One in ten North Koreans is enslaved

North Korea has 2.6 million slaves, this according to the Global Slavery Index. The fight against slavery is more difficult because the authorities are involved in the exploitation of people. North Korea’s “tragedy is much more about lost freedom through the brutal suppression of human potential” than missiles.

Perth (AsiaNews/Agencies) – North Korea ranks first in the world in modern slavery, with one out of every 10 citizens its victim, this according to Global Slavery Index by the Walk Free Foundation.

The Australia-based organisation is dedicated to monitoring and ending various forms of slavery in the world. Its Global Slavery Index found that outside North Korea, the countries with the worst prevalence of slavery are Eritrea, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Mauritania, South Sudan, Pakistan, Cambodia and Iran.

More than 2.6 million out of 25 million of Kim's subjects live under modern slavery, the highest proportion of slaves in the world.

In a new report, the Foundation argues that the North Korean government had the weakest response to slavery out of all the countries surveyed, as it is itself involved in forced labour.

The report defines modern slavery as slavery itself, as well as human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, forced or servile marriage, and the sale and exploitation of children.

With respect to recent diplomatic negotiations between North Korea and the United States and South Korea, “There’s a strong focus on bombs and missiles, but the North Korean tragedy is much more about lost freedom through the brutal suppression of human potential,” said Andrew Forrest, founder of the Walk Free Foundation.

During the research, 50 North Korean defectors were interviewed. All but one said they had been subjected to conditions that met the international legal definition of “forced labour”.

“You cannot refuse. If the work unit leader orders you to go to work, you have to do it. If you don’t, then your food rations are cut off,” said one defector.

Interviewees reported that compulsory unpaid work is agriculture, construction and road building. Even children are often mobilised by the state.

“North Korea is essentially a slave state that uses its own citizens for the Kim regime’s benefit,” said Amanda Mortwedt Oh, of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

“The picture that emerges is as disturbing as it is unique,” says the report. “While gaining access to a wider sample of workers across North Korea itself is simply not possible, there is no reason to doubt that the first-hand experiences related [by] this group reflect the brutal reality of modern slavery perpetrated by the state."

North Korea recently announced an amnesty from 1st August for people “convicted of the crimes against the country and people” to mark the 70th anniversary of the regime’s foundation.

Human rights groups have cautioned that such announcements have been made in the past but that it was not clear if a significant number of people were actually released.

The Global Slavery Index also noted that other countries have indirectly become complicit in the exploitation of slavery through the importation of goods produced through forced labour, with the United States importing the most at-risk goods of any nations, at US4 billion a year.

Cheap labour also falls within the modern definition of slave labour.

About 55 per cent of the new slaves are in Asia, where no cost labour in manufacturing sector is widespread. At the top of the ranking, after North Korea, we find Cambodia, India and Qatar.

In absolute terms, India has a record 7.98 million slaves, followed by Pakistan with 3.18 million, China with 3.86 million and Iran 1.28 million.