North Korea: Private Commerce Brings Arbitrary Arrests, Abuse
Human Rights Watch
June 08 2015
North Korean authorities arbitrarily arrest, unfairly prosecute, and severely mistreat people for conducting private business activity, with punishments varying with bribes and connections. The government should amend its criminal code to abolish “economic crimes” of engaging in commerce and order the authorities to stop arresting people for such activity.
Human Rights Watch interviewed 12 North Koreans extensively involved in private commerce who had fled to South Korea since 2013. They said that when authorities confronted them about engaging in business activities, their fate often depended on their capacity to pay bribes or mobilize personal connections, or the government’s need for forced labor. Those accused without money or connections could face lengthy sentences at prison camps, especially when the need for forced labor was high.
“While many North Koreans engage in petty business to survive, government officials prey on them with arbitrary arrests, extortion, and detention,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director. “Those who can’t bribe their way out of prison camp can face months or years of forced labor, deprivation, and abuse.”