United States Code
USC most recently checked for updates: May 29, 2023
Congress makes the following findings:
According to the Department of State, the Government of North Korea is “a dictatorship under the absolute rule of Kim Jong Il” that continues to commit numerous, serious human rights abuses.
The Government of North Korea subjects all its citizens to systematic, intensive political and ideological indoctrination in support of the cult of personality glorifying Kim Jong Il and the late Kim Il Sung that approaches the level of a state religion.
The Government of North Korea divides its population into categories, based on perceived loyalty to the leadership, which determines access to food, employment, higher education, place of residence, medical facilities, and other resources.
According to the Department of State, “[t]he [North Korean] Penal Code is [d]raconian, stipulating capital punishment and confiscation of assets for a wide variety of ‘crimes against the revolution,’ including defection, attempted defection, slander of the policies of the Party or State, listening to foreign broadcasts, writing ‘reactionary’ letters, and possessing reactionary printed matter”.
The Government of North Korea executes political prisoners, opponents of the regime, some repatriated defectors, some members of underground churches, and others, sometimes at public meetings attended by workers, students, and schoolchildren.
The Government of North Korea holds an estimated 200,000 political prisoners in camps that its State Security Agency manages through the use of forced labor, beatings, torture, and executions, and in which many prisoners also die from disease, starvation, and exposure.
According to eyewitness testimony provided to the United States Congress by North Korean camp survivors, camp inmates have been used as sources of slave labor for the production of export goods, as targets for martial arts practice, and as experimental victims in the testing of chemical and biological poisons.
According to credible reports, including eyewitness testimony provided to the United States Congress, North Korean Government officials prohibit live births in prison camps, and forced abortion and the killing of newborn babies are standard prison practices.
According to the Department of State, “[g]enuine religious freedom does not exist in North Korea” and, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, “[t]he North Korean state severely represses public and private religious activities” with penalties that reportedly include arrest, imprisonment, torture, and sometimes execution.
More than 2,000,000 North Koreans are estimated to have died of starvation since the early 1990s because of the failure of the centralized agricultural and public distribution systems operated by the Government of North Korea.
According to a 2002 United Nations-European Union survey, nearly one out of every ten children in North Korea suffers from acute malnutrition and four out of every ten children in North Korea are chronically malnourished.
Since 1995, the United States has provided more than 2,000,000 tons of humanitarian food assistance to the people of North Korea, primarily through the World Food Program.
Although United States food assistance has undoubtedly saved many North Korean lives and there have been minor improvements in transparency relating to the distribution of such assistance in North Korea, the Government of North Korea continues to deny the World Food Program forms of access necessary to properly monitor the delivery of food aid, including the ability to conduct random site visits, the use of native Korean-speaking employees, and travel access throughout North Korea.
The risk of starvation, the threat of persecution, and the lack of freedom and opportunity in North Korea have caused large numbers, perhaps even hundreds of thousands, of North Koreans to flee their homeland, primarily into China.
North Korean women and girls, particularly those who have fled into China, are at risk of being kidnapped, trafficked, and sexually exploited inside China, where many are sold as brides or concubines, or forced to work as prostitutes.
The Governments of China and North Korea have been conducting aggressive campaigns to locate North Koreans who are in China without permission and to forcibly return them to North Korea, where they routinely face torture and imprisonment, and sometimes execution.
Despite China’s obligations as a party to the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, China routinely classifies North Koreans seeking asylum in China as mere “economic migrants” and returns them to North Korea without regard to the serious threat of persecution they face upon their return.
The Government of China does not provide North Koreans whose asylum requests are rejected a right to have the rejection reviewed prior to deportation despite its obligations under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.
North Koreans who seek asylum while in China are routinely imprisoned and tortured, and in some cases killed, after they are returned to North Korea.
The Government of China has detained, convicted, and imprisoned foreign aid workers attempting to assist North Korean refugees in proceedings that did not comply with Chinese law or international standards.
In January 2000, North Korean agents inside China allegedly abducted the Reverend Kim Dong-shik, a United States permanent resident and advocate for North Korean refugees, whose condition and whereabouts remain unknown.
Between 1994 and 2003, South Korea has admitted approximately 3,800 North Korean refugees for domestic resettlement, a number that is small in comparison with the total number of North Korean escapees but far greater than the number legally admitted in any other country.
Although the principal responsibility for North Korean refugee resettlement naturally falls to the Government of South Korea, the United States should play a leadership role in focusing international attention on the plight of these refugees, and formulating international solutions to that profound humanitarian dilemma.
In addition to infringing the rights of its own citizens, the Government of North Korea has been responsible in years past for the abduction of numerous citizens of South Korea and Japan, whose condition and whereabouts remain unknown.
(Pub. L. 108–333, § 3,
Oct. 18, 2004, 118 Stat. 1287.)
cite as: 22 USC 7801