To coincide with a new United Nations report calling for an investigation into crimes against humanity in North Korean prison camps,
Human Rights Watch has released a video featuring horrific tales from the gulags.
Prison camp survivors describe the systematic use of beatings, rape, food deprivation, forced abortions, and public executions as means to control those kept there.
As a former guard told the U.N.: “Inmates in the [political prison camps] are not treated like human beings. They are never meant to be released […] their record is permanently erased. They are supposed to die in the camp from hard labour. And we were trained to think that those inmates are enemies. So we didn’t perceive them as human beings.”
Since images from the camps are scare, drawings provide the best approximation of what it’s like. While the U.N. report features drawings based on the recollections of
Kim Kwang-il, the HRW video shows drawings from former prisoner Kim Hye-Sook, who was incarcerated at the age of 13. These and horrific quotes from the video can be seen below.
“They didn’t tell us anything. When we entered the camp, there were 10 rules and the first was to not ask about your crime. Because of this rule, the people inside never knew what their crime was,” said Kim.
“There was a position in which we all had to sit. We’d put our hands behind our backs and kneel, then raise our heads and open our mouths. They’d spit phlegm into our mouths. If we swallowed, they wouldn’t hit us,” Kim said.
Ahn Myung-chul, a former prison guard, describes a typical public execution, where a prisoner is shot at a stake. “The first shots strike the head, the second the chest, and the third the belly,” Ahn said. “If family members or friends of the condemned cry at the execution, they are arrested on the spot and sent to the detention center to be executed.”
As more survivors tell their stories from the prison camps, the world is finally realising the brutality of the North Korean regime. Below is a picture of Kim and a map of the camp she drew.
Here’s the full, shocking video:
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