The aim of this project is to research the necessity of international cooperation on Korean unification in legal terms as South Korea’s Unification Policy and how issues of the Korean Peninsula have been dealt with in the international framework. Since this is the second year of a five-year project, the conceptual aspect requires clarification in the overall aspect and this requires a multidisciplinary approach. But the main focus remains the legal aspect, international law, in particular.


This study assumes that unification will be a gradual process, generally in three stages: (1) inter-Korean cooperation, (2) negotiation for inter-Korean unification (be it North Korea’s collapse, or actual inter-Korean negotiation for unification, this stage includes any inter-Korean negotiation for unification and international negotiation formula, such as Six Party Talks, etc.), and (3) post-unification integration. The study begins with the understanding that South Korea needs to be prepared for legal matters potentially arising in these processes. The project this year, in particular, deals with the legal issues that should be dealt with in the first and second stages.


The scope of the papers in this project covers four main areas. The first is time span. The research for this project covers the 19th century to the present and draws future-oriented implications, but the main focus is on current issues. The second is in regard to approaches. The study deals with three main approaches: historical, political, and legal, but for purposes of this project, the main focus is on the legal aspect. The third concerns the issues addressed. These are the nuclear issue, the military issue, inter-Korean cooperation issues, and the human rights issue. Finally, the scope of actors considered includes South and North Korea, neighboring countries (the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia), and international organizations (e.g., UN, WFP, WHO, etc.).


The papers included here are organized into three main sections. The first concerns the meaning of Korean unification and the context of international cooperation. Park Jong-Chul provides a general overview of the Park Geun-Hye administration’s North Korea and unification policy, referred to as “Trustpolitik,” and the trust-building process on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the need for international cooperation. Sue Mi Terry examines the U.S. and China’s perspective on the issues laid out above. She explores areas where U.S.-China interests converge and diverge and whether strategic cooperation and coordination between the two nations are possible in the case of Korean unification.


The second section presents historical and legal perspectives related to the situation on the Korean peninsula. Charles K. Armstrong’s work on the historical perspective is divided into three sections chronologically: (1) the struggle of 19th Century Korea to become a modern sovereign state and its failure with the advent of colonial rule, (2) war leading to the division of the Korean Peninsula, and (3) the inter-Korean situation based on de facto recognition (as opposed to de jure) as a political entity arising out of the 1972 Joint Communiqué and the “special relationship” from then on. Next, Roh Jeong-Ho provides a legal approach to the question of inter-Korean relations and the debate on unification by dividing the period from 1876 to the present day into five distinct periods and examining the limitations to the legal order and the evolution of world order as they pertain to Korea. Finally, Leon V. Sigal discusses how international law and institutions might improve South Korean security and facilitate inter-Korean reconciliation with special attention to confidence-building in the West Sea.


The third section examines in greater detail the legal aspects of Inter-Korean Cooperation and human rights. Regarding human rights, it is important to consider the link between inter-Korean cooperation and human rights. The improvement of human rights and people’s livelihood in North Korea, which is part of the ultimate goal of unification, can be achieved by inter-Korean cooperation. Inter-Korean cooperation leads to inducing change in North Korea, which then logically leads to the improvement of human rights in North Korea. Lee Hyo-Won focuses on the legal matters regarding the establishment of a DMZ World Peace Park. Soung Jea-Hyen looks at the legal matters regarding the internationalization of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex. Cho Jung-Hyun provides an analysis of the contents and legal implications of the recent outcome of the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in the DPRK, such as the meaning of stating “crimes against humanity,” the notion of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in respect to North Korea, and transitional justice in the possible post-unification stage. Finally, David Hawk tracks North Korean human rights developments in the post-COI period.

Preface/ Jong-Chul Park and Jeong-Ho Roh

I. The Meaning of Korean Unification in the Context of International Cooperation  South Korea’s TrustPolitik and International Cooperation.....1

South Korea’s TrustPolitik and International Cooperation/  Jong-Chul Park.....3

U.S.-China Rivalry and the Unification of the Korean Peninsula/ Sue Mi Terry.....31

II. The Situation on the Korean Peninsula: Historical and Legal Perspectives .....59

An Unfinished Project: Challenges and Struggles of Korea to Become a Modern Sovereign Nation-State/ Charles K. Armstrong.....61

The Limits of Legal Order in an Evolving World Order on the Korean Peninsula/ Jeong-Ho Roh.....89

Legal Approaches to Korean Security in the Early Stages of Unification: The Armistice Agreement and the NLL/ Leon V. Sigal.....119

III. Legal Aspects of Inter-Korean Cooperation and Human Rights.....145

Legal Perspective and International Cooperation on World Peace Park in DMZ between South and North Korea

/ Hyo-Won Lee.....147

Plan for the Internationalization of the Kaesong Industrial Region and the Resolution of Its Commercial Disputes/ Jea-Hyen Soung.....169

The Report of the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on North Korean Human Rights: Some International Legal Analyses/

Jung-Hyun Cho.....195

North Korea’s Response to the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) Report on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea/ David Hawk.....213



 Northeast Asia is a region where the interests of several great powers are in constant flux between competition and cooperation. Such a peculiar strategic environment is reflected in the dynamics of the Korean Peninsula. Therefore, efforts to manage affairs related to the security and future of the Korean Peninsula, especially in regards to the North Korean nuclear issue, requires cooperation among a wide cast of regional and strategic players including the United States, Japan, China nd Russia

― Joint Vision for the Alliance of the United States of America and the Republic of Korea


Chapter 1

The Strategy of the Obama Administration toward Northeast Asia/ Abraham Denmark (Center for a New America Security, CNAS)


Chapter 2

Myung-Bak Lee Administration’s North Korea Policy and the Inter-Korean Relations/ Jung-Ho Bae (Korea Institute for National Unification, KINU)


Chapter 3

A Regional Approach to the North Korea Conundrum

- Early Indications of an Obama Administration Policy/ L. Gordon Flake (The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation)


Chapter 4

North Korea’s Policy toward the United States and the Coordination between the United States and South Korea - A Korean Perspective/ Choon-Kun Lee (Korea Institute for National Unification, KINU)


Chapter 5

Coordinating North Korea Policy - An American View/ Richard Fontaine & Micah Springut (Center for a New America Security, CNAS)


Chapter 6

ROK-U.S. Defense Cooperation against the North Korean Nuclear Threat - Strengthening Extended Deterrence/ Tae-Woo Kim (Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, KIDA)


Chapter 7

Coordinating U.S.-ROK Defenses against North Korean Nuclear/Missile Threat/ Stanley B. Weeks (Institute for Defense Analysis, Naval War College)


Chapter 8

The ROK’s Perspective of the ROK-U.S. Cooperation in the Transformation of the DPRK/ Sung-Wook Nam (The Institute for National Security Strategy, INSS)


Chapter 9

Needed: A Joint ROK-U.S. Strategy for Dealing with North Korea/ Ralph A. Cossa (Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS)


Chapter 10

Strengthening the U.S.-Korea Alliance for the 21st Century

- The Role of Korean-American Partnership in Shaping Asia’s Emerging Order/ Daniel Twining (German Marshall Fund)


Chapter 11

Strengthening of the ROK-U.S. Alliance for the 21st Century/ Sung-Han Kim (Korea University)

As the debate about unification has recently been enlivened in Korean society, the flame of hope for unification is being re-kindled. However, there are still many who focus solely on the enormous costs involved, while others remain passive toward the unification issue. Particularly members of the younger generation feel satisfied with ‘co-existence under an unstable peace’ as a divided peninsula. However, as indicated in a special report by the Russian Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) which assessed that “North Korea is already in the process of collapse,” the unification issue is no longer something we can avoid.

Therefore, armed with this consciousness of the problems of our era, this project assesses the significance of the recent rekindling of interest in unification and considers a new vision of unification and its potential value, dealing intensively with the positions and roles of the four neighboring powers regarding unification as well as ideas for strategic cooperation among South Korea and its powerful neighbors.

The publication of this project owes much to the diligent efforts of KINU research associates such as Hyo Min Lee, Uichan Ko and Jisuk Park who reviewed and edited the various papers. Also, the English version of this publication benefited greatly from the accurate translations done by research associates Meredith Rose Shaw and Hyo Min Lee.

It is the editor’s hope that this research project can help both Korean and foreign experts, academics, and readers to better understand the value of Korean unification and the various positions and roles that can be played by the US, Japan, China and Russia.


Chapter 1


A Vision of Korean Unification and Its Value : Building Great Power Korea/ Jung-Ho Bae | Director, Center for International Relations Studies, KINU


Chapter 2


German Reunification and the European Union/ Don-Jay Yeom | Dean, Graduate School of Strategic Studies, Sungkyunkwan University


Chapter 3


The United States and Korean Unification/ Ralph Hassig and Kongdan Oh | The Institute for Defense Analyses(IDA)


Chapter 4


Japan’s Role and Position on Korean Unification/ Takashi Inoguchi | President, University of Niigata Prefecture

Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo


Chapter 5


Managing the Path toward Eventual Korean Unification : The Chinese Way/ You Ji | Associate Professor, School of Social Science & International Studies, The University of New South Wales


Chapter 6


Russia’s Role and Position on Korean Unification/ Alexander Panov | Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary


Chapter 7


Korea’s Diplomatic Strategy for Unifying the Korean Peninsula/ Young-Ho Park | Senior Research Fellow, KINU

This book analyzes the cost of division that the four powers must bear as well as the benefits of nification they will acquire. There has been much research on the same topic, but mostly done from the perspective of Korean scholars. However, this book provides perspectives of scholars from each of the four states as well as Asia-Pacific region. This book is part of an ongoing effort by KINU to strengthen South Korea’s unification diplomacy.


This book is divided into 10 chapters. Chapter 1-8 analyze the cost of division and the benefits of unification from the security and economic perspective of the United States, Japan, China, and Russia. Chapter 9 and 10 look at the bigger picture by discussing the division cost and benefits of unification from the standpoint of the Asia-Pacific region as a whole. Based on the analyses of the chapters, the conclusion chapter examines the similarities and differences of the division cost that the four powers must bear as well as the benefits they will obtain.





The Costs of Division and the Benefits of Unification for the Four Northeast Asian Powers/ Kook-Shin Kim, Jae-Jeok Park


Chapter 1

The Costs of Korean Division and the Benefits of Korean Unification for U.S. National Security/ Kongdan Katy Oh

Chapter 2

Economic Implications for the United States of the Divided Korean Peninsula/ William B. Brown

Chapter 3

Korean Peninsula Division/Unification and China : From the Security Perspective of China/ Ming Liu

Chapter 4

Korean Peninsula Division/Unification and China : From the Economic Perspective of China/ Jiyoung Zheng,Jianzhong Jiang

Chapter 5

Korean Peninsula Division/Unification : From the Security Perspective of Japan/ Tomohiko Satake

Chapter 6

Costs and Benefits of Korean Unification for Japan : Political and Economic Perspectives/ Sachio Nakato

Chapter 7

Korean Peninsula Division/Unification and Russia : From the Security Perspective of Russia/ Leonid Petrov

Chapter 8

Korean Peninsula Division/Unification and Russia : From the Economic Perspective of Russia/ Alexander Fedorovskiy

Chapter 9

Korean Peninsula Division/Unification and Security Order in the Asia-Pacific Region/ Thomas S. Wilkins

Chapter 10

Korean Peninsula Unification : Opportunities and Challenges to Asia-Pacific Economies/ Jeffrey Robertson


Education to Strengthen our Capabilities for Peaceful Unification

The 20th century was on era of “extremes” that was marked by several ideological confrontations and wars. It was a long age of persecution and patience, especially on the part of the Koreans. Nevertheless, the ideology that drove the world into chaos and the leaders who led the hostile inter-Korean relations are now fading from the center stage of history. On December 17, 2011, Kim Jong Il died after ruling North Korea with blood-and-iron politics for 37 years. The global community is now expecting significant changes within the North Korean regime, the relations between the two Koreas, and the East Asian order.

The year 2015 will mark the 70th anniversary of the Korean division, which occurred in three overlapping phases: territorial, regime, and emotional. The first phase, territorial division, was introduced on August 15, 1945 when Soviet and U.S. forces divided the peninsula along the 38th parallel. The second phase, regime(sovereignty) division, was established with the formation of two separate governments on the Korean Peninsula; the Republic of Korea(ROK) was founded on August 15, 1948 and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea(DPRK) was established on September 9, 1948. The division was finalized as it reached the third phase, emotional division(of people), following the North Korean invasion of the South on June 25, 1950 and the subsequent three-year fratricidal war.

Are we prepared to undertake unification and maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula? This issue is not only a national one that North and South Korea should resolve on their own, but it is also an international issue in which the interests of four relevant countries nations(the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia) are at stake. For this reason, peaceful unification requires the proper environment, capability and will from all parties. For the time being, we lack all three elements, as there are multiple levels of discord. In the global environment, competition is emerging between the hegemonic power in naval warfare(the U.S.) and the leading power in ground warfare(China).

Within the Korean Peninsula, there is increased distrust due to North Korea’s provocative actions including two nuclear tests, the sinking of a South Korean naval ship, and the shelling of a South Korean island. There is discord even within South Korean society: ideological conflicts between the conservatives and liberals, regional confrontation between the southeastern and southwestern regions, generation gaps resulting from a rapid transition to an information-oriented society, and class conflicts that have emerged from neo-liberalism and the collapse of the middle class.

Then What are the steps that we should take to make way for peaceful unification? We must first properly prioritize the issues at hand. The top priority should be given to national harmony, then international cooperation, and finally rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula. This is attributed to the fact that South Korean society characterized by internal organization and preparedness is the cornerstone of a peaceful unification; consequently, public education on unification is crucial. Despite the progress made thus far, unification education still has some shortcomings. Until this point in time, education on unification has strengthened a negative image of the North Korean situation, leading to arguments for the deferral of national unification and an increased number of people against it. Governmental programs that were intended to promote unification policies have also taken a passive, or even a critical approach on the issue due to its controversial nature.

I would like to acknowledge that although multiple researchers compiled this book after much discussion and thorough review, it still has some shortcomings that will be address in the next edition. Finally, I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to the National Unification Advisory Council and the Unification Education Council for providing the videos and resources for our research...

With the coming of so-called G2 era, guaranteeing cooperation with China is a rising strategic task when it comes to the North Korean problem and Korean reunification. There is a clear limit, however, in guaranteeing Chinese cooperation due to the Republic of Korea (ROK) and China’s different perceptions on Korean reunification while economic interdependence between these two states is increasing. 

In international society, cooperation could be achieved on the basis of shared interests, but issue by issue, shared interests in and of themselves may not be enough. “Strategic leverage,” in other words, might be necessary in order to induce some kind of inter-state cooperation. 

This research was undertaken in the context of the above-mentioned questions, with regard to building up diplomatic leverage that could lead to possible ways to induce Chinese cooperation. 

This research was undertaken in the context of cooperation with Florence Lowe-Lee at the Global America Business Institute; 

Dr. Jae H. Ku at the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University; and Professor David Hawk at the City University of New York. Researchers Kwon Hye-Jin, Moon Mi-Young, Ro Young-Ji, An Hyun-Jung (former member) at the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU) and Wonhee Lee at the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS also devoted much effort in making it possible to publish this volume. as did coeditor Dr. Jae H. Ku. 

As the chief editor of this volume, I sincerely appreciate all these efforts. It is my hope that this research helps academics and experts as well as general audiences better understand the dynamic relationship between core and periphery in China, the relationship between China and its weak neighboring countries, 

China and international human rights organizations, and North Korean human rights. 

Jung-Ho Bae, senior research fellow, Korea Institute for National Unification

― Part 1 : China’s Internal Center-Periphery Relations

Chapter 1 Middle Kingdom’s New Territory: A History of Relations Between Xinjiang and China/ Haiyun Ma

Chapter 2 Diplomacy or Mobilization: The Tibetan Dilemma in the Struggle with China/ Tenzin Dorjee

― Part 2 : China’s Relations with Neighboring Countries

Chapter 3 China’s Relations with Mongolia: An Uneasy Road/ Mark T. Fung

Chapter 4 China’s Relations with Vietnam: Permanently Caught Between Friend and Foe/ Catharin E. Dalpino

Chapter 5 China’s Relations with Laos and Cambodia/ Carlyle A. Thayer

Chapter 6 China’s Relations with Myanmar: National Interests and Uncertainties/ Yun Sun

― Part 3 : China and International Institutions

Chapter 7 The People’s Republic of China and Respect for International Human Rights Law and Mechanisms/ Sophie Richardson

Chapter 8 International Human Rights Law and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea: The “UN Roadmap” for Human Rights Improvements in North Korea/ David Hawk

 This study aims to strengthen trust between Korea and Russia through promoting mutual understanding and improving the quality of policy network. The study is the outcome of the joint research of KINU and IMEMO. As the editor of this volume, I hope this study may help experts, students and readers in Korea and in the countries surrounding the Korean Peninsula to have a clearer understanding of Russia’s national strategy, Northeast strategy, Far East and Siberia strategy, and the importance of the “strategic cooperation partnership” between Korea and Russia.

Part 1. Russia Foreign and Security Strategy and the North Korean Nuclear Issue


Ⅰ. Russia´s Foreign and Security Strategy in the 21st Century/ Sergei Chugrov

Ⅱ. Changes in Russia-U.S. Relations and New START/ Vladimir U. Sizov

Ⅲ. Russian Security Strategy in Northeast Asia and the North Korean Nuclear Issue/ Vasily Mikheev

Ⅳ. The Russia-ROK Quest for a Strategic Partnership: Problems and Implications in Security Cooperation/ Georgy Toloraya


Part 2. Russia Strategy for Economic Development and the Korean Peninsula


Ⅴ. Main Trends and Prospects for the Russian Far East/East Siberia Region´s Cooperation with Northeast Asia/ Alexander N. Fedorovskiy

Ⅵ. The Russia-to-Korea Railroad Connetion Project: Present State and Prospects/ Alexander Vorotsov

Ⅶ. The Russian Position and Policies on the Tuman River Area Development Programme(TRADP)/ Svetlana Suslina

Ⅷ. Russia´s Strategy Toward the Arctic/ Seok Hwan Kim


Conclusion: Suggestions for Strengthening the ROK-Russia Strategic Cooperation Partnership/ In-Kon Yeo

The history of North Korea's fiscal segmentation can be categorized largely into four periods headed by different entities. First, between 1953 and 1972, Kim Il-sung created special budget to maintain political power. Second, from 1972 to 1984, Kim Jong-il gave birth to suryong economy to consolidate hereditary power succession. Third, from 1985 to 1994, party-state agencies began foreign currency earning activites. Finally, from 1995 to the present, in addition to the suryong economyand major party-state bodies, the foreign currency earning activities of party-state bodies for off-budget revenue have been gereralized and become the backbone of North Korean party-state bodies' budget system. This paper addresses the process of fiscal segmentation from the second period onwards.

1.Fiscal Segmentation in North Korea

2.1972-1984: Advent of Suryong Economy and the Expansion of the Market 

A. The Rise of Suryong Economy

B. Economic Hardship and the Expansion of the Market

C.The Monopoly of Foreign Currency Earnings by the Party Center

D. The Decay of the Planned-Economy

3.1985-1995: Surge in Foreign Currency Earning Activities of Major Party-state Agencies

A. Expansion of Foreign Currency Earning Agencies

B. The Generalization of Foreign Currency Earning Activities of the Party-State Agencies in the Early 1990s

4.Post 1995: ‘Songun (Military First)’ Policy and the Expansion of the Market

A. The Generalization of Public Agencies’ Foreign Currency Earning 

B. Kim Jong-il’s Style of Economic Management 

C. Agents of the Private Economy Strengthened

5. Summary and Conclusion

 North Korea’s economic difficulties during the mid-1990s were the decisive factor in fundamentally damaging the North Korean people’s quality of life. The standard of living has deteriorated to extreme levels of deprivation in which the right to food security, the right to health and other minimum needs for human survival are denied. Since its inauguration, the Lee Myung-bak administration has proposed policies that strive to improve the North Korean people’s “quality of life” by providing humanitarian aid to the North. Although concern regarding the “quality of life” has been discussed with a focus on aid provisions, the reality is that there is a lack of specific analyses on this subject. It is true that one can refute such analyses by stating that it would be pointless to discuss the quality of life when the North Korean economy is in a state of ruin. However, an academic approach is necessary in such discussions as a means to evaluate the propriety of applying international views onto the concept of the quality of life. With this perspective, the paper aims to review the possibility of applying international standards onto North Korea in order to systematically analyze the phenomenon that has disintegrated its quality of life. Should the international views be applicable, then this paper will explore the means by which they can be applied while also acknowledging North Korea’s special characteristics

Ⅰ. Introduction

Ⅱ. Theories on the Quality of Life and an Analytic Framework for its Application in North Korea


  1. Current Trends in International Research on the “Quality of Life” 

  2. Applying the “Quality of Life” Theory to North Korea 

  3. The Official North Korean Discourse on Life 


Ⅲ. The Objective Situation of North Korea’s Quality of Life


1. The North Korean People’s Situation Regarding “Food, Clothing, and Housing”


2. The Illusion of “Free” Education and the Widening Inequality in the Quality of Education


3. The Illusion of “Free” Medical Care and the Widening Inequality in the Quality of Medical Services


Ⅳ. Subjective Perceptions on Quality of Life


1. The North Korean Authority’s Official Goals for Life and Actual Perceptions


2. The Different Classes’ Quality of Life: From the “Core, Wavering and Hostility” to “Upper, Middle and Lower”


3. Generational Changes in Quality of Life: Transitional Period of the Distribution System, Food Shortages, and the Market Generations 


4. Gender Differences in the Perceptions on Quality of Life


Ⅴ. Conclusion: Improving the Quality of Life of the North Korean People 

 The Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU) is working on a four-year project (2010-2013) on the subject of Korean unification. The objective of this project is to propose a grand plan for Korean unification. The Unification Forum series is one of the tasks of this project. Last year the purpose of the forums was to review the positions of neighboring countries on Korean unification. The result of the forums has been compiled into a book titled Korean Unification and the Neighboring Powers (Seoul: Neulpum, 2010).


This year the forums have focused on US-China relations and their implications for Korean unification. These forums are also intended to serve as a channel to deliver our unification vision to the international community. This year’s fifth forum, held on November 16th, was oriented toward diplomats based in Seoul. KINU invited around thirty diplomats from major embassies, most of them deputy chiefs of mission, to share views and visions of Korean unification.


The forum was organized by a planning committee composed of 20 experts on North Korea and international politics. This committee was involved in every aspect of the forum, from selecting speakers and topics for discussion to participating in the discussions and offering policy suggestions.


This book is the result of this year’s forums. It is composed of two general papers as well as five forum papers. The first two papers serve as a sort of introduction. “Building a United Korea: Visions, Scenarios, and Challenges” suggests a four-stage unification process which may be the most desirable and feasible approach for South Korea. “Security Dynamism in Northeast Asia: Emerging Confrontation between USROK- Japan vs. China-Russia-DPRK” is an overview of the changing unification environment. Each forum produced one paper, except for the second forum which produced two papers

Ⅰ. Korean Unification in an International Context

Building a Unified Korea: Visions, Scenarios, and Challenges/ Choi Jinwook

Security Dynamics in Northeast Asia: Emerging Confrontation between U.S.-ROK-Japan vs. China-Russia-DPRK?/ Sachio Nakato

Ⅱ. The First KINU Unification Forum

Beijing’s “Sunshine Policy with Chinese Characteristics”: Implications for Korean Unification/ John S. Park

Ⅲ. The Second KINU Unification Forum

Uniting Korea: Enduring Dream, Elusive Reality/ Lowell Dittmer

Status Quo Reassessed: China’s Shifting Views on Korean Unification/ Fei-Ling Wang

Ⅳ. The Third KINU Unification Forum

American Grand Strategy toward East Asia and North Korea/ G. John Ikenberry


– Discussant: Zhu Feng

Ⅴ. The Fourth KINU Unification Forum

Beijing, Washington, and the Korean Peninsula/ David M. Lampton

The 2015 edition of the White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea marks the 20th year of the series since its first publication in 1996. This White Paper is based on in-depth interviews with 221 of the 1,396 North Koreans who escaped to South Korea in 2014. These samples were selected with their demographic characteristics and social backgrounds taken into account. Below are the key highlights of the survey: 

In its national report for the Universal Periodic Review submitted to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council on January 30, 2014, North Korea explained that death penalty is applied to extremely restricted cases. In reality, however, North Korea has an extensive list of crimes punishable by the death penalty, defined not just by the Criminal Law but also by its Addendum; the death penalty may also be imposed by promulgations, instructions and other alternative formats. North Korean defectors, who have witnessed the death penalty carried out in public, have provided testimony that it has actually been given for a wide range of crimes. Of special note is that over the last few years, the number of people put to death for watching/distributing South Korean video recordings or smuggling/trafficking narcotics is on a remarkable rise. This was widely observed in our 2014 survey, too. 

Human rights violations in ordinary prison camps (kyohwaso), labor training camps (rodongdanryundae), holding centers (jipkyulso), detention centers, political prison camps (kwanliso), and other detention facilities are still known to be serious. Inhumane treatment including torture and beatings are part of the daily routine; nutrition, medical care, and hygiene are also very poor. In our 2014 survey, however, some interviewees suggested that the human rights conditions in ordinary prison camps (kyohwaso) were improving somewhat. North Korean defector XXX, who was held for a long time at the Jongori kyohwaso, where a massive number of violent incidents and human rights violations reportedly took place, explained that beatings at the kyohwaso was on the decrease. North Korean defector XXX, who had been detained at the Jongori kyohwaso until recently, said that strenuous effort was being made to bring fatal incidents under control as the reality of the human rights infringements at the kyohwaso were known to the outside world through former inmates. 

Meanwhile, the 2014 survey results include testimonies on those released from political prison camps (kwanliso) in 2012 and 2013 —after Kim Jong-un took over as the new leader of North Korea. Witnesses explained that their release was “based on Kim Jong-un’s policy that those who have one percent of a conscience are given a second chance despite 99 percent of their faults”; and that “these people were released as Kim Jong-un, upon taking office, told those whose crimes were motivated by personal grievance, as opposed to criticism of the state, should be freed, which is within the context of his politics of law.” Similar cases can be found in North Korea’s On-site Open Trials System, too. Testimonies from North Korean defectors show that, when On-site Open Trials were conducted for a large number of people held for the same charge, some of them are executed immediately in public as “examples” while others are found innocent and released, allegedly due to Kim Jong-un’s consideration or policy. While unleashing a reign of terror against the power elites, the young leader seems to be seeking to present himself to ordinary citizens as a leader who loves the people. Nonetheless, the very fact that these measures are possible shows his policies and instructions have supra-legal authority in North Korea. 

A typical infringement on freedom of residence, the practice of forced deportation is still found to be widespread. North Korean defector XXX testified that in 2013, during his on-site instructions in Musan, Kim Jong-un ordered transformation of the city boundaries into an exemplary area. This led to the forced deportation of more than 600 households living within 300 meters of the city boundaries. Such massive involuntary relocation was enforced primarily upon family members of illegal border crossers or those with criminal records (such as illegal use of a mobile phone). A number of testimonies also suggested that forced deportation has been on the increase since mid-2013 in Samjiyon County, within which is the hometown of Kim Jong-il. In particular, those whose parents are from rural areas, former detainees at ordinary prison camps (kyohwaso) and their family members, and illegal border crossers are first to be relocated. 

According to the 2014 survey results, little progress has been made in improving North Koreans’ rights to food and health. When it comes to the right to food, the total volume of food available has increased since 2010, but North Korea’s discriminatory distribution policies has led to continued discrepancy among ordinary citizens in their access to food. Collection of excessive amounts of produce from farm workers, in particular, has undermined their right to food on a continuous basis. This seems partly attributable to the assignment of unrealistically high production quota and the falsification of distribution documents. Excluded from the Public Distribution System (PDS), marginalized members of North Korean society tap into money offered by loan sharks to deal with the scarcity, ending up suffering even more. In the 2014 survey, however, a large number of interviewees said the public distribution supply has temporarily improved since 2012 as North Korean authorities released military provisions. 

As for the right to health, the uneven distribution of resources as a result of economic hardship and military-first politics has destroyed the medical system as a whole. The absolute lack of medicine and basic medical equipment has continued, while some interviewees pointed out in the 2014 survey that an increasing amount of medicine was being provided by Jungsung Pharmaceuticals. Meanwhile, as the North’s free treatment system is not working properly, patients in need of surgery often end up paying for the related costs for themselves. The military ranks are also seeing their right to health deteriorating: Some interviewees stated that the military was also short on medicine, and not just civil society. The community doctor system and other mechanisms of preventive medicine propagandized by the North Korean authorities are not functioning properly. Community doctors are currently incapable of treating patients and can only issue medical certificates; they are known to work primarily on vaccinations (such as preventive injections against epidemics). A large number of interviewees in the 2014 survey said that vaccination was being offered. Vaccination seems to be improving efforts to prevent disease. Areas receiving aid from the UN and other international actors also enjoy relatively better medical treatment. 

Despite many constraints and the resulting shortcomings, we hope that this White Paper will draw more attention at home and abroad to the issue of human rights in North Korean while contributing to domestic and international discussion and action on improving the situation.

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