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UN Watchdog: Children in North Korea Suffer Abusive Treatment

FILE - North Korean school children groom the lawn in Pyongyang, North Korea, June 16, 2017.
FILE - North Korean school children groom the lawn in Pyongyang, North Korea, June 16, 2017.

A U.N. watchdog group accuses North Korea of violence against its children, including torture in detention, corporal punishment in school and hard labor. North Korea is one of eight countries examined by a U.N. committee that monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Among its many concerns, the 18-member U.N. committee cites the lack of legal provisions in North Korea guaranteeing children will be free from torture and other cruel or degrading treatment or punishment.

The experts say children most at risk are those who have left the country without official permission and are forced to return, street children, and those in detention facilities, including prison camps.

Committee Member, Kirsten Sandberg told VOA the law in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, does not prohibit child labor. She said children often are forced to perform hazardous work, which is harmful to their physical and mental development.

“Children in DPRK spend a considerable amount of the time that should be allocated to education performing different types of labor. This might be in agriculture, in construction projects, and also students spending their afternoons performing tasks for teachers, such as working in the fields collecting firewood,” said Sandberg.

The committee expresses concern about the significant number of children placed in institutions from birth to the age of 16. Another disturbing practice is that of enlisting children 16 or 17 years of age into a military style youth brigade for 10 years, where they are forced to work long hours at hard, physical labor.

Sandberg told VOA the North Korean delegation agreed some improvements could be made in certain areas. But, she adds they would not accept the facts presented by the committee on some issues, calling them false facts.