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Political Apartheid System

Songbun Political Apartheid System

The North Korean regime has invested an incredible amount of time and resources creating the songbun system, a form of political apartheid that ascribes you with a level of perceived political loyalty based on your family background. Your particular songbun level (there are 51 of them) can then restrict your life opportunities, including where you can live, educational opportunities, Party membership, military service, occupation, and treatment by the criminal justice system. Any perceived political infractions by your family will lead to your songbun being demoted.

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  • “The North Korean society that has sprouted from the ruins of the division of Korea and the Korean War has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.”

Political Prison Camps

Five political prison camps hold an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 people. Some of them are the size of cities, and they have existed five times as long as the Nazi concentration camps and twice as long as the Soviet Gulags. Many people imprisoned in these camps were not guilty of any crime, but were related to someone who supposedly committed a political crime. Often they have no idea what that crime was, and even children who are born in the camps are raised as prisoners because their ‘blood is guilty’. Forced labor, brutal beatings, and death are commonplace. The regime denies the existence of these camps, but multiple survivor testimonies have been corroborated by former guards as well as satellite images.

Collective Punishment

In North Korea, if your relative is persecuted for “anti-state” or “anti-socialist” crimes, then you and three generations of your family can be punished for it. The aim is to remove from society the whole family unit to prevent any dissent from emerging in the future, and also to deter martyrs who might sacrifice themselves for a political cause but would not want to sacrifice their whole family.

Public Executions

The North Korean regime publicly executes citizens who have been accused of a variety of crimes, including petty theft. Whole communities, including children, are brought out to watch these executions, which are designed to instill fear amongst the people of doing anything that could be seen as against the regime’s wishes.