The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea, is acknowledged throughout the international arena as one of the most repressive countries of the present time. The North Korean government maintains an information blockade that restricts speech and press rights to ensure citizens do not become dissuaded with its national ideology. According to the Reports Without Borders Freedom Index, North Korea has been consistently ranked last until 2007, moving up one spot to the 178th. This however, was not due to humans protest for freedom of speech; but rather a trap North-Korea fell into after being forced to open its doors to the outside world after the worst flood North-Korea has ever experienced back in the 1970s. Since then, it’s only gone back to last place for freedom of media and speech.
As most of us know, North-Korea is dangerously placed near China and Russia, two of the strongest countries in the world when it comes to power and military. Not only this, but is also famously known for its very secretive ways in which freedom of speech and media is enourmously surpressed.
In 1948, the northern and southern halves of Korea became two independent governments, separated by a military demarcation line, which inevitably allowed North Korea to officially become its own government. From 1950 to 1953, both North and South Korea clashed in the Korean War. Since there was no decisive victory, the north and south engage in small conflicts to this very day. Kim Jong-un became dictator of the highly militaristic regime in December 2011 after the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il.
After the separation of the Korean governments, North Korea adopted communism as its national ideology. Its constitution has been amended six times since its original establishment in 1948.
(Even today, you could say the two countries are like evil siblings; except deep down I think they care for each other lol)
FREEDOM OF SPEECH
The Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, amended in 2012, guarantees the basic rights such as those of freedom of speech and press.
Article 67 of the North Korean constitution guarantees the same rights to citizens that very much mirror those of the United States and other democratic governments:
Citizens are guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, demonstration and association. The State shall guarantee conditions for the free activity of democratic political parties and social organizations.
Even though this is a right North-Korean citizens have in theory, it is always overruled with its other law that states all speech critizising the North-Korean goverment is considered treacherous and is therefore illegal. Not only is this illegal, but those that are caught will face extreme punishments such as heavy fines, political hangings, execution and relocation to political prison camp. If you thought this was bad, it may surprise you that your immediate family will also be punished for the next three generations by performing extreme labour in what feels like concentration camps.
Because Kim Jong-un controls the media, there is no free press in North Korea. Correspondence traveling in and out of the country is strictly monitored, access to cell phones is restricted to internal networks, and radios and televisions come pre-tuned to North Korean stations. In addition to the pre-tuning, foreign broadcasts are jammed to prohibit any potential outside communication. Only the elite and border residents are allowed accessibility to the Internet. Repercussions from the government could result in extensive imprisonments, forced labor, suppression of workers’ rights, public executions, and starvation. There are also no laws protecting this right.
Side note: I found that on my birthday, may 11th 2007, a factory worker made international calls from phones he installed in the factory basement. He was executed by a firing squad in front of 150,000 witnesses.
Even though North Korea engages in absolute censorship and unjust speech and press suppressions, the country has, according to bbc, improved their economy and strive to improve enviromental changes. This, however, may be the only thing thats been improved in a long while. Hopefully, international advocates and North Korean insiders will continue to press on in trying to make North Korea a freer country where citizens can freely express themselves without fear of persecution.
- Chʻoe, Chin. Framing North Korea: how do American and South Korean newspapers frame North Korea?. Seoul: CommunicationBooks, 2009.
- Human rights in North Korea: challenges and opportunities : hearing before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Twelfth Congress, first session, September 20. Washington: U.S. G.P.O. :, 2011.
- Kwon, Heonik, and Byung Chung. North Korea: beyond charismatic politics. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012.