Human Rights Watch states that the North Korean economy is based on forced, uncompensated labor. Defectors told Human Rights Watch that they were forced to work at an assigned workplace after finishing school and were rarely given compensation for their work.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, stated, "Those who refuse face being sent to forced labor camps where they must do hard labor, face physical abuse from guards, and are treated as less than human.”
Human Rights Watch called for North Korea to join the International Labor Organization (ILO), which would commit the North Korean government to follow the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The Declaration would commit the government to eradicate forced labor, child labor, and respect the right to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
“North Korea should end its holdout and join the International Labor Organization as a first clear step to eradicating forced labor,” said Robertson. “Adopting international standards will also steer the way to end child labor and ensure that childhood is a time for nurturing and learning – instead of toil and abuse.”