This story is over 5 years old.

The UN's Report on North Korean Atrocities Surprised No One

Horrifying details of the torture, rape, and murder of North Korean political prisoners won't have any effect on international policy.
Photo by Flickr/stephan

Children beaten to death, fingers chopped off for minor infractions, mass starvation, forced abortions, public executions, children made to kill their own parents. These are some of the brutal practices currently being employed in dozens of North Korean labor camps, according to a chilling new United Nations report released Monday.

The sweeping 400-page document details the testimony of victims from the camps, which hold between 80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners. According to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, the depth of depravity and massive scope of the abuse means that North Korea "does not have any parallel in the contemporary world."


An artist's depiction of conditions described in North Korean labor camps. Images via

That said, this is hardly the first time the world has been made aware of the DPRK’s ongoing human rights violations. “Although the detail of the report is new, nothing in it is particularly surprising for those who know North Korea well,” Charles Armstrong, a professor of Korean history at Columbia University, told VICE News.

The UN commission suggested that the DPRK regime be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). “The fact that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea… has for decades pursued policies involving crimes that shock the conscience of humanity," the report stated, "raises questions about the inadequacy of the response of the international community."

The commission also called for targeted sanctions against North Korea to be imposed by the UN Security Council — not that either recommendation means much of anything. For starters, China, a permanent member of the Security Council, has already rejected the report. The likelihood that it would vote for sanctions is minimal, even in light of its relatively chilly current relationship with Pyongyang.

In addition, no one from North Korea is going to voluntarily head to The Hague to face prosecution at the ICC. “It is inconceivable that Kim Jung-un would go before a military tribunal,” Armstrong said. “In that regard, the overall impact of the report is minimal.”

North Korea has already stated that the UN based its findings on lies. While the commission's findings have no doubt served to remind people of the brutality of the regime, there's no indication anything will be done as a result.

Photo via