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lack of freedoms in North Korea

No Freedom of Movement

It is illegal for the North Korean people to leave their country without the regime’s permission, and the regime attempts to restrict the people’s movement even inside their own country. If you wish to travel to another part of the country, you are supposed to have a specific purpose and obtain permission from your work unit. If you do not live in Pyongyang, the showcase capital where most resources are concentrated, you will likely be denied access. The regime has also forcibly relocated hundreds of thousands of North Koreans to less favorable parts of the country as a form of punishment and political persecution.

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Meet Hae Ri

  • “In North Korea, you need a certificate to move to different places, which is especially difficult for Kaesong because there is a lot of exchange going on there with South Korea.”

No Freedom of Speech

Criticism of the regime or the leadership in North Korea, if reported, is enough to make you and your family ‘disappear’ from society and end up in a political prison camp. It goes without saying that there is no free media inside the country. The only opinion allowed to be voiced inside the country is the regime’s.

No Freedom of Information

Knowing the threat that outside information poses to their propaganda and ideology, and ultimately its control over the people, the regime has invested massive resources in trying to maintain an information blockade and keep its monopoly as the only source of information and ideas to the North Korean people. It is illegal to own a tunable radio in North Korea, there is no access to the Internet (except for a few hand-picked and monitored officials), and North Korean landlines and mobile phones cannot make international calls.

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  • “I can study whatever I want, whereas college students in North Korea can study only what the North Korean regime allows them to study.” – Hye Won

Forced Leadership Adulation

The regime forces the people to participate in the maintenance of personality cults around the Kim leaders that have ruled the country for over 60 years. Propaganda starts in nursery school and a large proportion of the curriculum for all students—even at university—is dedicated to memorizing the ‘history’ of the Kim family. State media provides a constant stream of myths about the Kims and lauds the sacrifices they supposedly make for the people. Millions of labor-hours that could be used developing the economy have to be spent idolizing the leaders instead.

No Religious Freedom

Organized religion is seen as a potential threat to the regime and therefore nothing apart from token churches built as a facade of religious freedom for foreign visitors are allowed. Thousands of Buddhists and Christians have been purged and persecuted throughout the history of North Korea. People caught practicing or spreading religion in secret are punished extremely harshly, including by public execution or being sent to political prison camps.

Chronic Food Shortages

The regime’s refusal to effectively reform its failed agricultural policies, combined with susceptibility to adverse climate conditions (made worse by environmental mismanagement), and an inability to purchase necessary agricultural inputs or food imports mean that the North Korean people have faced food shortages ever since the 1990s. Millions of malnourished children and babies, pregnant women and nursing mothers bear the brunt of the shortages today. This has left an entire generation of North Koreans with stunted growth and a higher susceptibility to health problems.

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Joseph talks from the TED stage

  • “When I lived in North Korea, all I worried about was getting food.” – Joseph Kim

Dismal Public Health

The regime claims that it provides universal health care to its people. In reality, the majority of the public healthcare system collapsed in the 1990s, with only prioritized hospitals in areas such as Pyongyang kept functioning. Elsewhere, health services and medicine are only available to those that can afford it. Ordinary North Koreans are therefore afflicted by easily preventable or curable poverty-related diseases, such as tuberculosis and cataracts.