All men and women of working age are required to work, and all economic activity is run by the state. The government provides any medical, pension, or other welfare program to the workers. The country relies heavily on international aid for basic subsistence.
The 1992 constitution guarantees equal rights for women. The state provides nurseries and day-care centers, and large families are encouraged. Like men, women are obligated by law to work, although few occupy high official positions. Women with large families are entitled to shorter work hours. Female workers are legally guaranteed five weeks of maternity leave. A UNICEF official reported that some 800,000 north Korean children were suffering from malnutrition and about 80,000 were in danger of dying from hunger and disease.
The government rejects international human rights standards, and human rights organizations are not permitted to operate. Dissent is not tolerated, and capital punishment is meted out for a wide variety of offenses, including attempted defection.
The government classifies all citizens into three groups: core, wavering and hostile. These security ratings reflect the perceived degree of loyalty exhibited by citizens. These ratings may be taken into account in the allocation of housing, employment, medical and other benefits. All citizens are subjected to extensive indoctrination. Listening to foreign broadcasts or possession of banned reading materials are punishable by death. Travel within the country is also strictly controlled. Travel passes must be requested for intervillage travel.