North Korean Human Rights Watch Functions


Established to Develop Practical Solutions After Observing Changes inside North Korea and the Will of the International Community

The North Korean Human Rights Watch Functions monitor human rights conventions that North Korea has signed, as well as agreements and the universal human rights agenda that North Korea has accepted as a member of the international community. Additionally, the functions fulfill their roles as monitors by focusing on those cases that cause the most serious damage among all North Korean human rights violation cases. The North Korean Human Rights Watch Functions analyze whether each agenda is being faithfully implemented in North Korea and whether any improvements can be seen in special cases through annual investigations with North Korean escapees who have escaped within the last 5 years. Moreover, they conduct research to ensure that the facts derived from those investigations can lead to further recommendations and improvements to present to the international community (civil society, government, press, etc.).

Monthly briefings conducted in English for those in the international

community interested in learning about North Korean human rights

Since 2013, the NKDB Monthly Briefing has taken place to share insights regarding the state of North Korean human rights with diplomats, foreign correspondents, and various human rights-related international organizations. The briefing, conducted in English by invite only, follows the Chatham House Rule* and shares the latest information about NKDB's activities and North Korean human rights. Following the official briefing, NKDB staff and invited guests are available to answer questions in further detail to provide a more complete understanding of NKDB's work or other specialized topics.

At a basic level, the monthly briefing is held to provide up-to-date information to an English-speaking audience on the research and work of NKDB, its recent publications, and issues worth discussing regarding human rights in North Korea, but it invites speakers and, in some cases, presents on specific topics related to human rights violations in North Korea.

*Chatham House Rule: Information discussed behind closed doors may be discussed in public, but no names may be disclosed.

To prevent the flow of change from slowing,

NKDB provides recent information and explores new methods

The North Korean Human Rights Watchdog Headquarters, established in 2016, not only monitors but also plans new strategies for improving North Korean human rights conditions based on the North Korean authorities, the testimonies given by North Koreans, and interactions with the international community. In 2017, for the first time, the headquarters monitored the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) that North Korea had accepted, to elicit a sense of responsibility through reviewing its implementation in North Korea based on a universal human rights mechanism of the international community and deliver the voices of the North Korean people. In 2018, the headquarters attempted to integrate a discourse regarding development with the human rights agenda through holding a strategic development forum that linked the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) where the international community, government, businesses, and civil society participate with North Korean human rights. Furthermore, the headquarters actively works to provide constructive, practical suggestions for North Korea’s sustainable development by analyzing the correlation between humanitarian support and economic cooperation with North Korea and the human rights conditions in North Korea. 

At this very moment, there are North Koreans escaping from the country. Their testimonies shed light on the country’s internal situation that the North Korean government is determined to conceal. Unlike the negative attitude that North Korea has displayed toward engaging in the UN Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK and the Commission of Inquiry (COI) established only in a monitoring capacity, North Korea has recently taken a relatively cooperative attitude toward engaging in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that suggests common goals to all members of the UN.


Although the internal measures that North Korea has implemented are considered ‘defensive measures’ and ‘only for show,’ this proves that we are in a situation in which we cannot simply remain silent in the face of those North Korean authorities who ignore the recommendations given by the international community and go against the universal values of mankind. The North Korean Human Rights Watch Functions attempt to facilitate these circumstances and protect those North Koreans who currently face human rights violations. To promote the accountability of the North Korean authorities and foment small changes into a strong current, it is imperative to continuously engage in activities that reflect the voices of North Koreans.

"The recommendations received during the first cycle review were given careful and serious consideration from the standpoint of honouring international human rights instruments and taking into account country’s specific conditions, with due attention being paid to taking necessary measures."

UN Human Rights Council, Democratic People's Republic of Korea : National Report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Resolution, January 30, 2014, A/HRC/WG.6/PRK/1, paragraph 4.

The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG

Former Justice of the High Court of Australia

Chair of the UN Human Rights Council's COI on Human Rights Violations in DPRK

In the first tranche of UPR, astonishingly, North Korea rejected all the criticisms and recommendations proposed in the HRC. But under the pressure of the COI report, North Korea began to accept a number of the proposals. The constant refrain of North Korea and its small band of allies was that commissions of inquiry were too political. Inferentially, they wanted the concerns voiced in the HRC to be handled in a more low-key way, such as UPR. They hoped that this would produce more friendly, less critical, observations. But UPR in the case of North Korea turned out to be searching and vigorous. This is why UPR is so important. If North Korea’s defenders in the Security Council prevent the adoption of a resolution, recommended by the COI, referring the case of North Korea to a prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the least that they, and North Korea, must do is to undertake serious and constructive UPR discussions.

This is precisely where the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB) comes in. It is a research NGO within international civil society. It has collected, in its archives, over 65,000 cases of human rights violations in North Korea. It understands, as the COI did, the importance of sticking to reliable sources and cross-checking the information that it gathers. For this monitoring project, it has narrowed down the sample of informants to 100 North Korean refugees who lived in North Korea during the period it has examined. The object is to continue the provision to the HRC, and the other organs of the United Nations and the international community, of authentic voices of the North Korean people. They alone can be trusted to say whether the human rights

situation has improved in North Korea. They are denied an effective political voice by their own government. No one can frustrate access of the voices of North Korea to the United Nations and the world. The Charter of the United Nations was created in the name of the People of the world, everywhere. Those People demand information, access to, and accountability for, grave wrongs. 

This is not a mere statistical exercise. This is not an academic study. It is a project to secure and uphold the human rights of the people living in North Korea. Nothing less will do.

1 July 2017

The Hon. Michael Kirby

Former Justice of the High Court of Australia

Chair of the UN Human Rights Council's COI on Human Rights Violations in DPRK

UN Human Rights Covenants and Conventions that North Korea has Joined

Mobile : Scroll the table from side to side. ←→ 

UN Human Rights Covenant and Agreement that North Korea Joined
The Year of Entry
Status of North Korea Country Report Submission 

    International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights


      Preliminary Report: 1984

     Secondary Report: 2000

      International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


      Preliminary Report: 1984

     Secondary Report: 2002

      Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women


     Preliminary Report: 2002

     Secondary-Fourth Report: 2016

      Convention on the Rights of the Child


     Preliminary Report: 1996

     Secondary Report: 2002

3rd to 4th: 2007

5th: 2016

      Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

2013     Preliminary Report: 2018