Torture, execution, rape, starvation and forced labor. These are all repercussions in North Korea for speaking freely or gaining or passing on illegal information. A not very commonly talked about and widely known civil rights issue is the lack of what should be one of the most basic freedoms, freedom of information and speech in North Korea. This has been occurring since Korea split into two separate countries in 1948. Anyone living in North Korea is being affected by this loss of rights. While there are many outcomes to speaking or passing on something that is not allowed or gaining outside information, one would be to be sent to a political prison camp. There the prisoners live fenced-in by barbed wire in a small place where they are faced with starvation, forced labor, execution, rape, torture, and about 15,000 people per camp serve life sentences, many passing their sentences to other generations after perishing (“Prison Camps of North Korea”). While speaking in a “wrong” way or learning information that should not be known is not the only reason that these camps are being filled, but it is a large contributor. The only opinions welcome in North Korea and the only information that should be obtained is that of the Korean Worker’s Party (KWP), North Korea’s only political party, and any other is wrong or illegal. Depending upon the severity of the case, the people who do speak freely or pass on illegal information could end up in a prison camp or worse. Execution is one of the prices for making a phone call or communicating with anyone who does not live in North Korea (Sargent). It is a very large issue, and is similar and different to the Civil Rights Movement in many ways.
This flagrant civil rights violation is similar in some ways to the Civil Rights Movement that took place between 1954-1958. While they are fighting for different things, how they went about fighting it was the same. In both cases, people often knew that they would get in trouble, or worse killed if they did speak freely, collect illegal information or do something to advance the Movement, however, even while knowing this, they still did it. According to Lisa Sargent, in an article talking about the repression of North Korea and the lack of rights its citizens have, “Despite the high risk of being severely reprimanded for speaking out against the government or for obtaining outside information, 98 percent of North Koreans have received information not available in the North Korean market through word of mouth from trusted family and friends.” Obviously, these people knew how dangerous it was to gain and pass on outside information, but they still did it despite the risk because they want to be able to have a life that they can pass information freely. Similarly, at the Greensboro, North Carolina sit-ins, the African American students that took part of it understood that what they were doing would cause them harm and there would be major repercussions, however, they did it anyway. When these students were physically attacked, they curled up on the floor and took the harm, never fighting back. In the same way, after they were arrested, more students would quietly and quickly sit where they had been and do the same thing (“The Sit-In Movement”). The next reason that the two are similar is that both had limited knowledge. During the Civil Rights Movement, the African Americans had a terrible education. They had second hand materials, had to walk very long distances to get there, their schools were very poorly funded and many had to drop out of school before their education was finished in order to help out at their house or make money (Amato). It is very clear that these citizens did not have access to a good education, and therefore, had limited knowledge and information. Similarly, in North Korea, the only information that the people have access to is the information provided by the Regime or KWP. If they gain information from any other source or from anywhere other than their country, they could be subject to imprisonment or execution (Fontaine). It is very clear that the North Koreans have very limited access to information due to the fact that they could only legally obtain the information provided by the repressive government.