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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.
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 state authority.
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.
those citizens who are to be deprived of their liberty are not arrested, charged (that is, informed of their offense of, or against, a particular criminal act delineated in the DPRK Criminal Code), or tried in any sort of judicial procedure. There is no chance to appear before a judge, confront their accusers, offer a defense or have benefit of legal counsel. The presumed offender is simply picked up, taken to an interrogation facility and frequently tortured to “confess” before being deported to the political penal-labor colony. The family members are also picked up and deported to the kwan-li-so. None of the interviewees reported having been told of the whereabouts or alleged misconduct of the presumed wrong-doing or wrong-thinking head of family.
Friends, neighbors, co-workers, or more distant family members not sent to the camps are not given any information as to the whereabouts of those who have “disappeared” into the mountains.
A Prisoner Killed for Trying to Save the Lives of Other Prisoners By Ahn Myung Chul, Former Guard of Detention Settlements
In May 1993, I went to Gallery No.1 of the mine sector to get the coal supply for my guard unit. When I was reversing my truck to load coal, the clerk ran to me and said, “Sir, there is a fire at Gallery No.1 today and so I’m afraid you have to wait.” I left my truck and walked toward gallery No.1. I heard two explosions on the way and saw the gallery entrance blocked by explosion. Two security officers, Major Song-il Kim and Colonel Su-chol Lee, were there. Some fifty prisoners, who narrowly escaped the gallery fire, were out there trembling.
One of the prisoners in his thirties approached the security officers and said, “Sir, there is a good number of people inside. Please save their lives.”
The security officer was very angry and shouted at him, “Shut up, you big mouth!” The prisoner did not stop pleading and the other prisoners also joined him.
“Hey, you! Are you protesting?” The security officer produced a pistol and shot at the man’s head. He dropped dead instantly, bleeding from his head. The security officer said, “Who’s next? Who is going to resist? Come forward!” He shot three more bullets in the air. The prisoners were all frightened and said nothing. Then, the officers shouted at them, “Back to work!”
I was so frightened at the sight that I felt my feet trembling and came back to my post without coal that day. When I went back there for coal the next day, I was told that some fifty prisoners died inside the gallery the previous day. They buried them in a big hole. No mourning, no funeral and no identification! Soon, grass will grow on the burial site and there will be no sign of the massacred prisoners.
Infant Killed and Given to a Dog
The following incident took place in October 1987, about a month after I arrived at Life Detention Settlement No. 11. Sgt. Man-sun Kim was the deputy commander of my platoon and had sexual relations with a young female prisoner named Choi, an accountant in the 19th Unit. Sgt. Kim was handsome and kind-hearted and she wanted to have his child. She was about to deliver a baby, hidden in the farm, when she was discovered and arrested by security officers. She delivered a baby under torture. The security officers threw the newly-born infant to a dog during the course of the torture. She withstood all kind of torture and refused to reveal who the father was. They pushed a stick into her vagina and screwed it until she finally confessed. Sgt. Kim was arrested, fired and dismissed from the party immediately. He was sent to a mine in his home province.
The political prisoners in the detention settlements are sent to punishment cells if they fail to meet daily work quotas, steal corn, or show a less-than-subservient attitude. They are only allowed to go outdoors and get sunlight once a week for 30 minutes. The prisoners, whether male or female, have their hair cut short and must survive on a daily ration of 100 grams of corn cooked with beans and a small bowl of salt soup. The ration is often reduced for minor offenses. So, the prisoners often use their 30 minutes in the sun to eat as much grass or weeds as they can. If they are caught, however, they are beaten by the guards, often to death.
I was able to watch the prisoners leaving and entering the jail from the guard battalion headquarters building. Most of them crawled. Their clothes were full of blood stains and pus from injuries all over. They were full of lice and smelled awful. During the 30 minutes, they were usually busy killing lice and sucking their thumbs wet with lice blood. Whenever possible, they picked up grass and swallowed without chewing. They had been reduced to beasts.
On one occasion, I saw an old prisoner caught eating grass. The guard hit his chin hard with the handle of his AK 58 gun and shouted, “You dirty old dog!” When the prisoner bent down while holding his bleeding mouth, the guard hit him on his back. He fell to the ground. The guard kicked his head very hard, but the prisoner remained motionless. Blood poured out from his nose and mouth. The other prisoners were ordered to return to their cells. Most of them could not walk. They simply crawled. There were a few guys who could walk, obviously newcomers. Those who could walk were helping others move back to their cells.
A little later, I saw the same guard and chief jail officer checking the prisoner’s pulse. They confirmed his death. They rolled the body in a straw mat and loaded it onto a small truck that went in the direction of Namsok district, the secret killing field in the steep mountain areas.
After the incident, I saw the same guard on the same duty. He was never punished for killing the prisoner.
Originally posted by jburg6
Thanks. I have no idea why the U.S. or any other country has not stepped up and put huge economic sanctions on North Korea for this. This has been going on at least 40 years and noone is being held accountable for torture and cold-blooded murder of innocent lives.
Unfortunately, this topic never made it to the New Topics list, so I'm afraid it might fall into obscurity.