These Pictures Illustrate Why North Korea Is A Human Rights Nightmare

Thanks to a new UN report, the whole world is reminded yet again of how incredibly fucked up North Korea is. But while thousands and thousands of words have been written on the subject, it might be a few simple illustrations that really help nail that message home.

A refugee from the Democratic Republic of North Korea named Kim Kwang-il, who spent six years in one of the country’s most severe gulags, shared eight cartoons depicting the various forms of torture, hardship and death that the prisoners had (and have) to deal with. And now, instead of casually breezing through a paragraph about how awful the conditions are, we’re forced to confront it in a more visceral way:

 “[H]e had to crawl on his hands and knees into the cell he shared with 40 other prisoners, because the entrance door was only about 80 cm high. The guards told him that ‘when you get to this prison you are not human, you are just like animals, and as soon as you get to this prison, you have to crawl just like animals.'”

“The prisoners were brought to the camps in train wagons originally designed to transport animals. ‘[T]here were like six wagons that were filled with people. And that train came to the camps for six days consecutively, so thousands came in,’ Mr. Ahn testified.”‘

“Mr. Jeong was also subjected to the so-called ‘pigeon torture’. ‘[Y]our hands are handcuffed behind your back. And then they hang you so you would not be able to stand or sit,’ Mr. Jeong described. 1035 On repeated occasion, Mr. Jeong had to spend a full three days at a time in the pigeon torture stress position, enduring excruciating pain.”

“During the famine, food rations were further cut down to a point where only adults engaged in full time forced labour would receive rations. Her grandmother died from starvation and her exhausted mother fell from a steep cliff as she tried to forage for edible wild plants.”


But unfortunately, these images only involve the inhumane treatment going on in the gulags, and North Korea is WAY more screwed up than just that. So, in order to help bring some of the other atrocities the report discusses to life, here are some fun pictures to go along with a few more excerpts from that report…

“In early 2012, the DPRK announced it would suspend nuclear tests and allow international inspectors to monitor the moratorium in exchange for food aid from the United States. In April 2012, however, the DPRK launched an advanced missile, the Unha-3, which failed.”

“Witnesses have testified that violence against women is not limited to the home, and that it is common to see women being beaten and sexually assaulted in public.”

“In addition to the usual subjects in schools, such as mathematics, science, art and music, an unusually large portion of the school syllabus is dedicated to the instruction about achievements and teachings of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, including the Ten Principles and the DPRK’s official version of its revolutionary history.”

“In 2013, 85 year-old United States citizen Merrill Newman, a veteran who fought in the Korean War, was arrested and detained for over one month in the DPRK.”

“Children and university students in the DPRK are regularly required to participate in parades, mass rallies and other choreographed performances which serve a political purpose. The largest of these performances is the annual mass gymnastics, today generally referred to as the Mass Games. The Mass Games have become a major source of foreign currency revenue for the DPRK. They attract large numbers of tourists, who are often unaware of the human rights violations endured by participating children.”

“In each and every household in the DPRK, there must be at least three framed pictures on display, i.e. one of Kim Il-sung, one of Kim Jong-il and one of the two of them appearing to be in discussion.”

“Propaganda permeates every aspect of the lives of citizens of the DPRK. Apart from the state-controlled media, they are also exposed to inescapable propaganda broadcasts in their homes and in public spaces. A foreigner who had visited DPRK recounted to the Commission how she was struck by the pervasiveness of loudspeaker systems broadcasting state propaganda in public.”

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.