May 28 (UPI) -- Murderers could be going unpunished in North Korea where bribes are greasing the wheels of informal commerce, according to a new report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The human rights report that includes descriptions of a "vicious cycle of deprivation, corruption and repression" in North Korea includes testimonies from defectors who say serious crimes are dismissed for suspects with sufficient capital.
People of means in the Kim Jong Un regime can "get away with anything, including murder," one defector said.
The report includes interviews with 214 North Korean escapees. Many said bureaucrats are squeezing the population with demands for bribes. The North Koreans who are being extorted of their earnings are those who make a living in informal markets, according to the report.
The defectors originate from different parts of the North, including Ryanggang and Hamgyong Provinces. They also lived in the border area facing China prior to defecting, Yonhap reported Tuesday.
North Korean diplomats were quick to dismiss the report. The BBC reported Tuesday Pyongyang has rejected the testimonies as "politically motivated" statements made for "sinister purposes."
Michelle Bachelet, the U.N.'s high commissioner for human rights, said the issue is being overshadowed by military matters.
"I am concerned that the constant focus on the nuclear issue continues to divert attention from the terrible state of human rights for many millions of North Koreans," she said.
The U.N. has also said 4 out of 10 North Koreans suffer from chronic food shortages, which continue to occur because Pyongyang prioritizes the military before the food needs of ordinary people. North Koreans are turning to markets because naively following state instructions means starvation, according to one defector.
Bribes are emerging as a key feature of the informal economy at a time when the regime is seeking increased investments from abroad.
South Korea's foreign ministry said Tuesday North Korea has increased the number promotional website urging outsiders to invest in the country.
The ministry also said the most widely read paper in the North is the Rodong Sinmun, and news agency KCNA is perceived as "less accessible" for everyday people, according to Seoul Pyongyang News.