UN report: North Korean officials extorting money from struggling population

UN report: North Korean officials extorting money from struggling population
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North Koreans are being forced to pay officials bribes to survive while the government fails to "provide for life’s basic necessities," according to a United Nations report released Tuesday.

The report details the collapse of North Korea's public distribution system over the last two decades and says the nation's citizens are now forced to seek goods in a dangerous parallel economy.

“The rights to food, health, shelter, work, freedom of movement and liberty are universal and inalienable, but in North Korea they depend primarily on the ability of individuals to bribe State officials,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.

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The report was compiled using first-hand testimony of 214 escapees gathered by U.N. Human Rights staff in South Korea in 2017 and 2018.

State-organized jobs and distribution are insufficient to survive, according to the report.

When citizens try to engage in any rudimentary market activity they reportedly face arrest and detention. For example, traveling within the country without a permit can be punishable with jail time.

That threat of arrest allows North Korean officials to extort money and other bribes, the report says.

“I felt it unfair that one could bribe one’s way out of [detention], when another suffers much more as a result of being unable to bribe," one escapee told the UN. "Bribery is effective in North Korea. One cannot lead a life in North Korea if he or she does not bribe his or her way.”

Bachelet called for significant changes to North Korea's governance structure.

"Our report is a stark illustration of how important it is that the Government tackles the country’s profound human rights problems. Only then can the endemic system of corruption which pervades all aspects of life be effectively dismantled,” she said.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the formal name for North Korea, rejected the report, saying it was “politically motivated for sinister purposes”.

“Such reports are nothing more than fabrication ... as they are always based on the so-called testimonies of ‘defectors’ who provide fabricated information to earn their living or are compelled to do so under duress or enticement,” its Geneva mission said in a statement to Reuters.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally MORE has been criticized for his close ties to North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnChina's tanks are sure to return with Hong Kong protests China's tanks are sure to return with Hong Kong protests 2020 Dems can't give Trump the high ground on national security MORE, who he frequently compliments despite the harsh conditions for the citizens in the country.

Earlier this month, when Pyongyang fired short-range missiles from its east coast, Trump defended the dictator.

Trump called Kim a “very smart man” and suggested the missile tests were meant to “get attention.”