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US report shines light on brutal conditions in North Korea

The State Department issued a report Thursday on North Korea's human rights abuses and censorship, which included the sanctioning of 10 individuals and entities that have taken direct actions to back the regime's brutality.

"This report shines a spotlight on serious human rights abuses committed by the DPRK regime, including extrajudicial killings, forced labor, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention, as well as rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence," said Scott Busby, the State Department's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

This is the third report of its kind, required by legislation congress passed in 2016, and this specific report identifies regime facilitators outside of the country's borders. In doing so, it targets individuals and entities that have supported the regime's forced labor and forced repatriation. The US has increasingly encouraged individual countries to sever ties with North Korea and this is the latest in that effort. A country at the heart of this push is China, which accounts for 90 percent of North Korea's trade volume.

One of the individuals on the list is Ku Sung Sop, the consul general in Shenyang, China. Ku focuses on surveillance of forced laborers in China, according to the report. These laborers work for no pay – instead, all of the money they make goes directly to the DPRK government. 

This economic lifeline then allows the regime to continue funding and building their ballistic and nuclear missile programs. Ku is also involved in forced repatriation, which means getting those who escape to China to unwillingly return to North Korea. This US is hoping that China takes steps against Ku.

"I don't want to speak for what China may or may not do with his case, but we've brought it to their attention," explained Busby. He said the range of possibilities included expelling Ku from the country.

This list of individuals set to be sanctioned by the US also included mid-level DPRK officials. Busby said that defectors have said that this was an effective tactic as, in some cases, it led the harshness of the treatment to be "lessened."

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