Talk:Yodok concentration camp

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To Who Ever Edited Out The Information Of Christian persecution and hate[edit]

This prison has been the place of thousands of deaths of Christians. What was their crime? It was just being a Christian. This Wiki entry on this prison that omits the human rights violations of Christians is unfair. It shows prejudice. How many deaths of innocent Korean men and women must happen before it can be included and mentioned on this page? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 96.252.208.233 (talk) 23:29, 17 July 2013 (UTC)

To Bjornar[edit]

Hey Bjornar, if you say that Yodok is simply a city, why don't you take pictures of it the next time you go to North Korea, and upload it on here for us to see? (For proof, also take pictures of signs right by the roads on the edge of town that says, "Welcome to Yodok!" or "You are now entering Yodok City", or otherwise indicators that you are entering Yodok.) --Shultz 19:29, 15 January 2006 (UTC)

Yes, If I go to Yodok city I will bring my Kodak. The world seems to want to know what it looks like there, and it is not my fault if nobody has access. I would like for people to come and see for themselves that this area is just a rural village town. My problem is that although I am one of the few foreigners who can walk around freely in North Korea, I still look like an evil imperialist and I must pay respect to the country's situation, so I seldom take full advantage of the trust and confidence that has been placed in me. I don't have permission to drive a car, and I cannot go more than a few kilometers from our group. However, maybe you can send an email to the people behind Google Earth and try to get a mega-enhanced satelite photo of the whole area? I've seen some other places on Google that are high-res from North Korea. Maybe when the whole country has been made available online, people of the world will discover more of the truth behind our situation. And I will also add that yes, there are prisons in North Korea as in any country although our system focus on rehabilitation and reintegration after 3-5 years of manual work rather than locking people away for 20 years or more, with no reeducation. --Bjornar 21:46, 16 January 2006 (UTC)
@Shultz: To my knowledge Yodok is a “normal”, but restricted town in Yodok-gun (county), while remote areas of this county house the concentration camps called Kwan-li-so no. 15 (often called Yodok camp abroad). So a photo of Yodok town would not tell you anything about the camp. Still I believe Bjornar would not be allowed to get that near, as DPRK authorities do not trust foreigners and though he is useful for them to distribute propaganda, they fear that if he would really catch a glimpse of Yodok camp, he could have scruples and reveal what he observed.
@Bjornar: Could you tell me why does the DPRK not allow independent human rights observers to visit Yodok camp (who could tell us the truth)? Why do we not find any negative news or criticism in DPRK media as in most other countries (so would you expect to be told about Yodok camp)?
--Gamnamu 18:55, 18 January (UTC)
I must emphasise that all towns, as well as all areas in the DPRK has some kind of restrictions to foreigners, not just Yodok kun. Yes, it's true that pictures of Yodok will show only a normal town like Samjiyon or any town found just outside Pyongyang or to the north-east. I am fully aware of my "usefulness" as a propaganda tool, however I tend to not automatically repeat their words, but to actively work with DPRK officials in order to create propaganda that is both in accordance with my ideas on how to get the message across to an audience, including improvements to the language and content.
They appreciate my help that I give and in return I appreciate to influence internal and external propaganda to add something genuine and honest and not just some foreigner repeating their words. I am in to this fully, meaning I trust the DPRK not to violate any human rights. I act and function on the basis that we operate fully within the constitution of the DPRK. There is no danger to anyone that I've chosen to take this position. People are free to beleive what they want.
Although I have seen many "reports" and read the novel, book, etc I know all the allegations and know most people in the west think they have proof that concentration camps exist. It is my position that concentration camps don't exist in the DPRK like Nazi German camps, or the Japanese camps during WW2 or Guantanamo or Stalin's Gulags, or the Jugoslavian camps from 1990. I am making this as a rational and independant choice, because there is no real independant evidence that I can trust to support these "massive" claims except for very few sources, but because western news always recycle and broadcast again and again the same lies, it "becomes" the truth. I don't intentionally want to offend anyone by saying this, but this is my view on this. Realizing however, that many people don't share my position, I will respect other's views, but uphold the position that there should be no harm in taking pictures of Yodok kun or any surrounding area.
However DPRK authorities in fact will not grant any foreigner access to this area, I would be given the trust and permission to take pictures if I were in this area. However it is well outside any route to important places I would visit during my regular visit to the DPRK, and it is outside my programme which include many activities that sometimes involve conferences and political rallies in Pyongyang or in areas of importance for the Korean struggle for independance or the Korean revolution. Thus, it would be inappropriate for me to specifically request to go to this area, and I have no personal reason to go, but if I nevertheless did, I would document for posterity the surrounding area except for military installations and areas prohibited to photograph due to state security.
Unfortunately a military camp may look like a concentration camp, I've already seen many of these. They have electric barbed wire up to 2 metres tall, connected to a transformer from a 10kV 3-phase grid. But the gates are open and soldiers go in and out. Some areas can look like camps, but without the fences, these are usually agricultural complexes with community houses and so on. Indeed, electrical barbed wire is common in North Korean infrastructure, especially around sensitive buildings and areas including standard near border areas or critical infrastructure. This is to prevent outsiders like saboteurs getting in, as you would notice the fence is directed outwards.
I am going a long way to honestly share my view in the belief that access to more information may some day satisfy people's curiosity and maybe end the speculations. As for permissions, not only Yodok, but in fact ANY area in the DPRK is off limits to "human rights observers". Personally I won't be the judge of whether or not these agents should be allowed in, but for some reason the DPRK considers them a risk to national security, probably because many intelligence agents (spies) were caught in the past trying to slip below the radar posing as human rights workers.
Besides, the DPRK does let in many professionals, doctors, nurses, aid organizations and so on who did show interest in human rights, but those who got in showed they could be rational and balanced, and not biased and high-handed that some were. Indeed, anyone who approaches the DPRK with sincerity in their hearts will be granted access deep into the core of the society, but of course they must prove their sincerity and openness. In my case, by demonstrating total honesty, I can be read like an open book, much like you are reading now, and it makes it easy to know where my position is. At the same time, I don't want to serve you any blatant lies.
I know people are concerned, but as long as the US has the technology to read the licence plate of your car from space, while accusing the DPRK of having concentration camps, while failing to provide satelite images that would be crystal clear, of the supposed millions of millions of people who are accused of being dead or imprisoned, in heaps and mass graves or whatever, as long as there are no satelite photos, I say - to hell with CNN. --Bjornar 22:31, 19 January 2006 (UTC)
Dear Bjornar, thanks very much for your open answers. I respect your point of view; still I have some further comments and questions.
There are many consistent testimonies about large camps with torture, starvation and slave labour. I understand you think these reports are too horrible to be true. Almost no one believed horror stories about Nazi German camps before they were freed and quite many intellectuals in Europe and US sympathized with Nazi Germany while denying the human rights situation there.
The only basis for your doubts is your trust in the DPRK authorities. I have never read any even minor negative news by DPRK authorities or DPRK media. So I do not trust they would tell anyone about human rights problems. I guess many partisans do not even see it as a “problem” to torture people who dared to criticize the dear leader.
I fully trust independent human rights organizations like Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch and also mostly the United Nations. Amnesty for example criticized and investigated Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib and since then I think the situation there improved a bit. I do not see any political intention by these organizations to blame only certain countries.
Why does the DPRK not let Amnesty International or other neutral organizations inspect these camps? How else could we get more information? And especially what could be done to improve the situation there?
I know that these camps are combined with military units, who guard the camps and with facilities to prevent any escape. But I think mostly controls and barbed wire are to keep in/off North Korean people, because as you correctly say the few foreigners are strictly accompanied. It seems there are more secrets to hide in the DPRK than in other countries. However human rights observers were allowed to inspect military camps like Guantanamo, so this should also be possible in Yodok.
The satellite photos are available and explained in detail [1]. I don’t deny that the US government misuses human rights for their purposes and focuses on such countries, that they don’t like (and thus gives human rights a bad name). Still that doesn’t change anything on the fact that these human rights violations exist as also e. g. human rights violations existed in the Soviet Union in cold war times.
I don’t understand why you denounce human rights observers as spies. I think there are many people (like myself) and organizations, who simply want to know the truth about these allegations without any political intentions. Is that hard to believe for you? My only concerns are the survival and the living conditions of the people in those camps.
You are correct: In your country (I guess Norway) it is absolutely your legal right to express your opinion. But on a moral level with your activities you contribute to the continuous suffering of innocent people.
I guess you have no bad intentions, but are simply naïve. I would trust the DPRK, if people there would be able to freely express their opinions like in your country. Do you really think no one in the DPRK criticizes the dear leader, because everyone loves him? Or could it be that it is because everyone who dared was deported to camps like Yodok? In Nazi Germany also all people seemed to love the fuhrer.
I think you would be in a good position to tell people in North Korea about the freedom and human rights, that you enjoy in your country and encourage authorities to go a step in that direction. I mean human rights are not something bad, but simply to let people have different opinions and live without fear.
Best regards, Gamnamu 17:05, 18 January (UTC)

The problem of photo "evidence"[edit]

Take a look at this image. [http://hrnk.org/hiddengulag/images/Sinueuju_Overview.jpg)

Can you see any evidence here, if you take away the labels? Could the labels be put elsewhere at random? Could you take any picture from just outside Pyongyang, and find that it looks identical to this one and about a thousand other places?--Bjornar 12:05, 28 January 2006 (UTC)

Satellite photos can only support the testimonies and identify the exact locations. For Yodok the photos show large camps, but of course cannot capture torture or executions. What “evidence” would you suggest? I could only imagine site visits by independent human rights observers. -- Gamnamu 18:05, 1 February 2006 (UTC)


The problem of human rights observers and democracy[edit]

Human rights observers went to Guantanamo and saw the US army mistreat human beings like they were animals. You all have seen this. Even young children down to age 12 are held for years in cramp cages without sentence. They are regularly subjected to pshychological and physical means of torture prohibited according to the Geneva convention. Also the US abduct people and send them to countries like Egypt where torture is routine business, thus the US outsource their use of torture. Still, the US are allowed to continue their practice, and human rights observers have not been able to accomplish anything. In an open society like the US, people are allowed to criticise, because their words have no effect, the people can do nothing.--Bjornar 12:13, 28 January 2006 (UTC)

Similar to the DPRK media you like to talk about US and “Western” countries’ human rights violations in every detail, but when it comes to DPRK’s human rights violations the response is a flat denial of everything. My only point was to say: The situation improves, when human rights observers inspect the place and publish their findings. I guess you are happy that human rights organizations care about the people there and manage to help some of them. And I guess you trust that their allegations are justified, fact-based and without political agenda, don’t you? These organizations are working in many locations and I have no doubt they will follow the same guidelines everywhere including the DPRK. -- Gamnamu 18:08, 1 February 2006 (UTC)


The problem of human rights observers in the DPRK[edit]

Two main problems. 1 - Human rights observers are OK as long as they respect local laws and follow regulations. Thankfully most do, and spend their time observing human rights instead of having a political agenda trying to gather propaganda to bring down the government or change the system of the country. 2 - If a human rights observer did observe something good or bad, how much could anyone really trust that individual? If they observed that things are OK, they won't be believed. If they say something is bad, their may still not present a complete and clear picture of the situation.

Example: If you go to the DPRK, you won't see anyone starving. Yet Amnesty claim there are still starvation en masse. In reality, people are not dying like flies, but maintain enough food to grow and eat, but still things could always be a little better, and nobody is hiding this fact. The government calls for a national campaign to receive more fertilizer, not food aid, since there is already enough food, so in this second phase, the DPRK is preparing to maintain a long-term increased production and sustainable growth in food production.

This doesn't mean the situation is picture-perfect. You can take a picture of skinny villagers and claim that these people are starving - and people would beleive it, even though they are perfectly healthy although nobody has access to McDonalds or are as fat as US citizens. My point here is that everyone who goes to North Korea as human rights observers observe everything through the lense of having the preconception that everything is bad, and they focus only on uncovering issues that aren't real issues and which brings more suffering to the DPRK because of the perpetuation of the image of the country as a country where "half of the population is in jail, and the other half starved to death" (a media quote from a couple of years ago - so there should be no people left in the country).

Thus human rights observers continue to be denied access not because of human abuse but because of protecting the image of the country against people that are considered enemy spies and propagandists. I didn't write the rules, but there they are.--Bjornar 12:26, 28 January 2006 (UTC)

The DPRK should simply let human rights organizations verify the situation. Your attempt to find reasons to avoid inspections and also your attempt to discredit organizations is meaningless. Most countries build up trust by cooperating to a certain extend with human rights organizations and the United Nations, so why can’t the DPRK? All your reasons apply to every country, including the US. Amnesty International does not claim any mass starvation; they claim an unfair distribution of food.
Yes, the DPRK rule is to deny access to human rights observers to protect the image of the country. At least they think they could keep their image in the eyes of some few people like you by hiding the abuses. My experience is that the more open and honest a government, organization or individual discusses (especially bad) issues, the more it could be trusted. Do you really think everyone in the DPRK loves the Dear Leader? And if not, where do you think are his opponents? I think at least some are in Yodok camp and need our help.
Did you ever think that it would be positive for the DPRK to improve the rights of its citizens? I would like it much more that the country would decide this by itself than by pressure from outside; still I did not perceive any improvement under Kim Jong-Il. Wouldn’t you consider it positive to provide the North Korean people more freedom, let them openly discuss all matters and let them choose Kim Jong-Il’s successor among several candidates (instead of appointing one of his sons)? -- Gamnamu 18:16, 1 February 2006 (UTC)

Answers to above[edit]

If it was up to me, I would allow every human rights observer access to all areas for one month, then see if they could document any issues. If things were as widespread and chronic as some people say, then this would have settled the issue once and for all. Unfortunately I don't decide these things. Then the issue of the satelite evidence. A clear picture would prove human abuse on a scale reported by western imperialist medias. The fact that this cannot be proved shows that there are no massive concentration camps, or mass-graves, as could clearly be seen in Former Yugoslavia where both mass graves and concentration camps was first discovered and documented via satelite. About human aid organizations: I don't discredit them, they themselves do, by inventing false information about a country some of these organizations have no access to. The proof in this lies when someone can verify that these groups never had visited, and yet their reports claim to have visited certain areas. Last thing always to remember: The DPRK is accountable to no-one but itself. No external part has any saying in this, myself included. --Bjornar 18:28, 7 February 2006 (UTC)

Yes, let human rights observers have access for one month and I’m pretty sure this would settle the issue once and for all. This is the only desire of people who care about the rights of the North Korean people.
There are graves documented, e. g. in Yodok camp. The killings there were not done within some weeks as in Yugoslavia, but within many years. So large mass-graves were not needed and it is still possible to bury (or burn) corpses in smaller quantities at different locations, e. g. in mines or forests. As the authorities are not in a hurry and are aware of satellite images, they can remove traces carefully.
About human rights organizations you only provide unfounded and confused accusations. Serious human rights organizations don’t invent false information. As I wrote before: You believe their information, when it fits into your ideology (e. g. Guantanamo) and you don’t believe it, when it doesn’t fit (e. g. Yodok). They are not allowed to visit North Korean camps, so the only information can be from survivors who managed to flee the country.
I don’t agree to your statement “a country is accountable to no-one but itself”. That would mean to accept human rights violations in Nazi-Germany, the Soviet-Union, Yugoslavia, Rwanda and so on as far as it is an “internal” affair within the country. Do you mean that serious? Then why do you criticize “internal” affairs in Guantanamo? Human rights are universal rights of all people in our world. This is written down in the United Nations Charter, which the DPRK has signed. -- Gamnamu 18:08, 9 February 2006 (UTC)

Knup-ri[edit]

The consonant cluster "kn" at the beginning of a word isn't possible in Korean. This must be a very bad Romanization, or perhaps there's just a letter missing. Either way, there's no way that "Knup-ri" is the real name of the place. --Reuben 21:28, 29 September 2006 (UTC)

Fixed it -- it's actually Kuŭp-ri, which apparently takes its name from having been the site of the town center of Ryodŏk-ŭp before the great flood of 1958. Still not sure about "Kouek," which is also impossible in Korean phonology... -- Visviva 23:28, 29 September 2006 (UTC)
Thanks! As for Kouek, it does look strange, but it's at least possible to write it, 고우엑 or 고웩. But there's no hanja for 엑 or 웩 so that's unlikely to be right for a real place name. --Reuben 09:20, 1 October 2006 (UTC)
Good point... it's not strictly impossible, but certainly unlikely. Based on [2], I think that must be referring to 혁명화구역 (Hyŏkmyŏnghwa kuyŏk, Revolutionization district) in Taesuk-ri, which (according to the website) ex-prisoner reports indicate is now the primary area for executions and punishments. -- Visviva 10:04, 1 October 2006 (UTC)
Wow, if that's true it's one of the weirdest romanizations I've seen since Belle Palais -> 벨팔레 -> Velfarre! --Reuben 15:17, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

Citations?[edit]

How has this article survived on Wikipedia? It's full of 'facts' like "...patrolled by 1,000 guards armed with automatic rifles, hand grenades and guard dogs." And yet, with no citations. It looks more like Chinese-whispers of mainstream media reports to me.

And before anyone screams, yes, I know there are some serious human rights problems in North Korea right now. They could be even worse than we think. Or they may not be as bad. But this article is all hearsay and conjecture without any citations, and while I'm inclined to side on the bad-stuff-in-NK view, the Western governments have pumped us with plenty of lies over the last few decades.

We should have hard facts on this. It's easy to write up damning stuff about North Korea, and largely that seems fair, but it's an incredibly closed country and 90% of the info we get about it is from Western journalists. And, many times, we've seen that they have their own agenda. So let's keep an open mind and get CITATIONS! —Preceding unsigned comment added by 62.56.103.229 (talk) 22:34, 3 October 2007 (UTC)

Unfortunately another big problem due to the closed-nature of the DPRK is that almost all external information is based on refugees, and increasingly, through the method of "Faction", or novel-style narrative of one's life. While themes and a broad take on a situation can be assessed from alot of these books, increasingly (most notably in regards to novels coming out of the tumultuous Cultural Revolution, as well as the Guatemalean civil war) many of them often either mix and match personal histories interchangeably, or adopt incidents heard about as part of the authors personal life. A number of Holocaust and Vietnam war hoaxers have been found out this way, by merely relating through the grapevine what they heard they cobbled together a fantastic scenario where just about everything had happened to them, even though often they were never in the situation they described. SiberioS (talk) 08:57, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
The information in this article (e. g. “patrolled by 1000 guards . . .”) is no hearsay or Chinese whispers. It is from testimonies of former Yodok prisoners. I did not find any reason to doubt these testimonies. Now every statement in the article has a reference, 94 in total. These references are mostly not from “Western media”, but directly from the original testimonies or from human rights organizations. And, yes, I’m convinced the human rights situation in Yodok camp is much worse than you could imagine or an encyclopedia could describe it.-- Gamnamu (talk) 12:57, 7 December 2011 (UTC)

Update needed![edit]

See: http://stopnkgenocide.com/ — Preceding unsigned comment added by 72.69.11.171 (talk) 19:14, 13 December 2014 (UTC)

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Dusty huts VS Satellite photos[edit]

The article says: "The prisoners live in dusty huts...", but satellite photos in the first "external link" show houses. If one of the first sentences in the article is questionable, it makes all article feel... exagerrated. Someone should do aomething maybe? 185.150.154.49 (talk) 10:12, 20 June 2017 (UTC)