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North Korea caste system leads to human rights violations: report

North Korea's caste system leads to abuses and human rights violations in the country, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) [advocacy website] reported [text, PDF] Wednesday. The report alleges that the caste system, known as Songbun, is used as justification for the systematic abuse and arbitrary detention of some North Korean citizens. Members of the lower castes are classified as "class enemies" and are not afforded basic human rights. The government also reportedly relies on the Songbun classification, which is assigned at birth, to determine guilt or innocence in criminal proceedings. HRNK called on the North Korean government to eliminate the use of Songbun classifications as the basis for discriminating against citizens, and to work to eliminate the caste system in North Korean society.

North Korea has faced ongoing international criticism for human rights violations. The UN Special Rapporteur on North Korean Human Rights criticized North Korea's human rights record [JURIST report] last November, focusing on the treatment of prisoners and echoing a UN General Assembly resolution [text] concerning the country's human rights conditions. In March 2010 the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution [JURIST report] condemning North Korea for human rights abuses. Earlier that month, the UN Special Rapporteur for North Korea, Vitit Muntarbhorn reported to the UNHRC that North Korean human rights situation was continuing to deteriorate [JURIST report]. This report came after Muntarbhorn's previous criticism, in October, 2009, of North Korea's "abysmal" ongoing human rights violations [JURIST report], alleging that the authoritarian government was responsible for various abuses, including torture, public executions, extensive surveillance, media censorship, women's rights violations and widespread hunger.

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