In This Review

Pyongyang Republic: North Korea’s Capital of Human Rights Denial
Pyongyang Republic: North Korea’s Capital of Human Rights Denial
By Robert Collins
Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, 2016, 177 pp

The survival of the North Korean regime depends partly on the way it distributes material privileges in a series of rings around a dynastic core. Around 200,000 high-level elites live in central Pyongyang in nearly First World conditions. They must continuously demonstrate absolute loyalty to the ruling Kim dynasty or suffer instant banishment to a labor camp. Midlevel officials are trusted even less, live farther out, and contend with some hunger and cold. In the next ring resides what Collins describes as a “lesser elite,” whose members are grateful for the limited access they enjoy to food, housing, health care, running water, electricity, and heating, because they know about the extreme deprivation suffered by the 85 percent of the population that is not allowed to live in the capital city. Collins describes the system in fascinating detail and identifies two dozen key regime figures who would be prime candidates for U.S. sanctions or international criminal prosecutions if the regime were ever called to account for its human rights violations.