North Koreans trapped in cycle of corruption: UN report

North Koreans trapped in cycle of corruption: UN report

North Koreans face a daily struggle to make ends meet due toa "vicious cycle of deprivation, corruption and repression", a UNreport said on Tuesday, accusing regime leader Kim Jong-un's government ofeconomic mismanagement resulting in its people fighting to get the basics.

The UN report, The Price is Right, is based on interviewscarried out with 214 defectors in 2017 and 2018. It said that everyday survivalin North Korea "is further hampered by officials demanding bribes".

Pyongyang rejected the report as being "politicallymotivated for sinister purposes", the BBC reported.

According to the report, the collapse of the state-rundistribution system in the 1990s forced an estimated three-quarters of thepopulation to turn to informal markets as everyday rations were no longerenough to survive.

"If you just follow instructions coming from the state,you starve to death," one of the defectors said.

But the markets exist in a legal grey area, which leavespeople vulnerable to officials wanting bribes.

Those who try to earn money this way "face arrest anddetention", the UN report said, adding that women wanting to earn moneyare particularly vulnerable.

The UN report also criticized the economic management of thecountry under Kim, who has ruled since his father's death in 2011.

North Korea blames its economic woes on sanctions, whichwere imposed over its nuclear weapons programmes.

But, the report said that the military still receivespriority funding over ensuring people have enough food.

The World Food Programme estimates that 10.1 million peopleare now suffering from severe food shortages, while the worst harvest in adecade has left the country short of more than a million tonnes of food.

"I am concerned that the constant focus on the nuclearissue continues to divert attention from the terrible state of human rights formany millions of North Koreans," said UN's High Commissioner for Human RightsMichelle Bachelet.

"The rights to food, health, shelter, work, freedom ofmovement and liberty are universal and inalienable, but in North Korea theydepend primarily on the ability of individuals to bribe state officials,"she added.

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