Photo: Google Earth
As international leaders fear what Pyongyang may do beyond its borders, perhaps the biggest issue is what happens within.North Korea operates a growing network of prison camps containing up to 200,000 prisoners in conditions likened by survivors to Nazi concentration camps. This atrocity little international attention, though the United Nations Human Rights Council is considering a formal inquiry for possible crimes against humanity.
Information about the camps is limited to reports from the few successful escapees, notably Shin Dong-hyuk, who told 60 Minutes about spending 23 years behind the wire.
Although there are no pictures from inside the camps, satellite images plus a set of illustrations supposedly done by a defector (the source of these images is unconfirmed) give a hint of the terror inside.
Warning: Some images are disturbing.
But there are between 150,000 and 200,000 who have 'disappeared'. They live in brutal concentration camps throughout the country.
Former prisoners say conditions are so bad that 20 to 25 per cent of the prison population dies every year.
Successful escapes have been few. That's because anyone who tries, plans, or has knowledge of an escape is executed, and all prisoners are required to watch.
Without protein and calcium in their diet, prisoners develop hunchbacks from bending over in the fields or lose toes and fingers due to frostbite.
The tip of one of Shin's fingers was chopped off as punishment for accidentally breaking a machine while working in a factory.
They still need to get across the border to China, and if discovered, they face the possibility of being sent back.
While North Korea denies they even exist, satellite imagery shows camps scattered around the country, and they are growing.
And for North Koreans outside the camps, the fear of the gulag ensures their loyalty to the regime ...
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