I know we have been desensitized to violence and have developed a lack of empathy for those in other countries, but why is there a lack of outrage
over North Korea's lawless political prisoner camps? After doing a little bit of research on Camp 22 and the other "gulags", There has been some
brief mention of these prison camps in some other ATS posts going all the way back to 2003, but no in-depth discussion that I can see. Why hasn't
anything changed since 2003??
Here is an extensive report (229 pages) published in 2012 from the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea:
The Hidden Gulag: "The Lives and Voices of those who are sent to the
The report establishes in detail the terrible human rights violations, torture and murder that are going on in Camp 22 and other political prisoner
camps, and interviews several former detainees and guards. Unfortunately, most of these people don't make it out alive to tell their sad stories. The
report describes itself as follows:
Snippet of Introduction:
The second edition of Hidden Gulag utilizes the testimony of sixty former North Koreans who were severely and arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in
a vast network of penal and forced labor institutions in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) for reasons not permitted
by international law. This contradicts the formal December 2009 proclamation by North Korea to the United Nations Human Rights Council that the term
‘political prisoners’ is not in the DPRK’s vocabulary, and that the so-called political prisoner camps do not exist.
Here are some appalling facts mentioned in the report:
The total number of those currently incarcerated in prison labor camps is estimated between 150,000 and 200,000.
It is estimated that 1 in 120 people in North Korea end up in one.
The vast majority are arbitrarily arrested with no reference to any judicial procedure and for “offenses” that are not punishable in most
countries, namely listening to a foreign radio broadcast, holding a Protestant religious service, watching a South Korean DVD, leaving dust on Kim
Il-sung’s picture, exiting the country without permission, expressing critical remarks about government policies, or having a father or grandfather
who was a landowner or defected to South Korea or worked for the Japanese, thereby placing the family in a “hostile” category under North
Korea’s social classification or songbun system.
Estimates of the numbers who have died in the camps over the past 40 years have run well over 100,000.
North Korea continues to officially deny the existence of these camps.
Summary of Interesting Parts:
Part Two describes the phenomena of repression associated with the North Korean kwan-li-so political penal labor colonies where scores of thousands of
political prisoners—along with up to three generations of members of their families—are banished, deported, imprisoned without any judicial
process, and subjected to slave labor for mostly lifetime sentences in mining, logging or various agricultural enterprises operating within a
half-dozen sprawling encampments, enclosed in barbed wires and electrified fences, mostly in the north and north central mountains of North Korea. The
report describes who the political prisoners are: real, suspected or imagined wrong-doers and wrongthinkers, or persons with wrong-knowledge and/or
wrong-associations who have been deemed to be irremediably counter-revolutionary and pre-emptively purged from North Korean society.
This part also provides an overview of the prison-labor camp system: the guilt-by-association collective punishment, forced disappearances and
incommunicado detention without trial, systemic and severe mistreatment, induced malnutrition, slave labor and exorbitant rates of deaths in
detention, informants and intra-prisoner hostilities, executions and other extreme punishments, sexual relations, “marriage” and prison camp
“schools,” the sexual exploitation of women prisoners, prisoner releases, the economic role of the forced labor camps, and the complete removal
from any protection of law, along with the arbitrary and extra-judicial nature of the system.
It outlines the successive waves of political imprisonment over the fifty-odd years the prison camps have been in operation, and provides a brief
recounting of how, over several decades, information about the secret and officially denied prison camps has become knowable and known to the world
outside North Korea.
Part Two then presents the heart-rending stories and testimonies of fifteen former kwan-li-so prisoners—the lives and voices of “those who are
sent to the mountains”—and several former guards at a half-dozen prison-labor camps who were interviewed for this report.
Part Five summarizes the torture and racially-motivated-infanticide and forced abortion experienced or directly witnessed by former North Korean
prisoners and detainees interviewed for this report.
Part Six concludes that the prison labor camp system as it has operated in the DPRK for some fifty years, and continues to so operate today,
constitutes a clear and massive crime against humanity. This section utilizes the best available contemporary norms of international human rights law
and international criminal law—the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International
Criminal Court—to analyze the human rights violations detailed in Parts Two, Three, Four and Five. This analysis concludes that 10 of the 11 actions
proscribed in Article 7 of the Rome Statute as crimes against humanity are being committed in North Korea against civilian populations imprisoned in
the kwan-li-so political labor camps: enforced disappearance, deportation, massive and prolonged extra-judicial and incommunicado imprisonment in
violation of the fundamental rules of international law, enslavement, torture, murder, extermination, rape, persecution against identifiable groups on
political grounds, and other inhumane acts committed knowingly in a systematic and widespread manner by state police agents operating on behalf of the
Satellite Photographs. The report contains 41 satellite photographs of numerous North Korean prison labor camps and penitentiaries holding North
Koreans for essentially political offenses. The locations have been confirmed by former prisoners in these facilities.
The first edition of the report, originally published in 2003, is available here: The Hidden Gulag-
Exposing North Korea's Prison Camps
Some news outlets have claimed that Camp 22 (but not the other camps) was closed earlier this year, but this report dated October 22, 2012 from the
Committee for Human Rights in North Korea and DigitalGlobe shows otherwise:
North Korea's Camp No. 22
It has extensive satellite maps showing
the layout of Camp 22 as it existed both in November 2010 and October 2012, and concludes that Camp 22 remains open.
Continued in next post.....