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Laws in North Korea

North Korea is run exclusively by the Kim family. It is a totalitarian state, that has a very strict tourism policy, and in effect it is very difficult to understand exactly what goes on behind its closed borders. Most of the laws that we are aware of have been disclosed to the west through undercover journalists and reports from North Koreans who have defected. North Korean media is careful to promote the country as being ruled by leaders that are heaven sent.

To punish people who have fallen foul of the system, there are 16 prison camps that are run in similar fashion to the Russian Gulags. Camp 14 is the most notorious and most brutal place to be sent to. The prison camps are usually situated in barren mountainous areas, where both the conditions and the work is brutal. It has been calculated that there are over 200,000 people in a prison camp at any one time. To get sent to a labour camp, you can be accused of a petty crime such as theft of a few grains of corn or become a defector or be politician that has angered the government. It is very rare to escape from one of the prison camps. Some people don't just spend their life there they may be born there and in that case they have no 'papers', and are at the lowest level of the caste system.

Some of the laws are very alien to western civilisation, especially the law of “Three Generations of Punishment”. Basically it means that if you commit a crime, then your children and grandchildren will also be punished, and will have lifetime detention at one of the camps. One of the most serious offences is that is attempting to leave the country. This is punishable by immediate execution. There is no freedom of speech, and therefore any small criticism of the government is regarded as treason. Seeking knowledge about other cultures (and this includes watching illegal smuggled DVD's) is also punishable by death. The security services are very vigilant and they are known to cause power outages, and then go to houses and inspecting any DVD's that have been stuck in the player.

North Korea does not trade with foreign markets, they have no exports and therefore the country is self-sustaining, or it tries to be. Because they have no exports, they have no market economy and therefore struggle to feed the population. Their income is a fraction of what would be in Europe of the USA (roughly 1/100), they have found that fraud insurance and international crime can supplement their meagre income. It is very interesting that international crime does not seem to have the same repercussions as stealing a few grains of corn.


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