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North Korea reportedly revises criminal codes

Dec 08,2004
Though North Korea is generally regarded as a dictatorial state, the country does have a long-standing criminal code, and now Pyeongyang is undertaking a number legal reforms to adapt laws to be more market friendly.
According to the National Intelligence Service of South Korea, the North revised its criminal code last spring in an effort to extend rights to private property. North Korea also adopted new clauses protecting intellectual property, copyrights and trademarks, reflecting an intention to attract foreign investment.
“Until now, orders from North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and other leadership members were the law in the North,” an intelligence official said. “But with these revised codes, law enforcement authorities are able to punish its citizens on reinforced legal grounds.”
The new criminal codes alter the punishment handed out for espionage, anti-state terrorism and treason. The revisions indicate that those convicted of plotting to overthrow the government face the most extreme penalties, though the death sentence is not mentioned. In contrast, anti-state propaganda activities will be treated more leniently.
The revised codes also break down the espionage charges into various categories and differentiate punishments depending on the crime.
“It is promising that the North has reshaped its criminal codes,” Jhe Seong-ho, professor of law at Chung-Ang University, said. “But it is questionable if all these changes will actually have any effect on the lives of North Korean citizens.”
Under the revised criminal codes, milder punishments will be handed out to people caught crossing the border illegally, presumably North Koreans fleeing the country for economic reasons. Before the revision, North Korea imposed a maximum of three years’ forced labor on those who tried to cross the border without permission, but the revision trims a year off the sentence. Defectors fleeing to a third country face more than five years of forced labor, suggesting that those who attempt to go to the South will face stiffer punishment.
The North also adopted new clauses to punish prostitution and trade of sexually explicit materials.
North Korea revised its criminal codes in August 1999, which at the time included eight articles and 161 clauses. This year’s revision expanded the codes into nine articles with 303 clauses.


by Lee Young-jong, Ser Myo-ja


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