The North Korean government has hardened its policy towards its citizens it catches crossing the border into China without state permission, or whom China has forcibly repatriated. Until around November 2004 those who crossed the border—often to find food—were typically released after questioning or served at most a few months in forced labor camps, a relatively light punishment by North Korean standards for what is considered an act of treason. Recent interviews by Human Rights Watch show that this relative leniency is over: in late 2004 North Korea announced a new policy of harshly punishing border crossers with prison sentences of up to five years. Anyone imprisoned in North Korea is liable to face abusive conditions including beatings, forced labor, and starvation far worse than among the population at large.
ISBN: March 2007, No. 1