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10 Tasks of North Korean Democratization

January 6, 2010

On the occasion of our 10th anniversary, the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights (NKnet) offered the following list of topics for the direction of the North Korean human rights and democracy movement. These ten issues must be resolved to improve North Korean human rights and democracy. Appeared on pages 67-78 in the November-December 2009 issue of NK Vision.

1. Abolish the monarchical hereditary dictatorship and guarantee political freedom
2. Guarantee economic activities and open up to the outside
3. Abolish the military-first policy and abandon developing nuclear weapons
4. Abolish the caste system and guilt-by-association system
5. Dissolve organizations supporting the dictatorship and implement constitutionalism
6. Abolish education idolizing Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il
7. Allow freedom of media, press, assembly, association and religion
8. Dissolve the political prison camps
9. Stop public executions
10. Stop punishing North Korean defectors

1. Abolish the monarchical hereditary dictatorship and guarantee political freedom

The system of North Korea is the monarchical hereditary dictatorship, which is based on the sacrifices of its own people and it’s the main reason of all problems happening is North Korea. In North Korean monarchical hereditary dictatorship, the Leader is the father of every people and he has the absolute power, it allows single-party system in North Korea. It combines feudalistic patriarchal totalitarianism, which considers children as parent’s belongings, and the monarchical dictatorship. So, North Korean system regards their people as the country and the Leader’s possessions, and improving the quality of people’s life and developing country have been simply sacrificed. In conclusion, serious problems of human rights, lack of foods, military dictatorship, and nuclear weapons are caused by Kim Jong Il’s dictatorship.

The stoke of 2008 scared Kim Jong Il’s health and it has made him puts spurs to set the inheritor. Despite of the accusation of international society, he forced launching missiles and nuclear experiments. All of these things have been done by Kim Jong Il’s intention to build stable successive system for the hereditary succession of power, the 3rd. This system must be terminated which sacrifices people for their desire to set stable successive system. Political freedom based on various political powers’ ideas and policy, can not be found in North Korea which is ruled by monarchical hereditary dictatorship. The governing party is Workers’ Party of Korea, and the other parties, the Korean Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party, are only standing for the propaganda toward South Korea. The secret ballot is not guaranteed because voting procedure is controlled by Workers’ Party of Korea. North Korean Leader successive dictatorship has to be collapsed in order to establish Liberal democracy owned by its people.

2. Guarantee economic activities and open up to the outside

Tod eliminate the monarchical hereditary dictatorship and implement a market economy is the beginning of developing democracy. The ration was stopped and the people’s economy faced terrible depression during the age of great famine which is happened in the middle of 1990s, and it caused more than 3 millions of deaths from hunger. The citizens made patch of fields and chose business to live, but the government prohibited these activities and punished them harshly by the reason of personal economic activities is illegal. Furthermore, the government poured a lot of money, which should be used to buy 6 million tons of corn for their people, into the Kumsusan Memorial Palace which is also Kim il sung’s tomb, regardless of the people’s basic necessity of living. They only fortified their military forces by doing missile launching and nuclear experiments. Not many people are dying from hunger nowadays because the people’s self-sufficiency ability has been improved, but still the regulation from the government is severe and people’s economy is very poor.

The only way to solve the problem of North Korean economy is to follow a policy of opening up. As Vietnamese and Chinese open policy’s achievement displays, North Korea has to abandon communism and dictatorship. Transform their system to democracy and accept open policy in order to offer better life to its people. Collective farming which are not productive and cannot give will to work must be changed into the private farming. Small businesses and manual industry must be permitted. Most of all, marketplace, North Korean’s living foundation, has to be allowed. If the economic freedom were given, there would be no more starvation in North Korea. We clearly know that the open policy cannot coexist with the dictatorship, but it is the only way that North Korea could be survived. International societies ought to give strong pressure to North Korean government to accept open policy.

3. Abolish the military-first policy and abandon developing nuclear weapons

The military prior policy is political slogan insisted by Kim Jong Il since the late 1990s. The slogan of prior military is everywhere in North Korea, nowadays. From the billboard to the cultural things like movie, novel and music, deal with the military prior policy. North Korean government explains that the military prior policy is the policy for protecting themselves and independence of people.

At the 12th class’s 1st Supreme People’s Assembly, 2009 April 9, the constitution has been changed to increase National Defense Commission and declare the military prior policy as their ruling principal. According to the outcome of the assembly, Originally, National Defense Commission was consisted of leaders from military departments, but after this assembly, leaders from other parts who are not related with military at all were included to it. This made the military department as not only government’s physical shield but also controlling tool toward the people and society. As a result, Kim Jong Il, the head of the military committee has got almighty power not only over the military department but also over whole country. This made possible him to keep his position as the leader of North Korea and continue enforcing th military prior policy.

Furthermore, nuclear weapon experiments and missile launching were forced to show the power of the military prior policy to North Koreans in spite of worries and sanctions of international society. North Korean government gives an impetus to its weapons programs as a tool for becoming a prosperity country but it only made them isolated from the international society and blocked supports from other countries. Those activities which threaten global peace caused excessive cost and put its own people to poverty. The military prior policy which is as same as military dictatorship has to be abolished. All dictatorial departments must stop their activities and democratic political alternative has to be provided. Additionally abandonment of nuclear program should be made and change their economic system to build it up again and give authority to its people.

4. Abolish the songbun caste system and guilt-by-association system

In North Korea the caste system is called “Todae” (meaning foundation). The caste is divided into 3 inclusive classes (core class, agitation class, and enemy class) and 51 specific classes. North Korea emphasizes the communism equality, but it is thoroughly hierarchical society. People are discriminated by each of their classes, in education or job.

Not only this caste system, but also guilt-by-association system firmly maintains the feudal society in North Korea, and the government abuses the guilt-by-association system as a fundamental way to keep their political system. The guilt-by-association system accuses not only the criminal but also his or her whole family of a person’s crime. Some even worse cases, the punishment goes through three generations. There were reports that when Hwang Jang Yop had came to South Korea as an exile, 3000 people including his family and acquaintances were arrested and sent to political prison camp. And about 400 people were punished in the name of the guilt-by-association system because of ‘the 6th corps case’ which happened in 1995.

North Korean government keeps those families’ records and uses it as control tool to the citizens. Meanwhile North Korea has the caste system which differentiate sentence by ancestry. People who are from royal families can avoid death penalty regardless of their crimes but who are from poor families like orphans are mostly sentenced to death. The caste system which obstructs the people’s equal right must be abolished and the people must not be got any disadvantages by their class. North Korean government has to abolish the caste system which is abused as a ruling measure, and guilt-by-association system which is creature of old era.

5. Dissolve organizations supporting the dictatorship and implement constitutionalism

Kim Jong Il runs lots of organizations to watch and control North Koreans to maintain his monarch dictatorship. National Security Agency for the society and Defense Security Command for the military are typical department. Those departments can arrest and punish a suspect without any legal process or trial.

North Korean investigative agency doesn’t observe the legal process and when a suspect is detained in custody, no reasonable suspicion or count are not noticed and in the detention center, violations of human rights like insulting character, sexual harassment and torture are committed in general. Defendant has the right to have his lawyer and he can appeal against unjust process or court decision, but this basic right is ignored in North Korea. The court is controlled by Supreme People’s Committee, so the independence of jurisdiction is hindered.

North Korean revised the constitution through Supreme People’s Committee at April 2009 in 11 years. But the revision is not for the people but for showing to international society. In North Korea, the law is under ‘the Party’s Ten Principles for the Establishment of the One-Ideology System’. North Korea can never advance to the constitutionalism when the organizations are exist which support ‘the Party’s Ten Principles for the Establishment of the One-Ideology System’. Neither the North Korean’s freedom nor human right can be guaranteed when those autocratic organizations are existed. North Korean government has to take the measures to guarantee the independence and justice of the judicial, and dissolve all the dictatorial departments. To make a genuine constitutionalism dissolution of the dictatorial departments has to be done first.

6. Abolish education idolizing Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il

Idolizing education in North Korea has been started since 1970s when ‘the Party’s Ten Principles for the Establishment of the One-Ideology System’ was suggested. Since Kim Jong Il was chosen as the successor, he had started to make a system to idolize Kim Il Sung.

There are uncountable slogans and monuments which are for idolizing education. In the whole country, at 390 places, about 20,000 words are carved on rocks, and about 4500 words are written in 60 places only at Mount Kumgang. The size of some letter is dozens of meters long and more than one meter deep. Slogan trees which are carved with praise of Kim Jong Il, Kim Jung Suk, and birth story of Kim Il Sung are 12,000 over the entire country.

Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il’s birthday is greatly celebrated in every year. Particularly at Kim Jong Il’s birthday, they propagandized that South Korean had raised Kim Jong Il flower and sent it as a present.

There are many monuments and slogan tree and memorial hall at Back Du Mountain which is propagandized as Kim Jong Il’s home. A memorial stone which is carved with Kim Il Sung’s poem to praise Kim Jong Il is also placed. Baekdu Mountain is the representative place of North Korean leader idolizing. Without Baekdu Mountain, it is hard to idolize Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Kim Jong Il has preserved Kim Il Sung’s dead body as a mummy at Mt. Keumsoo Memorial Palace. It costs 90 million dollars. Hwang Jang Yop said the massive starvation of North Korean in 1990 could be avoided with that amount of money.

There are many things which idolize Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and the most serious problem is North Korean education. North Korean education focuses on idolizing Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. It is also just a means to make the children Kim Jong Il’s weapons and destroy young people’s creativity to make them servant of Kim Jong Il. It is not too much to say that North Korean society has been made by those idolizing education.

To destroy idolizing education and the creation of proper condition for right education is needed. If the proper education is provided, North Korean dictatorship would lose its power. We have to realize it and do our best to solve this problem.

7. Allow freedom of media, press, assembly, association and religion

North Korean constitution declares “the People have the freedom of speech and the press. (The first clause of Article 67)”, but its original function is ignored and only used to propaganda about idolizing the Kim family. All the North Korean newspapers include article about praising the Kim family. There are no critics to the party or discussion about basic matters. The publications are also only methods to delivery ideology and all of them are censored and controlled by the Labor’s party. The press and speech is only used to make North Koreans into Communist.

The freedom of assembly and association is also guaranteed by the constitution, in reality it is not allowed to the general public but only allowed when the party needs to do it. North Koreans cannot have any organization for defending there right and interest. The function of organizations in North Korea is aid the Labor’s party and giving full commitment to the Kim family. North Korean government keeps suppressing religion in the slogan of Kim Il Sung that “Religion is opium.” Nowadays religious groups are just used as a tool of earning foreign currency which can be used for developing relationship and expending humanitarian aid.

Although North Korean constitution guarantees the freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association and religion, in practice none of them is permitted. North Korean government knows well that if those freedoms were given to the people, the monarch dictatorship would be threatened by its intrinsic attribute. That is why they restrict the freedom of the people by strong dictatorial organizations. Now we make clear that the freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association and religion is the elementary right which can give humane life to North Koreans, and we will do everything to realize it.

8. Dissolve the political prison camps

The typical place that violation of human right in North Korea in the political prisoner’s camps. The political prisoner’s camps expropriate people who interfere to maintain the system, like counter-revolutionaries. In 1990s, many North Koreans escaped their country because of the starvation in North Korea, but many of them were transferred from China to North Korea. North Korean government imprisoned those people, especially the Christians and people who tried to exile to South Korea. It is known that 5 prisoner’s camps are running and about 200,000 people are imprisoned there. It is divided into two sections, one is The Completely Controlled Area and the other is The Revolutionizing Area

The reason of the criticism to the political prisoner’s camps is severe violation of human rights. Prisoners are suffered from daily hunger, severe violence, and public execution. The magnitude becomes known by the testimony of North Korean defectors who were confined there. They said hundreds of people are dying from execution or hard labor, every year. Ahn Myung Chul who was a guard of a camp testified the government’s policy, and experiences about education and training from there, his testimony has confirmed North Korean government’ lying, “There is no political prisoner’s camps in our country”.

North Korean government denies the existence of the political prisoner’s camps because it is a huge burden of maintaining the governmental system. Locally, to admit that there are people who are against their heavenly system could be a burden, and internationally, their insistence that they do not have any problem of human right could be turn out to be lie and could be a obstacle to earn international aid.

Some camps were closed after the existence of the camps was exposed to the international society. Exposure made better results than hiding the matter. From the moment anyone is imprisoned to a camp, they are no more a human, just becoming a productive machine. The closure of the political prisoner’s camp would be the beginning of realization of human rights in North Korea. North Korean government has to close the political prisoner’s camp which is the hell on earth, and guarantee the basic right of North Koreans.

9. Stop public executions

Generally the death penalty is sentenced to the people who killed or inflicted a grievous injure to other people. There is a drift toward abolishing capital punishment, globally. The reason is change of conception in human rights and increase of democracy. Meanwhile, there are many ways of execution, the most cruel mean is public execution among them.

Public execution is typical example of infringement on life in North Korea. North Korea chose this as a method of execution, but the crimes of the condemned prisoners’ are much slighter than those of other countries. For example, someone who stole a cow from a collective farm and sold it, someone who stole 60 kg of corns during 6 months, and siphoned things from a factory have been executed publicly, but those crimes are not crimes for public execution even supposed any additional punishment is applied. However North Korean government is doing this for threatening people. There is even a testimony that a female student who had never seen public execution was forced to watch it in the first low.

Because of its frequent happening, some people are thinking it as a normal event and this cause dehumanization and devastating peoples mind. Repetition of public execution have made people ignore that matter as a personal problem, and conformed by fear. Giving additional punishment beyond the law to maintain their system and making people watch the scene of public execution forcefully to give them fear are an act against the current of the times. It is also the most inhumane action which annihilates human dignity, so this must be stopped.

10. Stop punishing North Korean defectors

The shortage of food worsening in late 1990s made North Koreans cross over the border to live. To supply basic needs became difficult and millions of people were died by hunger, the enormous evacuation from that country could be a natural result. Restriction policy of North Korean government is a serious suppression of human rights which invades human’s natural rights. Many of refugees absconded there by economic reasons, but in North Korea, which has no freedom of movement, it is a serious illegal act, and the government punishes them harshly if they were repatriated. If someone had met South Korean or religious people, they could be imprisoned in the political prisoner’s camp or even executed.

Defectors in 1990s did not intend to stay for a long time in China or escape to South Korea. But people who did not have hometown in North Korea or stayed in China too long time wanted to exile to South Korea or the third country. North Korean defectors trembled for fear for being arrested, because when they go back to North Korea, only terrible torture and punishment are waiting for them. As a result, North Korean defectors escape there by economic reasons, but by the political reason, they cannot go back home, it made them resultant political refugees.

Recent reports said, the punishment to the people who were forcibly sent back to North Korea was reduced. But it is not caused by the change of Kim Jong Il, but because of too many defectors were generated to punish them all. Also international society demanded them to improve the situation. Chinese action of sending escaped people back to North Korea should be criticized because it is too clear that they would get severe punishment if they were sent back, despite of the relationship between China and North Korea. Kim Jong Il system, which forced them to cross the border and punish them has the main responsibility. North Korean refugees must be approved as refugees who are protected by international law, and Chinese government have to stop sending them back to North Korea.

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