How China and Russia Facilitate North Korea’s Human Rights Abuses

This joint report was originally published by George W. Bush Presidential Center on September 14, 2023. 

The North Korean regime focuses all available resources on its top strategic objective: its own survival. While all political regimes strive to survive, North Korea’s case is exceptional because of the extreme human rights violations it perpetrates in attempting to dominate all aspects of the lives of its citizens. The February 2014 U.N. Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) specifically details the North Korean regime’s gross human rights violations against its own citizens. However, the roles played by authoritarian leaders in Beijing and Moscow in facilitating North Korea’s human rights violations are less frequently examined.

This report examines China and Russia’s roles in perpetuating North Korea’s human rights abuses and explores how recent global developments including the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have presented North Korea with new incentives and opportunities for repression. The authors conclude by surveying recent initiatives by the United States and the United Nations to advance human rights in North Korea and provide recommendations to further advocate for North Korean human rights. This paper was inspired and informed by a panel of government and nongovernment experts convened by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the George W. Bush Institute, and the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

This report was made possible by generous support to CSIS and the George W. Bush Institute.

Victor Cha
Senior Vice President for Asia and Korea Chair