Yodok concentration camp

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Yodok concentration camp
Chosŏn'gŭl 요덕 제15호 관리소
Hancha 耀
Revised Romanization Yodeok Je Sipo-ho Gwalliso
McCune–Reischauer Yodŏk Che Sibo-ho Kwalliso
Chosŏn'gŭl 요덕 정치범수용소
Hancha 耀
Revised Romanization Yodeok Jeongchibeum Suyongso
McCune–Reischauer Yodŏk Chŏngch'ibŏm Suyongso

Yodok concentration camp (also romanized Yodŏk, Yodeok, or Yoduk) is a political prison camp in North Korea. The official name is Kwan-li-so (penal labor colony) No. 15. The camp is used to segregate those seen as hostile to the regime, punish them for political misdemeanors,[1] and exploit them with hard labor.[2]

Location[edit]

Yodok concentration camp is located in North Korea
Pyongyang
Pyongyang
Yodok
Yodok
Location of Yodok camp in North Korea

Yodok camp is about 110 km (68 mi) northeast of Pyongyang.[3] It is located in Yodok county, South Hamgyong province, stretching into the valley of the Ipsok River, surrounded by mountains: Paek-san 1,742 m (5,715 ft) to the north, Modo-san 1,833 m (6,014 ft) to the northwest, Tok-san 1,250 m (4,100 ft) to the west, and Byeongpung-san 1,152 m (3,780 ft) to the south.[4] The entrance to the valley is the 1,250 m (4,100 ft) Chaebong Pass to the east. The streams from the valleys of these mountains form the Ipsok River, which flows downstream into the Yonghung River and eventually into the sea near Wonsan city.[5]

Description[edit]

Yodok camp has two parts:[4]

  • The total control zone (Chosŏn'gŭl: 특별독재대상구역), with the prison labor colonies Pyongchang-ri and Yongpyong-ri, is for people who authorities believe have committed crimes against the regime or who have been denounced as politically unreliable (e.g. returnees from Japan or Christians).[6] These prisoners are never released.[7] The Christian mission organization Open Doors estimates 6,000 Christians to be held in the camp.[8]
  • The revolutionary zone (Chosŏn'gŭl: 혁명화대상구역), with reeducation camps Ipsok-ri, Kuup-ri and Daesuk-ri, is to punish people for less serious political crimes (e.g. illegally leaving the country, listening to South Korean broadcasts, or criticizing government policy). These prisoners are eventually released after serving their sentences.[9]

In the 1990s, the total control zone had an estimated 30,000 prisoners while the smaller revolutionary zone had about 16,500 prisoners;[5] recent satellite images, however, indicate a significant increase in the camp's scale.[10] Most prisoners are deported to Yodok without trial, or following grossly unfair trials, on the basis of confessions obtained through torture. People are often imprisoned together with family members and close relatives, including small children and the elderly,[11] based on guilt by association (Sippenhaft).[12]

The camp is around 378 km2 (146 sq mi) in area.[13] It is surrounded by a barbed-wire fence 3–4 m (9.8–13.1 ft) tall and walls with electric wire and watchtowers at regular intervals. The camp is patrolled by 1,000 guards with automatic rifles and guard dogs.[5]

In 2004, Fuji TV aired what it said was footage[14] showing scenes from the camp.

Conditions in the camp[edit]

Living conditions[edit]

The prisoners live in dusty huts with walls made of dried mud, a roof (rotten and leaking) made of straw laid on wooden planks, and a floor covered with straw and dry plant mats.[15] In a room of around 50 m2 (540 sq ft), 30–40 prisoners sleep on a bed made of a wooden board covered with a blanket.[16] Most huts are not heated, even in winter, where temperatures are below −20 °C (−4 °F),[5] and most prisoners get frostbite and have swollen limbs during the winter.[17] Camp inmates also suffer from pneumonia, tuberculosis, pellagra, and other diseases, with no available medical treatment.[18]

New prisoners receive clothes that predecessors had worn until their death.[19] Most clothes are dirty, worn-out, and full of holes.[20] Prisoners have no proper shoes, socks, or gloves, and usually no spare clothes.[21] The dead are buried naked because their possessions are taken by other prisoners.[22] All prisoners are covered with a thick layer of dirt, as they are overworked and have almost no opportunity to wash themselves or their clothes.[12] As a result, the prisoners’ huts are foul-smelling and infested with lice, fleas, and other insects.[23] Prisoners have to queue in front of dirty community toilets, one for every 200 prisoners,[24] using dry leaves for cleaning.[25]

The camp guards make prisoners report on each other and designate specific ones as foremen to control a group. If one person does not work hard enough, the whole group is punished. This creates animosity among the detainees, destroys any solidarity, and forces them to create a system of self-surveillance.[15]

Slave Labour[edit]

Men, women, and children perform hard labor seven days a week[26] and are treated as slaves.[27] Labor operations include a gypsum quarry and a gold mine, textile plants, distilleries, a coppersmith workshop,[5] agriculture, and logging. Dangerous work accidents often occur.[28]

Work shifts in summer start at 4 a.m. and end at 8 p.m.[10] Work shifts in other seasons start at 5:30 a.m., but are often extended past 8 p.m. when work quotas are not met, even when dark.[29] After dinner, prisoners are required to attend ideological education and struggle sessions from 9 to 11 p.m., where inmates who do not meet the targets are severely criticized and beaten.[12] If prisoners cannot memorize the instructions given by Kim Il-sung, they are not allowed to sleep, or their food rations are reduced.[10]

Most of the primary school children attend school in the morning. The main subject is the history of revolution of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.[30] In the afternoon they carry out hard labor with very high work quotas in terms of amount and intensity. Children are beaten with a stick for failure to meet the day's quota.[29] Primary school children have to carry heavy logs 12 times a day over 4 km (2.5 mi)[31] or dung buckets of 30 kg (66 lb) 30 times a day.[32] Other child works involve collecting 20 kg (44 lb) of plants in the mountains or cultivating 130–200 m2 (1,400–2,200 sq ft) of field.[33] Sometimes children die in work accidents.[34] Older children have to work all day, and from age 16 are assigned the same work quotas as adults.[29]

Malnutrition[edit]

Prisoners are constantly kept on the verge of starvation.[35] The daily rations for prisoners are between 100 and 200 g (3.5 and 7.1 oz) of corn boiled into gruel, served three times a day.[36] Depending on the agricultural produce of the year, rations can be less.[37] If prisoners do not finish their daily work quota or violate minor rules, the daily rations are reduced or temporarily discontinued,[38] no matter if they are sick, crippled, or disabled.[39] Prisoners eat whatever wild animals they can catch, including rats, snakes, frogs, salamanders, worms, and insects,[40] though they are severely punished if seen doing so by the guards.[41] To avoid being detected, they mostly eat the meat raw, often without removing the skin.[42] Wild animals are the only source of meat or fat, as the food rations lack both meat and plant oil.[43] Some prisoners sneak into the pigsties and steal pig slops[44] or pick undigested corn kernels out of animal feces to survive.[45]

Lee Young-kuk estimates that end of the 1990s, around 20% of prisoners in Daesuk-ri died from malnutrition each year, with new prisoners arriving each month.[5] All former prisoners say they frequently saw people dying.[36]

Human rights violations[edit]

Torture[edit]

The following torture methods are described in testimonies of former prisoners:

  • “Pigeon torture”:[46] The prisoner’s arms are tied behind his back, his legs tied together, and he is hung from the ceiling for several days.[47]
  • Forced water ingestion: The prisoner is strapped to a table and forced to drink large amounts of water. Guards then jump on a board laid on the swollen stomach to force the water out.[12]
  • Immersion in water: A plastic bag is placed over the prisoner’s head and he is submerged in water for long periods of time.[12]
  • Beatings: Prisoners are beaten every day if work quotas were not met,[48] if they do not kneel down quickly enough before the guards, or just for the sake of humiliation.[49] Prisoners often become disabled or die from the beatings.[19] Even children are severely beaten[50] and tormented.[51]

Prisoners are completely at the guards’ mercy; guards can abuse them without restraint. Former prisoners witnessed a man being tied by the neck to a vehicle and dragged for long distances[19] and a primary school child being beaten and kicked hard on his head.[52] In both cases, the prisoners died soon after.

Executions[edit]

Prisoners who violate camp rules (e.g. steal food or attempt to escape) are usually executed in public (barring those already shot).[48] Summary executions[53] take place in front of assembled prisoners several times each year;[54] and every former prisoner testifies to having witnessed them.[55] Before the execution, the prisoners are tortured and denied food.[56] Those forced to watch the execution often cannot endure the scene without protest and are killed as well.[19]

A more common method of killing singled-out prisoners is to assign them an impossible workload. When the work is not finished, the prisoner's food rations are reduced as punishment. Eventually, the combination of heavy work and less food leads to death by starvation.[57]

Prisoners released from Yodok are forced to abide by a written oath with a hand stamp. The pledge reads: “I will face execution if I reveal the secrets of Yodok.”[58]

Abuse and forced abortions[edit]

Women in the camp are completely unprotected against sexual assaults by the guards.[59] Prisoners are often ordered to strip naked to be beaten and harassed,[19] and a former prisoner said that it is routine for guards to sexually abuse female prisoners.[60] The women sometimes die after being raped.[19] Pregnant women are usually given forced abortions.[61]

Demand for closure[edit]

Amnesty International summarize the human rights situation in Yodok camp: "Men, women and children in the camp face forced hard labour, inadequate food, beatings, totally inadequate medical care and unhygienic living conditions. Many fall ill while in prison, and a large number die in custody or soon after release." The organization demands the immediate closure of Yodok and all other political prison camps in North Korea.[16] The demand is supported by the International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea, a coalition of over 40 human rights organizations.[62]

Prisoners (Witnesses)[edit]

  • Kang Chol-hwan (in Yodok 1977–1987) was imprisoned as 9-year-old child because his family returned from Japan and was considered politically unreliable.[11]
  • An Hyuk (in Yodok 1987–1989) was imprisoned at the age of 18 because he illegally left North Korea.[29]
  • Kim Tae-jin (in Yodok 1988–1992) was also imprisoned at age 18 because he illegally left North Korea.[63]
  • Lee Young-kuk (in Yodok 1995–1999), former bodyguard of Kim Jong-il, was kidnapped from China and imprisoned because he illegally left North Korea and criticized the country.[64]
  • Kim Eun-cheol (in Yodok 2000–2003) was imprisoned at the age of 19 because he illegally left North Korea.[65] He was part of a group of seven refugees repatriated by Russia; the United Nations granted them refugee status but failed to protect them.[66]
  • South Korean citizens Shin Suk-ja and her daughters Oh Hae-won and Oh Kyu-won (in Yodok since 1987, when the daughters were ages 9 and 11) were imprisoned because her husband Oh Kil-nam did not return from a stay abroad.[67] The family had been lured from Germany on North Korean agents’ false promises two years prior.[68] Kang Chol-hwan and An Hyuk testified to meeting Shin Suk-ja during their imprisonment.[69]
  • South Korean citizen Jeong Sang-un (in Yodok since 2010) is an unrepatriated Korean War prisoner and was imprisoned at age 84 for illegally leaving North Korea.[70]

Literature/Musical/Film[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "North Korea: A case to answer – a call to act". Christian Solidarity Worldwide. June 20, 2007. pp. 25–26. Retrieved December 7, 2011. 
  2. ^ "North Korea: A case to answer – a call to act". Christian Solidarity Worldwide, June 20, 2007. pp. 44–45. Retrieved December 7, 2011. 
  3. ^ Robinson, Martin (September 20, 2011). "Hell on earth': Detailed satellite photos show death camps North Korea still deny even exist". The Daily Mail (London). Retrieved April 15, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "The Hidden Gulag – Satellite imagery: Kwan-li-so No. 15 Yodok Partial Overview". The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. p. 197. Retrieved September 14, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f "The Hidden Gulag: Testimony Kwan-li-so No. 15 Yodok". The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. pp. 52–56. Retrieved September 14, 2012. 
  6. ^ "A Christian Family Detained for life for Praying". The Daily NK, October 14, 2005. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  7. ^ "End horror of North Korean political prison camps". Amnesty International. May 4, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2011. 
  8. ^ "World Watch List 2013". Open Doors. January 6, 2013. Retrieved January 9, 2013. 
  9. ^ "North Korea: Political Prison Camps". Amnesty International. May 4, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c "Images reveal scale of North Korean political prison camps". Amnesty International. May 3, 2011. Retrieved November 24, 2011. 
  11. ^ a b "Child prisoner: Kang Chol Hwan". NBC News, January 15, 2003. Retrieved November 21, 2011. 
  12. ^ a b c d e "North Korea: Political Prison Camps". Amnesty International. May 4, 2011. Retrieved November 24, 2011. 
  13. ^ Harden, Blaine (July 20, 2009). "North Koreas Hard Labor Camps with interactive map". Washington Post, July 20, 2009. Retrieved November 24, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Yodok Concentration Camp - North Korea". LiveLeak. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  15. ^ a b "Inside North Korea's gulag". The Independent, February 18, 2006. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  16. ^ a b "End horror of North Korean political prison camps". Amnesty International. May 4, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Prisoners Forced to Work at a Frozen River during the Winter". The Daily NK, February 14, 2006. Retrieved November 24, 2011. 
  18. ^ "North Korea's Political Prison Camp". International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea. October 13, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
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  22. ^ "Prisoners Steal the Leftover Possessions of Dead Prisoners". The Daily NK, February 10, 2006. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Prisoners Harassed by Lice under Extremely Unsanitary Conditions". The Daily NK, February 23, 2006. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  24. ^ "Speak out for the 50,000 forgotten prisoners of Yodok, North Korea". Amnesty International Australia, August 9, 2011. Retrieved May 15, 2012. 
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  26. ^ Robinson, Martin (September 20, 2011). "'Hell on earth': Detailed satellite photos show death camps North Korea still deny even exist". Daily Mail, September 20, 2011 (London). Retrieved December 7, 2011. 
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  38. ^ "The physical appearance of typical prisoners". The Daily NK, January 31, 2006. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
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  40. ^ "Prisoners Eating Salamanders, Frogs and Anything Else To Stay Alive". The Daily NK, October 25, 2005. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
  41. ^ "Prisoners Catching Rats for Survival". The Daily NK, February 21, 2006. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
  42. ^ "Children in North Korean Concentration Camps – 2". Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, December 20, 2007. Retrieved January 17, 2014. 
  43. ^ "North Korea's Political Prison Camp". International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea. October 13, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
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  51. ^ "Cruel Punishment for Children". The Daily NK, October 30, 2005. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  52. ^ "A Child Kicked into a Dung Bucket and Beaten to Death". The Daily NK, November 3, 2005. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
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  54. ^ "North Korea: A case to answer – a call to act". Christian Solidarity Worldwide, June 20, 2007. pp. 36–37. Retrieved December 7, 2011. 
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  56. ^ "Child prisoner: Kang Chol Hwan". NBC News, October 28, 2003. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  57. ^ Tran, Mark (November 4, 2009). "North Korean defectors tell of torture and beatings". The Guardian, November 4, 2009 (London). Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  58. ^ "After Repatriation: Three Years in Yodok". Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, December 20, 2007. Retrieved January 17, 2014. 
  59. ^ "A Well-founded Fear: Punishment and Labor Camps in North Korea". Human Rights Watch, November 19, 2002. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  60. ^ "N. Korean Security Turns to Sexual Abuse, Seduction". Chosun Ilbo, March 16, 2010. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  61. ^ "Concentrations of Inhumanity". Freedom House, May 2007. pp. 53–59. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  62. ^ "ICNK Letter To Kim Jong Il". International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea. October 13, 2011. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  63. ^ "North Korea Prison Camp Survivors Speak at UN Meeting". Christian Post, 10. April 2005. Retrieved November 21, 2011. 
  64. ^ Macintyre, Donald (February 18, 2002). "The Supremo in His Labyrinth". Time Magazine, February 11, 2002. Retrieved November 21, 2011. 
  65. ^ "After Repatriation: Three Years in Yodok". Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, December 20, 2007. Retrieved January 17, 2014. 
  66. ^ Sang-Hun, Choe (May 31, 2007). "An escapee tells of life and death in North Korea's labor camps". The New York Times, May 31, 2007. Retrieved December 6, 2011. 
  67. ^ "Document – North Korea: Summary of Amnesty International's concerns: 2.2 Shin Sook Ja and her daughters". Amnesty International, October 12, 1993. Retrieved November 21, 2011. 
  68. ^ Harden, Blaine (February 22, 2010). "A family and a conscience, destroyed by North Korea's cruelty". Washington Post, February 22, 2010. Retrieved September 27, 2011. 
  69. ^ "아내·두 딸을 북한에 두고 탈출한 오길남 박사", Chosun Ilbo, September 3, 2009, retrieved February 25, 2010 
  70. ^ "North Korea: Elderly prisoner's life at risk in North Korea: Jeong Sang-un". Amnesty International, August 19, 2010. Retrieved November 21, 2011. 
  71. ^ "The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag". Brothers Judd Book Reviews, July 22, 2005. Retrieved November 24, 2011. 
  72. ^ "Yoduk Story: Promotion Clip". yodukstory, 2006. Retrieved November 22, 2011. 
  73. ^ "Yodok Stories: The Movie". Piraya Film, 2009. Retrieved November 22, 2011. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°40′27″N 126°51′05″E / 39.674163°N 126.851406°E / 39.674163; 126.851406