Report on Serious Human Rights Abuses or Censorship in North Korea

U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Democracy, Human Right, and Labor
Washington, D.C.
December 10, 2018

Report on Serious Human Rights Abuses or Censorship in North Korea

Submitted in compliance with: Section 304 (a) of the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, Public Law 114-122, enacted on February 18, 2016

Section 304 (a) of the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, Public Law 114-122, enacted on February 18, 2016, requires that the Secretary of State provide a report to Congress that: (1) identifies each person the Secretary determines to be responsible for serious human rights abuses or censorship in North Korea and describes the conduct of that person; and (2) describes serious human rights abuses or censorship undertaken by the Government of North Korea or any person acting for or on behalf of that Government in the most recent year ending before the submission of the report. This report is being submitted to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Financial Services, and the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs of the Senate.

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The Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) continues to censor the media and commit serious human rights violations and abuses, including violations of individuals’ freedom of expression. There is no independent domestic media in the country, and all media are strictly censored. No content that deviates from the official government line is tolerated.

Defectors report that government officials and interagency security groups continue to censor materials through the pre-screening of publications and restriction of information through other mediums including phones, tablets, and print media. According to the Department of State’s 2017 Human Rights Report on North Korea, the government added a software-based censorship program known as the “signature system” to all domestic mobile phones. This system makes it impossible to view foreign media on the phones.

The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in North Korea and NGO reports affirm that the government continues to punish individuals who listen to foreign media or produce content that is critical of the government, in violation of the individuals’ freedom of expression. The government arbitrarily detains or, in some cases, even executes violators. Individuals can be severely punished for simply owning radio or television sets able to receive non-government broadcasts.

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This report details aspects of the human rights and censorship situation in North Korea and the conduct of persons, including the following Government and/or Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) controlled groups and officials determined by the Secretary of State to be responsible for the commission of serious human rights abuses or censorship in the DPRK.

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[The report specifically lists Group 109 (also known as Group 1118 and Group 627), Group 118  and Group 114 as responsible for the commission of serious human rights abuses. It also lists Jong Kyong Thaek, the minister of state security; Choe Ryong Hae, the vice chairman for organization for the WPK and the director of the WPK Organization and Guidance Department; and Pak Kwang Ho, the director of the WPK’s Propaganda and Agitation Department (PAD), which controls all media produced in the country.]