The nationwide work campaign to prepare for the Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, which begins today, amounts to “forced labor” according to a report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) on May 5.
The international NGO sent a letter to Kim Jong Un, urging the North Korean leader to address human rights abuses in North Korea and cooperate with the UN’s Human Rights Council.
“This ruling party congress is a rare event, but it’s made possible by the forced labor that untold thousands of North Koreans are subject to as part of everyday life under Kim (Jong Un’s) abusive rule,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch said in the report.
The article took issue with the recently ended 70-day campaign, referred to as a “battle” in North Korean media. For more than two months North Korean workers have increased output in a wide range of sectors, and the campaign has been heavily publicized.
According to the NK News KCNA Watch data tool, the term “70-day” was mentioned 214 times in the North’s media output in March, and 126 times in April.
“(Kim) talks a lot about improving the lives of North Koreans, but we’ll only know if he’s serious if he takes action to end human rights abuses,” Robertson said. “But I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.”
CNN reporter Will Ripley, reporting from Pyongyang on Wednesday, said his North Korean guide had worked two jobs every day throughout the campaign, with no days off. The CNN report also noted that North Koreans were having to get up an hour earlier than usual and the normal six-day work week had been extended to seven.
Recent photos obtained by NK News showed North Korean authorities kept track of the campaign using “socialist competition” graphs and countdowns updated daily.
“Forced labor is a central element of North Korea’s egregiously bad human rights record. A 2014 UN commission of inquiry on human rights in the DPRK found that ordinary prison camps ‘operate mines, factories, farms, and logging camps by extracting forced labor from their inmates,’” the HRW article claims.
Earlier this week North Korea claimed the campaign was “absolute success” with nationwide improvements in various fields.
Pyongyang said the momentum of the successful 70-day battle will also lead to the successful Seventh Congress and turn it in to the “congress of victors,” the state-run Rodong Sinmun said Wednesday.
Featured image: Propaganda banner in Pyongyang provided courtesy of source