North Korea
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  • North Korea is forcing its youth into "back-breaking" hard labour, Human Rights Watch said.
  • Conditions are harsh and dangerous, and people work for long periods of time with little or no pay.
  • The rights group said North Korea's practices violate international labor law and human rights law.
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North Korea is forcing its youth into "back-breaking" labour at mines, farms, and construction sites, Human Rights Watch said in a report on Thursday.

The rights group said conditions are often harsh and dangerous, and people work for long periods of time with little or no pay. North Korea's economy was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the government believes the labour will increase domestic production, the report said.

The rights group alleged North Korea's brutal practices violate international labour law and human rights law.

The government, meanwhile, framed the labour as "volunteer" work. But refusing to participate can end in punishments like torture and prison, the rights group said.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un visited with some of the young people this week and praised them for "volunteering to work at the most difficult and challenging posts," KCNA Watch reported.

His words follow an order from April 2021 aimed to crack down on "words, acts, hairstyles, and attires of young people" that the government opposes, according to KCNA Watch. Human Rights Watch said young people were also told to stop watching, reading, and listening to unapproved videos and to not show any admiration for a South Korean lifestyle.

Young people were also told to embrace North Korean leadership, the rights group said, and follow along with government propaganda.

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