Prisons in North Korea

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Conditions inside North Korean prison camps are unsanitary and life-threatening.[1][2][3][4] Prisoners are subject to torture and inhumane treatment.[5] Public and secret executions of prisoners, even children, especially in cases of attempted escape, are commonplace.[6] Infanticides (and infant killings upon birth)[7] also often occur. The mortality rate is very high, because many prisoners die of starvation,[8] illnesses,[9] work accidents, or torture.[10]

The DPRK government denies all allegations of human rights violations in prison camps, claiming that this is prohibited by criminal procedure law,[11] but former prisoners testify that there are completely different rules in the prison camps.[12] The DPRK government has released no information on prisoners or prison camps and has not allowed access to any human rights organizations.[13] According to a North Korean defector, North Korea considered inviting a delegation of the UN Commission on Human Rights to visit the Yodok prison camp in 1996.[14]

Lee Soon-ok gave detailed testimony on her treatment in the North Korean prison system to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary in 2002. In her statement she said, "I testify that most of the 6,000 prisoners who were there when I arrived in 1987 had quietly perished under the harsh prison conditions by the time I was released in 1992."[15] Many other former prisoners, including Kang Chol-hwan and Shin Dong-hyuk, gave detailed and consistent testimonies on the human rights crimes in North Korean prison camps.

According to the testimony of former camp guard Ahn Myong-chol of Camp 22, the guards are trained to treat the detainees as sub-human. He gave an account of children in one camp who were fighting over corn retrieved from cow dung.[16]

North Korean prison camps are of two types: large internment camps for political prisoners (Kwan-li-so in Korean) and reeducation prison camps (Kyo-hwa-so in Korean).[17]

Internment camps for political prisoners[edit]

Political prison camps in North Korea
Map of the location of political prison camps (kwanliso) and ordinary prison camps (kyohwaso) in North Korea. Map issued in 2014 by the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK, under the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The internment camps for people accused of political offences or denounced as politically unreliable are run by the State Security Department. Political prisoners were historically subject to the family responsibility principle, where immediate family members of a convicted political criminal were also regarded as political criminals and interned. However, since 1994 there has been a near-abandonment of this family responsibility principle.[18][19]

The internment camps are located in central and northeastern North Korea. They comprise many prison labour colonies in secluded mountain valleys, completely isolated from the outside world. The total number of prisoners is estimated to be 150,000 to 200,000.[20] Yodok camp and Pukchang camp are separated into two sections: One section for political prisoners in lifelong detention, another part similar to re-education camps with prisoners sentenced to long-term imprisonment with the vague hope of eventual release.

The prisoners are forced to perform hard and dangerous slave work with primitive means in mining and agriculture. The food rations are very small, so that the prisoners are constantly on the brink of starvation. In combination with the hard work this leads to huge numbers of prisoners dying. An estimated 40% of prisoners die from malnutrition.[21]

Moreover, many prisoners are crippled from work accidents, frostbite or torture. There is a rigid punishment regime in the camps. Prisoners who work too slowly or do not obey an order are beaten or tortured.[22] In cases of stealing food or attempting to escape, the prisoners are publicly executed.

Initially there were around twelve political prison camps, but some were merged or closed (e. g. Onsong prison camp, Kwan-li-so No. 12, following a suppressed riot with around 5000 dead people in 1987[23]). Today there are six political prison camps in North Korea, with the size determined from satellite images[24] and the number of prisoners estimated by former prisoners.[25] Most of the camps are documented in testimonies of former prisoners and, for all of them, coordinates and satellite images are available.

Camps[edit]

Political Prison Camp Official Name Location Prisoners Comments Current Status
Onsong Political Prison Camp Kwan-li-so No. 12 Onsong, North Hamgyong 15,000 Site of a prisoner riot where 5,000 prisoners rioted and either all or only a third were killed Currently closed since 1989
Kaechon Political Prison Camp Kwan-li-so No. 14 Kaechon, South Pyongan 50,000 Shin Dong-hyuk testimony Currently open and possibly being expanded[26]
Yodok Political Prison Camp Kwan-li-so No. 15 Yodok County, South Hamgyong 50,000 Kang Chol-hwan testinmony Currently closed since 2014
Hwasong Political Prison Camp Kwan-li-so No. 16 Hwasong County, North Hamgyong 20,000 Three times the size of Washington D.C. Currently open
Pukchang Political Prison Camp Kwan-li-so No. 18 Pukchang County, South Pyongan 50,000 Kim Yong testimony Either reopened with a new security perimeter or now merged with camp 14.
Hoeryong Political Prison Camp Kwan-li-so No. 22 Hoeryong, North Hamgyong 50,000 Ahn Myong-chol testimony Currently closed since 2012
Chongjin Political Prison Camp Kwan-li-so No. 25 Chongjin, North Hamgyong 5,000 Jin Gyeong-suk was abducted from China and was reportedly taken to camp 25. Currently open

Accounts[edit]

The South Korean journalist Kang Chol-hwan is a former prisoner of Yodok Political Prison Camp and has written a book, The Aquariums of Pyongyang, about his time in the camp.[27] The South Korean human rights activist Shin Dong-hyuk is the only person known to have escaped from Kaechon Political Prison Camp. He gave an account of his time in the camp.[28]

Reeducation camps[edit]

The reeducation camps for criminals are run by the Ministry of People's Security. There is a fluent passage between common crimes and political crimes, as people who get on the bad side of influential party members are often denounced on false accusations. They are then forced into false confessions with brutal torture in detention centers (Lee Soon-ok for example had to kneel down whilst being showered with water at icy temperatures with other prisoners, of whom six did not survive[29]) and are then condemned in a brief show trial to a long-term prison sentence.

In North Korea, political crimes are greatly varied, from border crossing to any disturbance of the political order, and they are rigorously punished.[30] Due to the dire prison conditions with hunger and torture,[31] a large percentage of prisoners do not survive their sentence terms.

The reeducation camps are large prison building complexes surrounded by high walls. The situation of prisoners is quite similar to that in the political prison camps. They have to perform slave labour in prison factories and in case they do not meet the work quotas, they are tortured and (at least in Kaechon camp) confined for many days in special prison cells, which are too small for them to stand up or lie full-length in.[15]

To be distinguished from the internment camps for political prisoners, the reeducation camp prisoners are forced to undergo ideological instruction after work and they are also forced to memorize the speeches of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il and they even have to undergo self-criticism rites. Many prisoners are guilty of common crimes which are also penalized in other countries e. g. illegal border crossing, stealing food or illegal trading.[32]

There are around 15 to 25 reeducation camps in North Korea.[33][34]

Camps[edit]

Reeducation Camp Official Name Location Prisoners Comments Current Status
Kaechon Reeducation Camp Kyo-hwa-so No. 1 Kaechon, South Pyongan 6,000 Lee Soon-ok testimony Currently open
Tongrim Reeducation Camp Kyo-hwa-so No. 2 Tongrim County, North Pyongan Unknown Was listed by the 2011 NKDB Report, and 2014 & 2016 NKDB KINU listings, but its current status of operation is currently unknown.[35] Currently unknown
Sinuiju Reeducation Camp Kyo-hwa-so No. 3 Sinuiju, North Pyongan 2,500 Near Chinese border Currently open
Kangdong Reeducation Camp Kyo-hwa-so No. 4 Kangdong, Pyongyang 7,000 30 km (19 mi) from Pyongyang Currently open
Sariwon Reeducation camp Kyo-hwa-so No. 6 Sariwon, North Hwanghae 4,000 Translators Ali Lameda and Jacques Sedillot were imprisoned in this camp until Amnesty International intervened on their behalf for their eventual release from the camp. Currently open
Kanggye Reeducation camp Kyo-hwa-so No. 7 Kanggye, Chagang Unknown Currently open
Ryongdam Reeducation Camp Kyo-hwa-so No. 8 Chonnae County, Kangwon 3,000 Currently open
Hamhung Reeducation Camp Kyo-hwa-so No. 9 Hamhung, South Hamgyong 500 Former colonial prison Currently open
Chungsan Reeducation Camp Kyo-hwa-so No. 11 Chungsan County, South Pyongan 3,300 Many repatriated defectors Currently open
Chongori Reeducation Camp Kyo-hwa-so No. 12 Hoeryong, North Hamgyong 2,000 Many repatriated defectors Currently open
Oro Reeducation Camp Kyo-hwa-so No. 22 Yonggwang County, South Hamgyong 6,000 Said to have been closed around 2008 Most likely closed
Cheonma Reeducation Camp Kyo-hwa-so No. 55 Ch'ŏnma, North Pyongan Unknown Said to have been very overcrowded and most prisoners were sent to Camp No. 77. Its current state of operation is unknown. Currently unknown
Tanchon Reeducation Camp Kyo-hwa-so No. 77 Tanchon, South Hamgyong 6,000 Said to have been closed around 1997 Most likely closed
Wonsan Reeducation Camp Kyo-hwa-so No. 88 Wonsan, Kangwŏn Unknown Currently open
Hoeryong Reeducation Camp Kyo-hwa-so Hoeryong, North Hamgyong 1,500 This camp may have been subsequently termed by its more precise location and name, Kyo-hwa-so No. 12, or it may have been closed. Currently unknown
Sunghori Reeducation Camp Kyo-hwa-so No. 8 Pyongyang, North Hwanghae 2,000 The original Sunghori concentration camp closed and was relocated to its new, current location Currently open

Kwan-li-so # 12 Onsong was closed in 1987, following a riot which was suppressed at the cost of around 6,000 dead prisoners. Kyo-hwa-so Sunghori was closed in 1991 but was reopened at a new location on an unknown date.

Accounts[edit]

The South Korean human rights activist Lee Soon-ok has written a book (Eyes of the Tailless Animals: Prison Memoirs of a North Korean Woman) about her time in the camp and testified before the US Senate.[36]

"Resort" Prison[edit]

In December 2016, the South China Morning Post reported on the existence of a secret prison in Hyanghari, which is euphemistically known as a 'resort,' where members of the country's political elite are imprisoned.[37]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "North Korea: Political Prison Camps". Amnesty International, May 3, 2011. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  2. ^ "World Report 2013 North Korea". Human Rights Watch. Archived from the original on September 30, 2013. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  3. ^ "Pillay urges more attention to human rights abuses in North Korea, calls for international inquiry". United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, January 14, 2013. Archived from the original on February 9, 2013. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  4. ^ "2009 Human Rights Report: Democratic People's Republic of Korea". U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on May 28, 2010. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  5. ^ "North Korea: Torture, death penalty and abductions". Amnesty International. Archived from the original on April 23, 2010. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  6. ^ "White paper on human rights in North Korea 2009 (page 74–75)" (PDF). Korea Institute for National Unification. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  7. ^ "The Hidden Gulag – Part Four: Racially Motivated Forced Abortion and Infanticide (page 122)" (PDF). The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 13, 2015. Retrieved June 28, 2014.
  8. ^ "Running Out of the Darkness". TIME Magazine. April 24, 2006. Archived from the original on November 25, 2006. Retrieved October 31, 2006.
  9. ^ "N. Korean Defectors Describe Brutal Abuse". The Associated Press. October 29, 2008. Archived from the original on May 15, 2009. Retrieved December 16, 2008.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-12. Retrieved 2014-02-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Democratic People's Republic of Korea (page 7)" (PDF). United Nations Human Rights Council. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved May 11, 2010.
  12. ^ "Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (page 8)" (PDF). Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR) and Korean Bar Association (KBA). Archived (PDF) from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved May 11, 2010.
  13. ^ "Report by the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Theo van Boven: Democratic People's Republic of Korea". United Nations/Derechos Human Rights. Archived from the original on September 6, 2008. Retrieved May 11, 2010.
  14. ^ Yi Baek-ryong (Alias). "Yodok, Prison Camp of Death [죽음의 요덕 수용소]". Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  15. ^ a b "Testimony of Ms. Soon Ok Lee, North Korean prison camp survivor". United States Senate Hearings. Archived from the original on November 9, 2010. Retrieved November 11, 2010.
  16. ^ National Geographic: Inside North Korea, aired on the History Channel in 2006, accessed on Netflix July 22, 2011
  17. ^ "The Hidden Gulag – Part Three: Kwan-li-so political panel-labor colonies (page 24 - 41), Kyo-hwa-so prison-labor facilities (page 41 - 55)" (PDF). The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 13, 2015. Retrieved June 28, 2014.
  18. ^ Lankov, Andrei (13 October 2014). "The Surprising News From North Korea's Prisons". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on 3 August 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  19. ^ ""Escapee Tells of Horrors in North Korean Prison Camp", Washington Post, December 11, 2008". The Washington Post. December 11, 2008. Archived from the original on October 21, 2010. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  20. ^ McDonald, Mark (May 4, 2011). "North Korean Prison Camps Massive and Growing". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 5, 2011. Retrieved May 5, 2011.
  21. ^ "Report: Torture, starvation rife in North Korea political prisons". CNN. May 4, 2011. Archived from the original on December 28, 2014.
  22. ^ "The Hidden Gulag – Part Three: Torture summary (page 70–72)" (PDF). The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 13, 2015. Retrieved June 28, 2014.
  23. ^ "5000 Prisoners Massacred at Onsong Concentration Camp in 1987", Chosun Ilbo, December 11, 2002
  24. ^ ""North Koreas Hard Labor Camps" with interactive map, Washington Post, July 20, 2009". The Washington Post. July 20, 2009. Archived from the original on September 19, 2010. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  25. ^ "The Hidden Gulag – Part Three: Kwan-li-so political panel-labor colonies (page 24–41)" (PDF). The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 13, 2015. Retrieved June 28, 2014.
  26. ^ https://www.hrnk.org/uploads/pdfs/ASA_HRNK_Chmbg_201603_FINAL.pdf
  27. ^ Glionna, John M. (April 7, 2010). ""North Korea gulag spurs a mission", Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2010". Articles.latimes.com. Archived from the original on June 26, 2010. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  28. ^ ""North Korean Camps" by Journeyman Pictures TV". Youtube.com. Archived from the original on July 8, 2014. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  29. ^ "United States Senate Hearings: Testimony of Ms. Soon Ok Lee, June 21, 2002". Judiciary.senate.gov. Archived from the original on November 9, 2010. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  30. ^ "North Korea – The Judiciary". Country-data.com. Archived from the original on June 9, 2011. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  31. ^ "Brutality beyond belief: Crimes against humanity in North Korea". Daily NK. Archived from the original on July 24, 2010. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  32. ^ "6.2.2 Trial, Charge and Sentence (p. 363 – 367)". Prisoners in North Korea Today (PDF). Database Center for North Korean Human Rights. July 15, 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 5, 2014. Retrieved May 23, 2012.
  33. ^ "The Hidden Gulag – Satellite imagery: Selected North Korean Prison Camp Locations (page 89)" (PDF). The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 13, 2015. Retrieved June 28, 2014.
  34. ^ https://www.rfa.org/english/news/korea/prison-11202020193824.html
  35. ^ https://www.hrnk.org/uploads/pdfs/Hawk_The_Parallel_Gulag_Web.pdf
  36. ^ "US Senate Hearings: Testimony of Ms. Soon Ok Lee, June 21, 2002". Judiciary.senate.gov. Archived from the original on November 9, 2010. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  37. ^ Ryall, Julian (December 18, 2016). "Revealed: prison where North Korean dictators send troublesome relatives". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on December 18, 2016.

External links[edit]