Early immersion in culture of fear

Pyongyang, North Korea's capital and symbol of its repressive regime. Photo / AP
Pyongyang, North Korea's capital and symbol of its repressive regime. Photo / AP

North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, was warned that he could face prosecution for crimes against humanity after a United Nations inquiry accused him of human rights abuses. A UN panel described the Pyongyang regime as "a shock to the conscience of humanity". Michael Kirby, a retired Australian judge who has spent nearly a year taking evidence from more than 80 former North Koreans now living abroad, said much of it reminded him of atrocities perpetrated by Nazi Germany and Pol Pot's Cambodia. Yesterday, his team published a 374-page report detailing allegations of murder, torture, rape, abductions, enslavement and starvation.

1 Children are forced into weekly 'confession and criticism' sessions as part of their indoctrination:

'Children in the DPRK are introduced at an early age to 'confession and criticism' sessions. Children gather in groups weekly and take turns standing up and describing their activities for the previous week, as far as possible showing how they were living in accordance with the teachings of the Kim philosophy and the Ten Principles.

The Principles are recited during the confession. Children must berate themselves if they have failed in some way during the preceding week such as being absent from class or not having made a contribution as expected. They must then make a commitment to become better. They are also expected to describe the failings of at least one of their peers in the same group. Until they identify someone for criticism, they are not allowed to stand down.

2 100,000 children take part every year in the Mass Games, a minutely choreographed display in honour of the regime:

'[A witness] described how she missed an entire semester of university education because her class was required to practise for six months, 10 hours a day, for a short segment of a parade to be held in the Kim Il Sung Stadium of Pyongyang in the presence of Kim Jong Il. Training was so intense that some participants fainted from exhaustion. Fainting was especially common during summer when students trained in the hot sun on a concrete floor. Practice emphasised perfection. Anyone who made repeated mistakes was made to remain on the training ground until midnight as a punishment. Ms L recalls that her teachers would invoke the example of a boy of 7 or 8 years of age who had practised through the intense pain of an acute appendicitis. He eventually died because he did not receive timely medical care. The dead child was treated as a hero because he had dedicated his entire life for an event in the presence of Kim Jong Il.

3 The bodies of prisoners are sometimes burned and their ashes used as fertiliser:

'A former male inmate confirmed that the practice of burning the dead collectively and using their ashes as fertiliser carried on at Ordinary Prison Camp No. 12 was still ongoing when he was released in 2011. Once he was forced to bring a pile of bodies up the mountain and saw that rats had already gnawed off the flesh from their faces. The witness estimates that at least 800 prisoners died every year from malnourishment, diseases and accidents at work.

4 Children are taught to draw either pictures of the Dear Leader or of stabbing US and Japanese soldiers:

'Children are taught that they should aspire only to emulate Kim Il Sung. For example, those inclined to drawing are encouraged only to draw pictures of the Supreme Leader or make drawings which might have pleased Kim Il Sung. Good drawings are put up in schools. Typically, they depict the Kim family or children stabbing Japanese or American soldiers with swords.

5 Every home is fitted with a speaker through which propaganda can be blared:

"DPRK nationals receive information from the state through 'fixed line' broadcasting which operates through the use of speakers in every household. These speakers are inspected regularly by officials to ensure they are still functioning. These fixed lines are often used for broadcasting 'forbidden' news and information (i.e. news that the outside world is not supposed to know) and also for emergency situations. Details regarding criminals, the crimes they have committed and the punishments imposed are also transmitted through the fixed lines.

6 North Korea engages in Orwellian-style rewrites of history:

"Reportedly, following the execution in December 2013 of Kim Jong Un's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, about 35,000 articles from the KCNA website and a further 20,000 items from the Rodong Sinmun website were removed. This appears to be part of the wider efforts to purge Jang from the DPRK's (political) history and is reflective of how the state controls and manipulates information to support its official position.

A little girl is part of the celebrations to mark the late leader Kim Jong Il's birthday. Photo / AP
A little girl is part of the celebrations to mark the late leader Kim Jong Il's birthday. Photo / AP

7 Sexual assault by state officials is common:

'Witnesses have testified that violence against women is not limited to the home, and that it is common to see women being beaten and sexually assaulted in public. Officials are not only increasingly engaging in corruption in order to support their low or non-existent salaries, they are also exacting penalties and punishment in the form of sexual abuse and violence as there is no fear of punishment. As more women assume the responsibility for feeding their families due to the dire economic and food situation, more women are traversing through and lingering in public spaces, selling and transporting their goods. The male dominated state, agents who police the marketplace, inspectors on trains and soldiers are increasingly committing acts of sexual assault on women in public spaces. The Commission received testimony that while rape of minors is severely punished , the rape of adults is not really considered a crime.

8 North Korea divides its citizens into three tiers and 51 categories based on party loyalty as part of the Songbun class system:

There is a core class which includes the families of labourers; the basic class which includes small merchants; and the complex class of people considered wavering or hostile.

9 The North Korean regime is estimated to have kidnapped 200,000 foreigners since 1950, including women abducted so they could taken as wives:

'Among the abductees were also a number of women from Europe, the Middle East and other parts of Asia who were abducted in order to be given as wives to foreigners already present in the DPRK. According to the findings of the Commission, the total number of potential victims who were brought to the DPRK between 1950 and the late 1980s could be over 200,000 persons.

10 One witness described a woman smuggling copper wire inside her dead baby:

'The woman was using a cloth, a wide band to tie the baby on her back, and she took the baby off and laid it on the table, but then I suddenly realised that the baby was probably 18 months old or less than 2 years old; it was a boy. I saw red blood around the stomach, and the police asked what this was all about. The woman was simply crying and the police suddenly ripped the baby's torso apart and about 2kg of copper wire was found inside the baby's stomach. This just told me that this is how far you have to go in order to keep living here in North Korea.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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