. They are voiceless. But Otto Warmbier speaks of their suffering from his grave. He reminds the world of the human rights wrongs in North Korea. He joins the voices of the many witnesses who gave testimony to the UN commission.

The young Otto never woke from his coma to tell of his ordeal. Still the image of this healthy, strapping American student, joyfully speaking at his high school graduation on YouTube, is a reminder of all the other victims who remain behind. They are locked up in their prisons, their detention camps and elsewhere behind the DMZ in the closed society that is North Korea. They will remain locked up in that silence until the United Nations and the world community respond effectively to the UN Commission report.

In 1945, the world promised that never again would it turn away from crimes against humanity. That promise has not yet been delivered. We owe it to Otto Warmbier, but also to the people of North Korea who still live in the shadows, to deliver on the promise. The development of nuclear weapons in North Korea makes fidelity to the promise more difficult. But also more important and more urgent. The boy from Wyoming, Ohio tells the world that it should act. But will it? Can it? That is the puzzle left to humanity by the life and death of Otto Warmbier.

A Worldwide Controversy: North Korean Sports as a Tool for the Regime

By: Dacia Pajé, HRNK Research Intern
Edited by: Rosa Park, HRNK Director of Programs and Editor

Dacia Pajé graduated from law school at "Università degli Studi di Milano" in Italy, where she comes from. During her studies, she became interested in the human rights field and started studying Korean, Korean culture, and history. She finished her Master's degree in Communications for International Relations at IULM University in Milan, where she has been able to improve her knowledge about North Korean issues, bring in project work, and involve her collegues in the issues. While working at HRNK, she is also writing her thesis for her Master's degree: "Through the analysis of North Korea's history and traditions, explain its communication and diplomatic strategy in the international field, with a particular focus on the UN, the EU and Italy." She is a former HRNK intern. 

Have you seen Han? We have to trust the North Koreans! Sports help in bringing people closer[1]
-Antonio Razzi, Italian Senator of Forza Italia[2]

What Senator Razzi says rings true. Sports are a peaceful link, and a promoter of peace and fraternity. At least, this is what sports are among people. Recently, even ROK President Moon Jae-in stated: “If the neighboring countries in Northeast Asia, including North and South Korea, can host the World Cup together, it would help to create peace in North and South Korea as well as Northeast Asia”, identifying once again sport as a peaceful tool[3]. However, in North Korea, everything is connected to the Korean Worker’s Party (KWP) and sports become another tool for the regime to impose its power and will on its people as well as international players.

In Europe, several young North Korean players are training to become “better than Messi,” according to a motto at the Pyongyang International Football School.[4] As indicated by Italian talent scout Giulio D’Alessandro, there have been more than 30 young players from North Korea training in Spain and Italy in the last few years. Relations between Italian Soccer Management (ISM) and the [DPR]Korea Football Association (KFA) started when an Italian delegation composed of Senator Antonio Razzi, Alessandro Dominici (owner of 40% of ISM), and Matteo Salvini (Lega Nord secretary[5]) traveled to North Korea from August 25th to 31st, 2014.[6] Han Kwang-song, an 18-year-old North Korean player, is considered one of the most talented 50 players under 18 in the world by the The Guardian.[7] He started in Barcelona, Spain with Fundaciớn Marcet[8] and then moved to Perugia, Italy with the ISM.[9]

Article 19 of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA’s) regulations for non-EU minors’ transfers states that academies can register their players after they turn 18. This is how Han and other North Korean players, including Choe Song-hyok and Pak Yong-gwan—both born in 1998—arrived in Italy as students while training at ISM. However, this is also where their paths diverged.

(Image Credit:

Choe Song-hyok

In March 2016, after turning 18 (date of birth: 02/08/1998), Choe was registered at the ACF Fiorentina with a “youth of league” contract, which means that he plays without pay and is regulated by article 33 of the Italian Football Federation rules. Article 33 of the same regulations indicates that young players (from 14 to 19 years old) only have the right to a final training compensation, and only during their last season with that particular club. The amount is paid annually, as defined by the league. The negotiation had a positive conclusion, even though the Italian Football Federation could confirm neither Choe’s original club (allegedly Chobyong Sports Club[10]) nor a possible economic transaction between the old club and the new one, Fiorentina.[11]

The negotiation has been subject to investigation by the Italian Parliament for the following reasons:
1) Possible violation of the UN economic sanctions on North Korea under Resolution 2321 since a potential economic transaction between Fiorentina and Chobyong—allegedly linked to the Korean People’s Army (KPA)—could be directly financing the North Korean military;
2) The young player has not been granted the full rights that Italy guarantees to everyone else within its territory. When abroad, North Korean soccer players and North Korean workers in general are accompanied by members of the State Security Department (SSD).[12]

Choe is allegedly under the custody of a guardian named Jong Sang-hoe, who is the team manager of the DPRK under 16 National Team, which trained in Perugia, Italy for at least six months. Choe was forbidden from giving interviews not related to soccer matters.[13] The Parliament interrogation did not receive a formal reply from the Italian government, but Fiorentina discharged Choe and 14 other North Korean players immediately after the interrogation started, which could appear suspicious.[14]

(Image Credit:
Han Kwang-song

Like Choe Song-hyok, Han was also allegedly trained in the Chobyong Club. During the 2014 Under 16 Asian Championship in Thailand, he was captain of the DPRK national team, leading it to victory and qualifying for the Under 17 World Cup in Chile the following year.[15] After these successful international appearances, Han was noticed by the Italian Soccer Management (ISM) and arrived in Perugia, Italy, in 2017. He started earning the minimum federal income for training (1,500€ per month), which is required to go to Han’s personal bank account. One of the original concerns of the Italian Parliament was the actual destination of this money,[16] which was supported by the findings that between 70% and 90% of the salary of North Korean workers abroad goes directly to the North Korean regime.[17] The parliamentary investigation led by Michele Nicoletti, Partito Democratico (PD) Deputy, earlier this year, came to just the recommendation to the Italian Government to control soccer clubs’ payment procedures, assuring that the transfers go to the North Korean players and not to North Koreans authorities, in order to fulfil the worldwide embargo on North Korea[18].

Once Han turned 18 years old (date of birth: 09/11/1998), he was contracted by Cagliari Calcio Club as a young professional and made his first appearance in Serie A on March 10, 2017. He scored his first goal on April 2, 2017, which led his new team to victory. He became the first North Korean player to score in a Serie A game.[19][20]

Sports in North Korea.

Sports have always been used by the North Korean regime as a propaganda tool, and even worse, as a means of introducing North Korean spies into other countries. For instance, in the late 1960s, North Korea used the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) to send spies disguised as taekwondo masters around the world. Their most ambitious plan was the attempted assassination of South Korean President Park Chung-Hee during a visit to Canada, which was foiled by Canadian authorities.[21] Since then, North Korea has actually participated and distinguished itself in the following sporting events: 
  • Olympic Games 
    • First Winter Games in 1964, Innsbruk, Austria, wining one silver medal;
    • First Summer Games in 1972, Munich, Germany, winning one gold, one silver and and 3 bronze medals (total of 5);
    • Most recent games in Rio in 2016, winning 2 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze medals (total of 7)
  • Paralympics 
    • First in London in 2012, no medals; 
    • Most recently in Rio in 2016, no medals;
  • 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea 
    • Kim Un-hyang, an artistic gymnast, became a gold medalist. The DPRK delegation won 11 gold, 11 silver and 13 bronze medals, for a total of 35 medals.
  • 2015 World Aquatic Championships in Kazan, Russia
    • Kim Kuk-hyang, a female diver, became a gold medalist
    • Kim Un-hyang and Song Nam-hyang, female synchronized divers, became bronze medalists, for a total of 2 medals for the DPRK
  • Soccer World Cup
    • 1966 Soccer World Cup: North Korea upset Italy 1-0 in Middlesbrough, England, one of the biggest surprises in the history of the competition. North Korea advanced to the quarter finals (round of eight, only 16 teams advanced to the World Cup back then). In a memorable quarter final match, North Korea lost to a legendary Portugal side featuring iconic footballers Eusebio, Torres, Coruna and others, 5-3 after having been up 3-0 in the first half. Until South Korea qualified to the semi-finals (round of four) of the 2002 World Cup it co-hosted with Japan, North Korea’s 1966 performance was the best ever by an Asian team.
(Image Credit: Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Given that training is expensive for the regime and resources are scarce in North Korea, it is remarkable that these athletes have been able to win international competitions.[22] But their results are also the result of obsessively intense mobilization of available resources by the North Korean regime.

These athletes are pressured to win for the “glory of their Leader.” In 2012, during the London Olympics, North Korean medalists affirmed that their success was possible thanks to their leader, Kim Jong-un. Om Yun-chol, male gold medalist in weightlifting, said, “I won first place because the shining supreme commander Kim Jong-Un gave me power and courage.”[23] Again, in 2016, after winning the female gold medal for weightlifting at the Rio Games, Rim Jong-sim said, “The first thing I thought when I knew I had won was that I had made our beloved leader happy.”[24] Winners of gold medals are given the title of “Honorable Athlete” or “People’s Athlete” and receive gifts from the government, such as luxurious cars and houses.[25] The relationship between sports and the regime is not that several athletes belong to the army—this happens elsewhere in the world—but that the North Korean athletes are trained under the control of the State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission, established in 2012 by Kim Jong-un. It was originally under the authority of the National Defense Commission (NDC), but is now under the State Affairs Commission (SAC), whose First Chairman was Jang Song-taek. After Jang’s execution, Choe Ryong-hae, one of the most powerful men close to the Supreme Leader, quickly filled the position of First Chairman.

Soccer in North Korea is controlled by the KFA, established in 1945 and directed by Ri Yong-mu, a Lieutenant General in the KPA.[26] The KFA is a member of both FIFA (since 1958) and AFC, the Asian Continental Federation (since 1954), but it does not follow their transfer regulations. Usually, soccer clubs make money from ticket sales, bonuses received from advancing in international competition, private donations, advertising sponsors, or from transferring their players. In North Korea, it is the government that finances the soccer clubs, essentially taking over the decision-making process and controlling the budget.[27] To emphasize, it is the regime which finances soccer clubs and is actually the only institution with the money to do so. Moreover, the Department of Sports, which has hegemonic control over all sports, is a KWP office. Thus, when a club buys a North Korean player, it is essentially handing money to the Kim regime.

In 2013, Kim Jong-un opened the Pyongyang International Football School, making his will to make soccer a top priority in the country very clear. With global attention on the North Korean nuclear program, sports are considered a chance to divert attention. With approximately 200 boys and girls from 10 to 14 years old, the soccer academy also functions as a school with classrooms, lecture halls, and dormitory rooms. However, only the most talented players are sent abroad, mostly to Italy and Spain, to receive professional training.[28] "We are training our students to become super-talented players who can surpass the skills of people like Lionel Messi," said Ri Yu-il, one of the school’s coaches. They are aware of the great importance of foreign expertise, and for this reason, the men’s national team manager is a Norwegian coach, Jorn Andersen. Nonetheless, Andersen recognizes how difficult it is to train players who cannot go outside the country to compete against better-trained international players. In North Korea, young players can only learn and study the techniques of great players, such as Zinedine Zidane, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo, by watching videos on CDs and USBs on their computers[29]. "My national players are with me but they don’t get match practice. They are always training, training, training ... but they don’t play matches," Andersen affirms.[30]

Half the stadium’s seats are assigned to civilians—who in summer all wear white hats, white shirts and red ties—while the other half is allocated to the military. Match marshals control the crowd with flags, instructing them to chant or applaud with wooden mitten clappers […] After every goal the crowd claps in unison and—if the Supreme Leader is present—the whole of the scoring team rushes forward to stand before him and salute.[31] This is how Ri Myong-guk, a soccer player from Pyongyang City Club, described a match in North Korea.

Attending a soccer match in Pyongyang is like attending one of the national parades honoring the Leader. One must cheer for the national team as one would cheer for the North Korean regime. To make matters worse, supporting and participating in these soccer events is demanding and expensive. People simply do not have enough money to attend matches in Pyongyang and are not able to go abroad to support their national team. Furthermore, the shortage of electricity means that during global sporting events, watching soccer matches on television is difficult and exclusively for the elite.[32]

In 1966, North Korea beat Italy during the World Cup in England, granting the DPRK national team international media attention. However, it was not until 2002 that a BBC crew obtained authorization for entering North Korea to film a documentary on the team entitled “The Game of their Lives.”[33] After ten months of training—including a tour in Russia—the North Korean players demonstrated their skills and shocked the world with their fast game, named after North Korea’s, Stakhanovite public mobilization campaign, Chollima, under Kim Il-sung.

After this incredible result, it took the DPRK national team 44 years to qualify to another World Cup, making it to South Africa in 2010, where only 50 North Korean citizens were allowed to attend in person to support their team. This time, the result was different, as the DPRK national team ended as the worst performing team in the World Cup.[34] According to the U.S.-based Radio Free Asia, the team was subjected to six hours of public mauling for "betraying" the communist nation's ideological struggle. The team coach, Kim Jung-hun, was accused of betraying the Leader’s son, Kim Jong-un. Winning would have been attributed to Kim Jong-un in an attempt to build support among the military and KWP members for the imminent power transfer.[35] FIFA was asked to investigate the accusation. After an investigation, FIFA claimed that the accusations were “baseless” and in a letter to FIFA, the Korean federation claimed that the coach and team were “training as usual” to take part in the 16th Asian Games.[36] Besides assurances that
FIFA had “checked all of its sources,” no evidence of coach or team safety was provided.

This was not the only issue North Korea has encountered with FIFA. Some members of the DPRK women’s team were banned from the 2015 Women’s World Cup for steroid use—the result of a traditional medical treatment called musk deer gland[37] therapy.[38] Furthermore, FIFA’s issues with North Korea have steadily extended into the political realm. In 1966, there were problems getting the DPRK national team to England to play against countries that did not officially recognize the nation.[39] However, over the past 14 years, FIFA has provided North Korea with a total of $2 million in funding, $450,000 of which was delivered in 2001 to improve the Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang.[40] Funds were also allotted to upgrade the training camp for the national soccer team, the headquarters of the North Korea Football Association, and to open the International Soccer School for children under 13 in 2014. Last year, an additional $7,678 was provided for domestic soccer development, maintaining fields, and training adolescents and referees. However, policy changed following the nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, and the satellite launch in 2012. Finally, in March 2015, FIFA renounced its plans to provide $1.66 million in financial assistance to the North Korean Football Association. This funding would have come from FIFA’s Financial Assistance Program (FAP), intended for nations that lack the resources to support a national soccer program.[41] FIFA is based in Switzerland and has to respect the sanctions of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), implementing and intensifying UN sanctions and travel bans on North Koreans suspected of having ties to the country’s nuclear program. For these reasons, FIFA is no longer able to provide North Korea with financial assistance.[42]

This analysis is not intended to dismiss the importance of cooperation in soccer or other sports. The scope of this analysis is rather, to argue that when it comes to North Korea, sports simply cannot be separated from politics. In North Korea, political considerations dominate every single aspect of life in the country. Nevertheless, despite the threat North Korea poses to international peace and security, both inside and outside the country, the DPRK national team was able to play in the qualifiers for the 2018 Russia World Cup.[43] Soccer clubs all over the world still conduct negotiations with suspicious North Korean clubs. Han’s team, Cagliari Club, is hosting and training another young North Korean player, Pak Yong-gwan (born in 1998), who comes from the same club, Chobyong.[44]

The Italian government has neither direct links nor apparent relations with the North Korean regime. But ignoring the atrocities committed inside the country is unacceptable. Hosting and paying two, three, or even ten soccer players in Italy may not provide massive financial assistance to the North Korean regime, but conducting any business with the North Korean authoritarian dictatorship should be taken much more seriously by the Italian government.

Italy has a diplomatic and political role in the international community and has recently implemented the UN’s sanctions on North Korea—withholding approval for the entrance of newly-appointed North Korean diplomats into the country and forcing some North Korean students in Italy to change their major from nuclear-related issues.[45] Moreover, on January 1, 2017, Italy became a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, meaning that it should set an example for the international community in regards to implementing and respecting United Nations sanctions. Controversy should be avoided. Even if soccer organizations are allegedly not directly affiliated with the government, they are under strong regime control in North Korea.

Of course, Han and Choe are not the problem. Instead, Han and Choe could be the solution. They are not just great soccer players, they are human beings, and they should not be used as propaganda tools, hiding and diverting attention away from the ongoing atrocities committed within their country.

In Italy we have consulates and embassies of countries persecuted for violating human rights. Eritrea, for example, and North Korea. It is important for the government to always raise up the human rights issue, whenever it is possible, during bilateral meetings with representatives of these countries. When human rights violations occur on our territory, it is everyone’s duty to inform the government. Those people, in Italy, must be free and enjoy all rights. I cannot understand why Italian athletic societies can authorize these kinds of behaviors or requests from such countries.” 

-Lia Quartapelle, Partito Democratico (PD) Deputy.[46]


[1] Translation. “Razzi: Visto Han? Dei nordcoreani bisogna fidarsi”, Gazzetta dello Sport, April 26, 2017,
[2] Forza Italia is an Italian moderate-right wing’s party, whose ideology includes the Christian-democratic values and liberalism. Its president, since the foundation in 1994, is Silvio Berlusconi (former Italian Prime Minister), official website Senator Razzi is a member of Forza Italia and was elected at the Italian Senate in 2013; recently, he was nominated Secretary for the Senate Defense Commission,
[3] Christine Kim, edited by Hugh Lawson, “South Korea’s Moon Suggests Regional Bloc Including North Korea Hosts 2030 World Cup”, The New York Times, June 12, 2017,
[4] Video. AFP news agency, November 4, 2016,
[5] Lega Nord is an Italian right-wing party founded in 1989, whose ideology includes federalism, social conservatism and anti-globalization; they ask for the independence of Padania, a huge territory consisting in several regions in the north of Italy; among their political proposals they also ask to leave the European Union (EU), and to close the borders to immigrants. Official website
[6] Giulia Pompili, “Che succede se arrivi alla Fiorentina da Pyongyang? Storia incredibile di mr Choe”, Il Foglio, March 22, 2016,
[7] Giulio D’Alessandro’s blog,
[8] Fundaciớn Marcet is a football academy founded in 1978 by Javier Marcet – a retired football player who played in Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona – whose purpose is to spread globally the so-called Plan Marcet: an innovative pedagogical method for an intelligent football, based not only on the physical training but also on the academic education and the teaching of human values. The academy offers training for future football players and coaches.
[9] The Italian academy offers to young athletes U18 from all over the world international scouting programs.
[10] There is barely no information on the Chobyong Sports Club. It is under the DPRK Korea Football Association (PRKFA) (, which is the governing body of football in North Korea, founded in 1945 and accepted into FIFA in 1958. (
[11] Giulia Pompili, “Che succede se arrivi alla Fiorentina da Pyongyang? Storia incredibile di mr Choe”, Il Foglio, March 22, 2016,
[12] Fedor Tertitskii, “North Korean footballers in Russia”, DailyNK, February 2, 2009,, the author mentions it as “NSA,” but the standard HRNK translation is “State Security Department (SSD).
[13] Giulia Pompili, “Che succede se arrivi alla Fiorentina da Pyongyang? Storia incredibile di mr Choe”, Il Foglio, March 22, 2016,
[14] “Can N. Korean footballer join Serie A amid sanctions?”, Yonhap News Agency, March 7, 2017,
[15] Luca Gunby, “Kwang Song Han: the First North Korean To Score In Serie A”, Forza Italian Football, April 13, 2017,
[16] Translation. Paolo Tomaselli, “Han, da Pyongyang a Cagliari per scrivere la storia”, Corriere della sera, April 10, 2017,
[17] Yoon, Y., and Lee. S., “Human Rights and North Korea’s Overseas Laborers: Dilemmas and Policy Challenges”, Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, 2015.
[18] Traduzione. “Han Kwang-song: sul suo tesseramento in rossoblù interrogazione parlamentare”, L’Unione, March 3, 2017,
[19] The official name is Serie A TIM and it is Italy’s top soccer league since 1929. Official website
[20] “Han Kwang-song, primo nordcoreano a segnare in serie A: merito di Antonio Razzi”, Libero, April 10, 2017,
[21] Brian Benedictus, “Golf and Lighting: the Odd Realm of North Korean Sport”, The Diplomat, August 28, 2014,
[22] Jinhyok Park, “Ask a North Korean: How is sport viewed in the DPRK?”, NK News, July 14, 2016,
[23] Louise Boyle, “Dear Leader, we’re doing great in London: How did North Korea end up sitting FIFTH in the Olympics medal table?”, The Daily Mail, August 1, 2012,
[24] “North Korean weightlifter says Olympic gold will make ‘beloved’ Kim Jong-un happy”, The Guardian, August 13, 2016,
[25] Jinhyok Park, “Ask a North Korean: How is sport viewed in the DPRK?”, NK News, July 14, 2016,
[26] Danny Nazareth, “The curious case of North Korea’s national football team”, Sportskeeda, October 30, 2015,
[27] “North Korean football: a big mystery of FIFA football”, The Paths Less Travelled Blog, January 14, 2011,
[28] “Pyongyang football school opens to foreign tourists”, NK NEWS.ORG, June 24, 2014, .
[29] Jinhyok Park, “Ask a North Korean: How is sport viewed in the DPRK?”, NK News, July 14, 2016,
[30] Agence France-Presse, “Pyongyang International Football School: The academy aiming to produce North Korea’s Lionel Messi”, The National, Sport, November 15, 2016,
[31] Rory Mclean, “A day in the life of North Korean footballer Ri Myong-guk”, The Guardian, May 14, 2015,
[32] Jinhyok Park, “Ask a North Korean: How is sport viewed in the DPRK?”, NK News, July 14, 2016,
[33] Daniel Gordon, “the Game of their lives”, 2002,
[34] “North Korean football: a big mystery of FIFA football”, The Paths Less Travelled Blog, January 14, 2011,
[35] Justin McCurry, “North Korea’s failed World Cup footballers undergo public mauling”, The Guardian, July 30, 2010,
[36] “North Korea cleared of ‘foul’ play by FIFA”, CNN, August 26, 2010,
[37] The gland comes from musk deer living in a large area of Asia, from Siberia to North Korea. The hairy gland is 4cm and it is usually cut open to extract a liquid used for medical purposes. As a matter of fact, it is classified as a resuscitation-inducing aromatic herbs that can stimulate central nervous system if taken orally or relieve pain and reduce swelling in external application.
[38] Jinkuk Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Yunju Kim. Written in English by Joshua Lipes. “FIFA to withdraw Funding For North Korean Soccer Develpoment”, Radio Free Asia, March 12, 2015,
[39] Daniel Gordon, “the Game of their lives”, 2002,
[40] Ibid.
[41] “FIFA to Withdraw Funding For North Korean Soccer Development”, Radio Free Asia, March 12, 2015,
[42] Ibid.
[43] The DPRK team was eliminated in Round 2 of the qualifying campaign, in June 2015.
[44] Translation. “Calciomercato Cagliari, Pak Yong-gwan è il secondo nord-coreano”, Sky Sport, March 24, 2017,
[45] “Italy implements sanctions on N. Korean diplomats”, YonhapNews Agency, April 10, 2017,
[46] Translation. Giulia Pompili, “L’inchiesta del Foglio sul calciatore nordcoreano in Italia finisce in Parlamento”, Il Foglio, May 26, 2016,

North Korea’s Tactics of Human Rights Deception

By Robert Collins

The United Nations Special Rapporteur (SR) on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Catalina Devandas Aguilar, visited North Korea May 3-8 to discuss her area of responsibility as it applies to North Korea. This was the first trip ever by a UN Special Rapporteur to North Korea. One of the arguments put forth by UN member states that do not support the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on DPRK Human Rights Issues is that they oppose country-specific mechanisms. It will be interesting to see if the precedent created by Ms. Aguilar’s visit has an impact on the chances of SR Tomás Ojea Quintana to conduct a country visit, despite statements to the contrary issued by North Korean propaganda. But the recent visit was also a trip that played right into the Kim Regime’s hands in their dealing with the international community on human rights issues.

As background, in December of 2016, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) Supreme People’s Assembly ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.[1] Article 2 of this convention states that “States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or their parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status."[2]

In typical form, North Korean officials took advantage of the opportunity of Aguilar’s visit to insist that it would “promote the rights and conveniences of those with disabilities and strengthen international cooperation.” In that sense, Aguilar’s visit made progress in a limited way regarding human rights in North Korea. Some may see this as advancement of the cause but a closer look shows its limitations.

First, the rights of those with disabilities are the easiest to demonstrate proof of implementation because of the physicality of the issue and its much smaller role in North Korean society compared to overall human rights abuses. There is evidence that North Korea attempts to assist those with disabilities and there is some photographic evidence of prosthetics production and rehabilitation facilities.[3] Secondly, the North Koreans took Aguilar to an orphanage in South Hwanghae Province. Why there? The province borders Pyongyang to the south, but are there no orphanages in Pyongyang? [4] It has often been reported that those with disabilities are moved out of Pyongyang by the party-state.[5] Finally, the Kim Regime’s ability to stage events to deceive foreign diplomats and visitors is renowned…just ask the International Atomic Energy Agency and any humanitarian NGO that operated in North Korea in the 1990’s. 

There is significant testimony from North Korean defectors concerning overall human rights abuses, including those against individuals with disabilities.[6] Although North Korea insists that it will not tolerate the testimony of 30,000 defectors,[7] the reality is that human rights denial is the express policy of the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP). It should be evident to the most casual of observers—and unfortunately it is often not—that while the DPRK Government projects human rights observance, it is not any branch the DPRK Government, but the KWP, which runs the country and on which the Kim Regime is based, that determines all policy within North Korea. The KWP Charter states this 35 times.[8] Yet the international community ignores this dynamic to its perpetual disadvantage by believing engagement with DPRK Government officials—rather than the applicable KWP officials—will make a difference. We should also notice that the Korea Central News Agency stated during Aguilar’s visit that “we shall never acknowledge the United Nations special rapporteur on the DPRK human rights issues…”[9]

All Kim Regime policies are shaped by the Ten Great Principles of Monolithic Ideology (TPMI) which puts all regime values, policy shaping, and citizenship guidance in the focus of servitude to the supreme leader. It is this creed that shapes the regime’s true approach to human rights and not the state constitution or state civil law.

There are those who believe North Korea’s voluntary changes to its national constitution in 2009 and to its civil law were designed to provide more specific attention to human rights in North Korea.[10] They would state that international efforts to confront DPRK officials with non-binding resolutions and personal confrontation at various committees within the United Nations have thus been effective. But those that draw attention to these so-called “successes” and “improvements” do not understand that their efforts have merely provided the North Korean party-state and party officials with “human rights language” whose inclusion in reformed DPRK laws gives the veneer of compliance to international human rights norms and standards.

Yes, signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a positive step and can be seen as a small victory in a large battle. However, any belief that these changes to the language in their laws actually result in changes to human rights conditions inside North Korea is not only misplaced, but also misinformed about the Kim Regime’s nature and political will to retain power at any cost, including the sacrifice of the North Korean people, especially their human rights. Understanding the nature of the Kim Regime is simple enough—security of the absolute dictator is paramount; whatever sacrifices have to be made to ensure that security will be made. There are several litmus tests that provide ample evidence to this principle:

· The prioritization of the regime’s nuclear and missile programs and the North Korean military over the general economy and the population’s health and welfare;
· Numerous violations of and withdrawal from international conventions;
· Sacrificing the operational and efficacy competence of the industrial and agricultural sector;
· The existence of political prison camps that are based on the TPMI and guilt by association, thus ensuring the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands who committed a crime that does not exist in any law elsewhere save the most despotic of regimes.

But as most informed people know, human rights conditions in North Korea are worse than that. Political prison camps, socio-political classification of the population, healthcare, employment and housing assignments based on that classification, and food shortages are all substantiated elements of the Kim Regime’s policy of human rights denial.[11]

Projecting legitimacy on international stages such as the United Nations by DPRK diplomats is a front to disguise and hide the Kim Regime’s crimes against humanity. When compelled to accept external aid and assistance, foreign workers of all types are sequestered and continuously monitored to ensure “they don’t collect state secrets.” But this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of human rights violations.

It is the mission of North Korean diplomats and government representatives to play the front man when dealing with officials such as the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. These diplomats take their guidance from the KWP, not their government supervisors. The collection of information on human rights organizations strategies and dialogue talking points enables the party to redirect DPRK vernacular to satisfy those so willing to believe North Korea is cooperating.

Any place else in the world, change is the illusion of progress but in North Korea the illusion of change is progress in the eyes of the supreme leader and the KWP.


[1] Yonhaps News, “N.K. attaches importance to int'l cooperation in human rights,” May 10, 2017. URL:
[2] Convention on the Rights of the Child, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. November 20, 1989.
[3] Katharina Zellweger, “People with Disabilities in a Changing North Korea,” Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University, 2014. URL:
[4] Dagyum Ji, “North Korea willing to “faithfully implement” intl. human rights treaties: KCNA,” NKNews, May 10, 2017. URL:
[5] For Instance, see “North Korea Puts Handicapped in Camps, U.N. Report Says,” Mail Online, October 20, 2006. URL:; see also testimony of refugee Lee XX during an in­terview at KINU, 2006 White Paper, 106; see also U.S. Department of State, 2010 Country Reports on Hu­man Rights Practices: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, 2011.
[6] Julian Ryall, “North Korea's disappeared: regime 'performs experiments on disabled people before leaving them to die,' Telegraph, December 11, 2014. URL.; see also Lee Aeran et al, “Disabled in North Korea Confined to Homes, Expelled from Capital,” Radio Free Asia, June 13, 2007. URL:
[7] Dagyum Ji, “North Korea willing to “faithfully implement” intl. human rights treaties: KCNA,” NKNews, May 10, 2017. URL:
[8] For an explanation of North Korea’s regime approach to policy-making and decision-making processes, see Jun Hyun-jun, Jeong Yeong-tae, Choi Su-yeong and Lee Gi-dong, 김정일 정권 등장 이후 북한의 체제유지 정책 고찰과 변화 전망 (Considering Policies For Maintaining North Korea’s System After Kim Jong-il and the Outlook For Change) (Seoul: Korea Institute for National Unification, KINU Research Report 08-08, December 2008); pages 201-219; see also the Korean Workers’ Party Charter (in Korean), 2010, provided by the Republic of Korea Ministry of Government Legislation’s North Korea Laws Information Center. URL:
[9] Dagyum Ji, “North Korea willing to “faithfully implement” intl. human rights treaties: KCNA,” NKNews, May 10, 2017. URL:
[10] For a review of those changes, see Lee Kyu-chang, “김성은 후계구도와 북한 인권 – 인권 관련 법령 정비를 종심으로 (Kim Jong-un’s Succession Structure and North Korean Human Rights – Focus on Changes to Laws Concerning Human Rights), Korea Institute for National Unification, Online Series CO 11-11, April 6, 2011. URL:
[11] Food is a critical shortcoming in North Korea and millions suffer accordingly everyday if not every hour. The great famine in the 1990’s killed at least a half a million if not twice that during a time when U.S. and ROK aid to North Korea combined were at one of their highest points, as was the degree of interference by North Korean officials in the humanitarian work of international NGO workers trying to alleviate famine conditions inside North Korea.