With 2.6 Million Slaves, North Korea is the Modern Slavery Capital of the World

July 19, 2018 Topic: Security Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: SlaveryNorth KoreaKim Jong UnMilitaryWorld

With 2.6 Million Slaves, North Korea is the Modern Slavery Capital of the World

One out of every ten North Koreans lives in slavery, making the country the world’s worst per capita offender.


With an estimated 2.6 million slaves, North Korea is apparently the modern slavery capital of the world, according to a new human rights study.

One out of every ten North Koreans lives in slavery, making the country the world’s worst per capita offender, the 2018 Global Slavery Index, published Thursday by the human rights organization Walk Free Foundation, revealed.


The group interviewed 50 North Korean defectors, with all but one revealing that they had been subjected to some form of slavery — such as human trafficking, indentured servitude, forced labor or servile marriage.

The report suggested that the North Korean government’s response to slavery was the weakest among countries where such practices exist. India has more slaves than any other country, but the government response to the problem is much stronger.

As the world focuses its attention on the need to address the North Korean nuclear threat, serious human rights abuses have taken a back seat, the Walk Free Foundation argues.

“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,” Andrew Forrest, founder of the Walk Free Foundation, told The Washington Post.

Forced mobilization and institutionalized forced labor in North Korean society affects adults and children alike, as North Koreans of all ages are often sent to perform back-breaking manual labor for months at a time. Failure to comply can result in food ration cuts or other more severe types of punishment.

North Korea also has a decades-long history of sending workers abroad to generate funds for the cash-strapped regime. “Many North Korean laborers sent by the government to work abroad under bilateral contracts with foreign governments also face conditions of forced labor,” the Department of State explained in a June 2017 report on forced labor practices.

The report said:

“Many North Koreans working under these contracts are subjected to conditions indicative of forced labor, such as working excessively long hours in hazardous temperatures with restricted pay. North Korean government ‘minders’ restrict and monitor their movement and communications. These workers face threats of government reprisals against them or their relatives in the [North Korea] if they attempt to escape or complain to outside parties. Workers’ salaries are appropriated and deposited into accounts controlled by the North Korean government. Workers receive only a fraction of the money paid to the North Korean government for their work and face punishment if they fail to meet production or work targets.”

The exact number of overseas workers serving the North Korean state are unknown, but some estimates suggest the figure could be in the hundreds of thousands.

A December 2017 report from the International Bar Association (IBA) War Crimes Committee asserted that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is guilty of ten out of the eleven crimes against humanity, specifically murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, sexual violence, persecution, enforced disappearances and the inhumane act of forced starvation.

The Walk Free Foundation, which has taken some criticism in the past for its methodology, determined that 40.3 million were living in slavery worldwide in 2016, but it argues that this number is a conservative estimate for a pervasive problem.

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