By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korea has been drawing renewed criticism for its child labor practices. On February 13, 2016, Human Rights Watch called on the North Korean government to immediately stop exploiting children for labor. The organization made a submission to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child calling attention to the forced labor of school-aged children. The organization collected its information from recently escaped citizens of North Korea and from North Koreans who maintain ties to individuals remaining in the state.

Kim Jong Un poses with North Korean students at the opening of a new primary school. Photo courtesy of: Getty Images
Kim Jong Un poses with North Korean students at the opening of a new primary school. Photo courtesy of: Getty Images

The submission indicates that children are forced to work in areas of farming, rock breaking, collecting scrap metals, and other strenuous types of work. Though North Korea claims it abolished child labor over 70 years ago, sources who spoke to Human Rights Watch clarified that the government continues to recruit individuals into forced labor.

Sources told Human Rights Watch that the North Korean government uses coercive means to recruit child laborers, depicting the work as employment opportunities in “patriotic labor” to show “socialist loyalty”. Individuals who refuse to participate are often discriminated against and receive physical punishments, according to the organization’s sources.

Human rights activists encourage intervention, noting that North Korean children have no other protections and rely on the UN and foreign governments to speak out on the matter. Left unchecked, UN Security Council members warn that millions of North Korean children will be discriminated against, threatening their educational opportunities and overall well-being.

Though the UN Security Council has discussed North Korean human rights violations for the third year in a row, there is not much the organization can do to facilitate real change in the rogue state.

For more information, please see:

New York Post – N. Korea’s child slavery problem is even worse than imagined – 9 February, 2017

International Business Times – North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Exploits Poor People: Children Forced To Work At Expensive Ski Resort For Elite – 27 January, 2017

Human Rights Watch – North Korea: End Rampant Forced Child Labor – 13 February, 2017

Human Rights Watch – Human Rights Watch Submission on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the Committee on the Rights of the Child – 13 February, 2017

Human Rights Watch – UN: North Korea Exploiting Children – 8 February, 2017

Author: Nicole Hoerold