Kang in 2014
|Revised Romanization||Gang Cheol-hwan|
Kang Chol-Hwan (born July 1969) is a defector from North Korea. As a child he was imprisoned in the Yodok concentration camp for 10 years; after his release he fled the country, first to China and eventually to South Korea. He is the author, with Pierre Rigoulot, of The Aquariums of Pyongyang and is a staff writer for The Chosun Ilbo.
According to his autobiography, Kang was born in Pyongyang, North Korea and spent his childhood there. His family lived in relative luxury owing to his grandfather's position and the fortune he had given to the country upon the family's return from Japan. Though they had never renounced their North Korean citizenship and Kang's grandmother had been a staunch Party member in both countries, Kang has stated that the family remained under a cloud of suspicion for having lived in Japan. In 1977, his grandfather was accused of treason and was sent to the Senghori concentration camp. According to current KCNA, the elder Kang was an agent of the Japanese National Police. As the family of a traitor, Kang and his family were sent to the Yodok concentration camp. Kang was 9 years old; his sister Mi-ho was just 7.
Kang's autobiography describes a brutal life in the camp. Death from starvation or exposure to the elements was a constant threat, and beatings and other punishments were routine. His education consisted almost solely of memorizing the sayings and speeches of Kim Il-sung; at 15 his education ceased and he was assigned to exhausting and dangerous work details, and was made to view public executions. He said of the camps, "It was a life of hard labour, thirty percent of new prisoners would die. And we were so malnourished, we would eat rats and earthworms to survive." Ten years later he and his family were released.
After release from the camp, Kang proceeded with his life and lived for a few years in North Korea. He owned an illegal radio receiver and listened to broadcasts from the South. In 1992, he and fellow Yodok internee An Hyuk escaped from North Korea by crossing the Yalu River into China. Kang then moved from China to South Korea.
After publishing The Aquariums of Pyongyang, Kang met with U.S. President George W. Bush and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and has spoken with several organizations about human rights in North Korea. He has not been in contact with his family since defecting. In 2011, it was revealed that his sister Mi-ho and her 11-year-old son are believed to have returned to Yodok.
- Kang, Chol-Hwan (2001). The Aquariums of Pyongyang. Basic Books, 2001. ISBN 0-465-01102-0.
- "Give Us An 'Eclipse Policy'", The Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2005.
- , 1999-05-06 http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/1999/9905/news05/06.htm, retrieved 2011-07-16 Missing or empty
- "'Life of hard labour' in North Korean camp". BBC News. May 3, 2011.
- 양정아 (2005-06-15), "부시와 면담, 강철환은 누구인가? 함남 요덕 수용소 출신, 現 <북한민주화운동본부> 공동 대표", Daily NK, retrieved 2010-02-26
- Digital Chosunilbo (English Edition) : Daily News in English About Korea
- Daily NK - Foreign Secretary of the UK Jack Straw Meets North Korean Gulag Survivor
- Blogger: Connexion en vue de la lecture
- Republicans Abroad Korea: Kang Chol-hwan reception a success
- http://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/petition_to_unwgad.pdf Petition To: United Nations Working Group On Arbitrary Detention
- "Child Prisoner: Kang Chol-hwan", MSN.com article, October 28, 2003.
- "Bush 'Moved By Defector's Book on N.K. Human Rights'", The Chosun Ilbo, May 29, 2005.
- "Ban Downplays Bush Meeting With N.Korean Author", The Chosun Ilbo, June 15, 2005.
- Refugee Brokers Freedom Collection interview