Abductions, torture, starvation and inter-generational imprisonment were all found in testimony given to the UN investigating human rights abuses in North Korea. These punishments and worse were inflicted on citizens simply for watching a foreign drama or having a religious belief, surviving family members told investigators in Seoul and Tokyo.

"We heard from ordinary people who faced torture and imprisonment for doing nothing more than watching foreign soap operas or holding a religious belief," said Michael Kirby, who led the investigation. "Women and men who exercised their human right to leave the [North] and were forcibly repatriated spoke about their experiences of torture, sexual violence, inhumane treatment and arbitrary detention," he said.

One of the most extreme cases of abuse involved a young man imprisoned from birth, who said he lived on rodents, lizards and grass. He also was forced to watch his mother and brother executed. Another young woman was forced to watch as a fellow prisoner was made to drown her own baby in a bucket. Yet another was made to collect and burn bodies of prisoners who died from starvation.

In response, North Korea issued a statement saying the investigation was "fabricated by hostile forces aimed at sabotaging the socialist system of the [North] and defaming it". The UN commission has recommended that the international community take action against leader Kim Jong Un's regime, and hold it responsible for "gross" violations and "potential crimes against humanity".