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Five Facts You Should Know About North Korea

October 27, 2014 3 minute Read by George W. Bush Presidential Center

While North Korea has been in the headlines recently, some of the most alarming statistics about the country aren’t getting the attention they deserve. Here are 5 key facts you should know:

North Korea is one of the least free places on earth.

According to Freedom in the World, an assessment of political rights and civil liberties published by Freedom House, North Korea is classified as “not free” and as one of 10 nations whose lack of political rights and civil liberties are considered the “worst of the worst.”

The country has maintained political prison camps for 50 years.

There are 4 known fully operational political prison camps there now, but their existence is denied by the North Korean regime. Some prison camps are three times the size of Washington, D.C. 

As many as 130,000 men, women, and children are imprisoned in North Korea’s system of gulags.

In other words, out of 24 million North Koreans, 1 in 185 is a political prisoner.

“Offenses” that can condemn North Koreans to gulags are not really crimes.

An “offense” in North Korean is often something not punishable, or even second-guessed, in other countries. Offenses can include: listening to a radio station or watching a movie that isn’t approved, practicing a religion, expressing criticism of the government, or leaving the country without permission. Even family ties might be an offense - whole families are incarcerated for the offenses of a single family member for up to three generations. There are no formal charges and there is no trial by jury. One may be abducted and tortured into confession.

Prisoners of North Korean gulags are the victims of real crimes against humanity.

Conditions within the gulags are inhumane. Prisoners often suffer from starvation, poor sanitation, and physical deformities from years of forced labor. There is no contact with the outside world, and there are public executions for those who try to escape.

Sources: Freedom House, Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea


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George W. Bush Presidential Center

PRESERVING HISTORY

GEORGE W. BUSH PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM

As the 13th presidential library, the Bush Library and Museum promotes an understanding of the American presidency, examines the specific time in history during which President Bush served, and provides access to official records and artifacts from the Bush Administration.

SHAPING THE FUTURE

THE GEORGE W. BUSH INSTITUTE

The Bush Institute is an action-oriented, nonpartisan policy organization that cultivates leaders, fosters policies to solve today’s most pressing challenges, and takes action to save and change lives. Our work is inspired by the principles that guide President and Mrs. Bush in public life.

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