Annual Report: North Korea 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: North Korea 2013

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Democratic People's Republic of Korea

Head of state Kim Jong-un

Head of government Choe Yong-rim

Systematic human rights violations remained widespread. The food crisis persisted, with chronic and widespread malnutrition still a public health concern. Millions faced continued food insecurity and remained dependent on food aid. Despite reports that one political prison camp had closed, tens of thousands remained detained in such camps where they were subjected to sustained violations of their human rights, including extrajudicial executions, forced labour and torture and other ill-treatment. There were reports of executions, including of those purged in the leadership transition. Severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, opinion and assembly persisted. The media remained under strict control.

(Democratic People's Republic of)


Kim Jong-un, North Korea's Supreme Leader following the death of his father in 2011 was elected to the newly created position of First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea on 11 April and promoted to Marshal of the Korean People's Army in July. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) successfully launched an Unha-3 rocket on 12 December, sending a satellite into space, after a number of failed attempts.

State media announced a prisoner amnesty in January, due to begin 1 February, marking the anniversary of the birth of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il; however, no information about the releases was made public.

In July, floods resulted in severe damage to housing, infrastructure and public buildings. According to government figures, at least 212,200 people were left homeless and 169 people were killed.

Food crisis

Despite reports that harvests had improved for a second year, food insecurity remained widespread. In November, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme Crop and Food Security Mission report stated that although household food consumption had improved, “serious gaps remained between recommended and actual nutrient intake. The predominant share of the population remains food insecure”. Chronic malnutrition continued to plague most people, with several reportedly dying of starvation.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

Hundreds of thousands remained arbitrarily detained, or held for indeterminate periods without charge or trial in political prison camps and other detention facilities. Detainees faced systematic and sustained violations of their human rights, including extrajudicial executions and long hours of forced hard labour with no rest days. Torture and other ill-treatment appeared to be widespread in prison camps. Many detainees died due to forced labour in perilous conditions, including inadequate access to food or medical care.

In October, there were reports that Political Prison Camp 22 in Hoeryong, North Hamkyung province, had been closed. It was not clear when the prison camp closed and where the prisoners, estimated at between 20,000 and 50,000, had been transferred. The camp, one of five of its kind, was a total control zone where inmates were held for life, without reprieve. Many of those held in political prison camps had not committed any crime, but were related to those deemed hostile to the regime and were held as a form of collective punishment.