North Korea's Kim Jong-un
North Korea is sometimes more free than the United States, according to Republican Mike HuckerbeeReuters file photo

From the outside, North Korea seems a secretive and totalitarian state - but that impression is misleading, according to potential Republican presidential nominee Mike Huckabee.

The American politician joked the nuclear-capable state, which a United Nations inquiry claims is committing human rights abuses that resemble those of the Nazis, was sometimes more frree than the United States.

He made the claims while discussing stringent US airport security checks, which he complained were over-zealous, at the New Hampshire Freedom Summit.

Mike Huckabee
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee joked North Korea sometimes had more freedoms than the United StatesREUTERS

According to MSNBC, Huckabee said: "My gosh, I'm beginning to think that there's more freedom in North Korea sometimes than there is in the United States.

"When I go to the airport, I have to get in the surrender position, people put hands all over me, and I have to provide photo ID and a couple of different forms and prove that I really am not going to terrorise the airplane – but if I want to go vote I don't need a thing."

The former Arkansas governor was appearing alongside fellow potential nominees Ted Cruz and Rand Paul in the election bellwether state.

The event was seen as a start in the Republican party's primary campaign that will eventually see the party select a nominee to go up against a Democrat counterpart for election to the White House in 2016.

North Korea - More free than the United States?

A satellite image from Kwanliso 16,the largest political prison camp in North Korea (Amnesty International)
A satellite image from Kwanliso 16,the largest political prison camp in North KoreaAmnesty International

A recent report into human rights in North Korea outlined what it believed to be conditions that amounted to crimes against humanity.

Some of its main conclusions included:

  • between 80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners are still held in prison camps, despite the country denying they existed
  • prisoners in the camps faced systematic torture, executions and rape
  • a death toll of between 200,000 and 3 million citizens through starvation since the 1990s
  • an "absolute monopoly" over information and total control of organised social life
  • severe restrictions whereby citizens can only live within the country

The United States, on the other hand, has also faced criticisim over its human rights record, with detractors pointing to the recent NSA spying scandal, the Iraq war and its failure to sign up fully to the International Criminal Court.