Beyond the Handshake: What Life Is Really Like in North Korea

Most North Korean workers earn between $2 and $3 per month.

North Korea isn’t dismantling its nuclear arsenal overnight, but the meeting between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday in Singapore was nonetheless groundbreaking.

It was the first time sitting heads of state from the two countries had ever met, and it brought about the possibility of a broader peace agreement that could ease tensions in the region and diminish the risk of nuclear war, according to the New York Times.

“We’re very proud of what took place today,” Trump said during a press conference with Kim. “I think our whole relationship with North Korea and the Korean Peninsula is going to be a very much different situation than it has in the past.”

Beyond the overtures of camaraderie and vigorous handshakes, however, a lot is riding on the negotiations for the people of North Korea, who live in one of the poorest countries in the world, lack basic human rights, and face widespread abuses.

Many human rights groups were disappointed by Trump’s failure to bring up issues like slave labor, torture, and starvation during the summit, according to Voice of America.

"We're talking here about one of the most repressive governments in the world, which the UN has found culpable in committing crimes against humanity against its own people — so pushing human rights off the summit table is neither responsible nor ethical," Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch (HRW) told VOA.

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