The UN human rights chief said North Korea is stepping up its crackdown on human rights, starving people in parts of the country as it faces a deteriorating economic situation Thursday.
“According to our information, people are becoming increasingly desperate as informal markets and other coping mechanisms are dismantled, while their fear of state surveillance, arrest, interrogation and detention has increased,” said Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, according to The Associated Press. Press.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic abating, the country’s restrictions have broadly increased. Guards are authorized to shoot any unauthorized person who approaches the border and almost all foreigners, including UN personnel, are still denied entry into the country, according to Türk.
He also said those in North Korea caught viewing “reactionary ideology and culture,” or information from abroad, especially South Korea, could now face prison sentences of five to 15 years. People who spread that information risk life in prison or a death sentence.
Türk said the government has largely closed markets and other private ways of making money, stepping up criminalization of them.
“This greatly limits people’s ability to provide for themselves and their families,” he said. “Given the limits of state-run economic institutions, many people appear to be facing extreme hunger and acute drug shortages.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting.
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