(Seoul) – The 10th anniversary of the death of North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il should draw worldwide attention to the brutal regime of his son Kim Jong Un, Human Rights Watch said today. Kim Jong Il died on December 17, 2011.
In the 10 years since his father’s death, Kim Jong Un has extended invasive surveillance and repression of North Koreans, denying people their freedom of movement within the country and across the borders, and responded to the Covid-19 pandemic with increased food insecurity that threatens widespread famine.
“Kim Jong Il’s legacy is the death of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of North Koreans in the 1990s,” said Lina Yoon, senior Korea researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Like those of his father and grandfather, Kim Jong Un’s regime is based on brutality, fear and repression, causing systematic rights violations, economic hardship and possible famine. “
Kim Jong Il took over as head of North Korea in 1994 after the death of his father, Kim Il Sung, founder of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). After the collapse of the Soviet Union and its support for North Korea in 1991, Kim Jong Il presided over the disastrous “Hard March”. This episode killed scores of people due to mismanagement of an already ill-equipped economy, combined with droughts and floods that severely damaged crops, and brutal policies that drove the scarcity of food. food to military and government elites. A considerable number of people have died, with death estimates ranging from hundreds of thousands to over 2.5 to 3 million between 1994 and 1998.
Kim Jong Il’s abusive legacy also included a strict limitation on access to information and a restriction on freedom of movement during the murderous start of the famine during the period of the arduous march. Despite the restrictions, tens of thousands of North Koreans managed to flee the country during the reign of Kim Jong Il.
North Koreans who left the country after 2014, or who still have contacts inside, told Human Rights Watch that if Kim Jong Un opened up the economy and reduced major crackdowns on traders’ markets , illegal border crossings have become almost impossible, corrupt practices have been normalized, and government “demands” for unpaid labor have increased. These demands for forced labor increased after 2017, following the implementation of general economic security sanctions by the United Nations Security Council.
Under the pretext of protecting the population against Covid-19, Kim Jong Un has isolated the country more than ever. He has imposed unnecessary and extreme measures that far exceed the impact of Security Council sanctions, including blocking almost all unofficial and official commerce, stepping up surveillance to keep information or people out or leaving the country, resorting to forced labor to develop the economy, and creating an artificial food and humanitarian crisis.
“Like his father, Kim Jong Un prioritizes strengthening his already firm grip on power at the expense of the rights and well-being of the people,” Yoon said. “Governments around the world should convince North Korea to accept closely monitored humanitarian aid, allow international aid workers to enter the country and seek justice for victims of government crimes against humanity . “