Definition of Youth

According to a 2012 human rights report, the membership of the Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League (KSYL) – North Korea’s main youth organisation – defines youth as aged 15-26, however members can join as young as 14 and can remain until they are 30.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • --
  • --
  • Female
  • 17
  • --
  • --

  • No data for marriage with parental consent. No specific legislation for same-sex marriage. Homosexual acts are legal. Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Source:  Criminal Law of North Korea

Majority Age


Voting Age


Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • 100.00% Male (15-24) %
  • 100.00% Female (15-24) %

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • --Male %
  • -- Female %
  • Year: No data.
  • Source: UNESCO

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • -- Male (13-15) %
  • -- Female (13-15) %
  • Year: No data.
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
human rights report gives a brief description of youth policies, how­ever information is still limited.

According to a 2012 study by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea,  

The [Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League] coordinates the national youth policy of [North Korea] together with youth-serving ministries, such as the Ministry of Education. The KSYL plays an important role in the planning, implementation and evaluation of this national youth policy and serves as a national youth platform to link both the governmental and youth-related organisations and activities in this over-all national youth policy.

This “national youth policy” is not fully elaborated in the report, nor is it mentioned anywhere else online. KSYL organises youth in production, construction, military service, and ideological training, however it is unclear if these activities operate under an overarching youth policy.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
It is unclear if there is a governmental agency responsible for youth. In a 2012 human rights study, the Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League (KSYL) is described as coordinating all youth-related policies along with other ministries, such as the Ministry of Education. However, it is also a membership-based mass organisation, belonging directly under the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League (KSYL) is North Korea’s largest and most politically active mass organisation. According to a 2012 human rights study, young people between ages 15 and 26 are eligible to join, and as of 2012, KSYL consisted of approximately five million young people. It is unclear the extent to which it is a membership organisation or a governmental entity, as it coordinates youth involvement in production, construction, military and ideological training. It is also unclear what role it plays (if any) as a youth representation structure.

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
No documentation on the budget for youth in North Korea could be found online. The World Bank does not calculate spending on education as a percentage of government expenditure or GDP for North Korea from 2000.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed May 2014).

Additional Background

From Report on the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (2014):  
The rights to food, freedom from hunger and to life in the context of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cannot be reduced to a narrow discussion of food shortages and access to a commodity. The State has used food as a means of control over the population. It has prioritized those whom the authorities believe to be crucial in maintaining the regime over those deemed expendable. [...]
During the period of famine, ideological indoctrination was used in order to maintain the regime, at the cost of seriously aggravating hunger and starvation. The concealment of information prevented the population from finding alternatives to the collapsing public distribution system. It also delayed international assistance that, provided earlier, could have saved many lives. Despite the State’s inability to provide its people with adequate food, it maintained laws and controls effectively criminalizing people’s use of key coping mechanisms, particularly moving within or outside the country in search of food and trading or working in informal markets.
Even during the worst period of mass starvation, the State impeded the delivery of food aid by imposing conditions that were not based on humanitarian considerations. International humanitarian agencies were subject to restrictions contravening humanitarian principles. Aid organizations were prevented from properly assessing humanitarian needs and monitoring the distribution of aid. The State denied humanitarian access to some of the most affected regions and groups, including homeless children. [...]
Gross human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea involving detention, executions and disappearances are characterized by a high degree of centralized coordination between different parts of the extensive security apparatus. The State Security Department, the Ministry of People’s Security and the Korean People’s Army Military Security Command regularly subject persons accused of political crimes to arbitrary arrest and subsequent incommunicado detention for prolonged periods of time. Their families are not informed of their fate or whereabouts. Persons accused of political crimes therefore become victims of enforced disappearance. Making the suspect disappear is a deliberate feature of the system that serves to instil fear in the population. [...]
In the political prison camps of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the inmate population has been gradually eliminated through deliberate starvation, forced labour, executions, torture, rape and the denial of reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide. The commission estimates that hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have perished in these camps over the past five decades. The unspeakable atrocities that are being committed against inmates of the kwanliso political prison camps resemble the horrors of camps that totalitarian States established during the twentieth century.
From Coercion, Control, Surveillance, and Punishment: An Examination of the North Korean Police State (2012):  
Article 79 of the North Korean Constitution stipulates that “Citizens are guaranteed inviolability of the person and the home and privacy of correspondence,” and “No citizens can be placed under control or be arrested, nor can their homes be searched without a legal warrant.” In fact, however, North Korean authorities routinely violate this article and have established a system dedicated to its violation.
Following Kim Il-sung’s death in 1994, his son Kim Jong-il assumed power and his dictates over-ruled the Supreme Law. The Korean Bar Association has pointed out that in North Korea, the hierarchy of “law” is: Kim Jong-il’s and Kim Il-sung’s words, Workers’ Party instructions, the Socialist Constitution, other statutory laws, and finally rules and regulations. The security agencies serve only the leader himself; their severe methods of coercion and control are not in service of law, or of the people of the nation.
Under the Kim regime, there is no representation of the will of the people, either as individuals or as a collective group. Kim Jong-il had the means to operate the government based on clandestine rules and orders based on his personal whim, unchecked. While Kim Jong-un may be more dependent on a collective support network, all initial indications are that he will run the regime in a similar manner. Why this system of clandestine control leads to human rights violations may be readily apparent to those who live in free societies. The will of the nation’s people is neither represented in a freely elected legislative body nor in an elected executive authority; furthermore, there is no independent judiciary, so the people have no way to guarantee their rights or insist on governmental responsiveness to their concerns. [...]
North Korea revised its Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Law in 2004 and 2005 reportedly to clarify legal procedures and guidelines governing interrogations, arrests, sentencing, and detentions. Some have seen this move as an attempt by the regime to respond to international condemnation of human rights. It is unclear, however, whether this move has made any difference in how the legal system actually operates. Secret political trials are still held and unpublished rules continue to sanction the disappearance of individuals deemed a threat to the regime. Evidence of public executions persists, as does a host of other abuses that take place, especially in the political prison camps.
  From White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea (2009):  
With the collapse of the Socialist economic bloc on which North Korea had depended, the North Korean economy began to collapse, and stagnate, from the early 1990s onward. The production plans and distribution systems based on centrally directed economic plans were for most purposes paralyzed, and North Koreans began to experience extreme food shortage and economic hardship. In addition, natural disasters struck North Korea in the summer of 1995, creating a major humanitarian crisis. Shortly after, North Korea requested relief aid from the international community. In fact, food rations normally provided by the government had to be suspended in parts of North Korea starting in the early 1990s, and people had begun looking for food on their own. As a result, many individuals began to engage in a variety of buying and selling activities in the streets and markets. However, private business activities were illegal at the time, and many had to face penalties and punishment or run from the law. In the process, law enforcement authorities tried to control illegal peddling activities while people were trying to do whatever they had to do to survive, hence the rapid increases in social misdemeanors and deviant behaviors. To maintain law and order, the authorities initiated heavier penalties and punishments to address the situation. This vicious cycle contributed to a further degradation of citizens’ fundamental human rights. [...]
All North Koreans are required to join various organizations from the age of six to retirement. [...] But social organizations are not interest groups or pressure groups in the Western sense. They are instead, as explained in Article 56, Part 9 of the party by-laws, party auxiliary organizations that faithfully fulfill the orders of the [Workers’ Party of Korea], and function as transmission belts between the party and people.
The main purpose of social organizations is to support the party and to facilitate loyalty to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Consequently, all social organizations in North Korea play the role of external arms of the Party, which will speak for the rights of their members, and carry out the duty as the frontline organizations of the Party’s ideology education. These social organizations act as primary control mechanisms over the people and also serve as a means of mobilizing people for mass rallies and marches at national events (i.e., movements to accomplish the goals of authorities; movements to increase productivity, such as the Chollima [flying horse] Movement; and the birthdays of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il). What the defectors most disliked in North Korea was the lack of individual freedom. All citizens were required to join various organizations, including the one in his workplace, and they had to attend collective life or political education sessions twice a week. Being absent from these meetings resulted in reprimands, and in extreme cases banishment to the provinces.