GENEVA (Reuters) – North Koreans are forced to pay bribes to officials to survive in their isolated country where corruption is “endemic” and repression rife, the U.N. human rights office said on Tuesday in a report that Pyongyang dismissed as politically motivated.
The report said officials extorted money from a population struggling to make ends meet, threatening them with detention and prosecution – particularly those working in the informal economy.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the formal name for North Korea, rejected the report, saying it was “politically motivated for sinister purposes”.
“Such reports are nothing more than fabrication … as they are always based on the so-called testimonies of ‘defectors’ who provide fabricated information to earn their living or are compelled to do so under duress or enticement,” its Geneva mission said in a statement to Reuters.
North Korea blames the dire humanitarian situation on U.N. sanctions imposed for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs since 2006. But the report said that the military receives priority funding amid “economic mismanagement”.
“I am concerned that the constant focus on the nuclear issue continues to divert attention from the terrible state of human rights for many millions of North Koreans,” Michelle Bachelet, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement.