GENEVA – North Koreans have two options on any given day: bribe government officials, or go hungry.
That’s what a U.N human rights organization has discovered after interviewing 214 refugees who lived through endemic corruption and repression.
In a report accurately titled “The Price is Rights”, 40 percent of North Koreans, or around 10.1 million people, regularly lack enough food to survive, with further cuts to rations expected after the hermit nation experienced one of their worst harvests. The remaining 60 percent are either extorted out of fear of prosecution and
In order to survive, citizens must bribe officials with cigarettes or other useful items to avoid reporting to their payless state-mandated jobs. Some pay border guards to cross into China, putting women in danger of falling victim to sexual slavery or forced marriages.
The DPRK calls the report “politically motivated”, claiming that defectors are misinforming the media just to earn money or are feeding information to foreign entities out of duress.
During a United Nations news conference in Seoul, one defector told reporters how bribing guards with liquor and taffy was the only way they could live. She said that if North Koreans got caught selling underground merchandise and did not have bribes to pay, execution was an option. She lost her family to executions for similar crimes.
The most famine-stricken areas are Ryanggang and North Hamgyong, both which border China.
North Korea blames the lack of available foodstuffs on tough sanctions imposed by the United Nations. When funds are made available, their military and high ranking government officers receive priority amid widespread financial mismanagement.
U.S. officials called on Pyongyang earlier in May to “dismantle all political prison camps” and release all political prisoners, which number between 80,000 and 120,000. The DPRK denies the existence of such camps.