The prison camps of Nazi Germany only existed for 12 years before their remaining survivors were freed following World War II. In the years that followed, many learned of horrifying conditions, torture, and millions murdered by Hitler’s regime and people swore never to let it happen again.
But less than a decade later, North Korea established its own system of prison camps where an untold number have died amidst “unspeakable atrocities” comparable to the Nazis, according to a preliminary report from the UN.
“I believe you will be very disturbed and distressed by it and that you will have reaction similar to those of (U.S.) General Eisenhower and the others who came upon the camps in post-war Europe,” head investigator Michael Kirby told Reuters.
On Friday, the UN’s human rights body agreed to strengthen its ongoing investigation of abuses inside the Hermit Kingdom. That investigation will be used in a “future accountability process” if, someday, the country’s leaders are ever held to account.
Around 200,000 people are currently imprisoned in these camps, while some 400,000 people have died there, according to reports from Amnesty International and the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.
North Korea has repeatedly denied such reports, and it boycotted the debate on Friday.
But Kim Jong-un cannot hide from satellite imagery and the growing number of escapees who have testified about the regime’s abuse.
We have gathered some details from inside along with satellite images, and a set of unconfirmed illustrations supposedly done by a defector that give a hint of the terror inside. Be warned: The following content is disturbing.
In a country of 24 million people, up to 200,000 have reportedly 'disappeared' into brutal concentration camps found throughout the country.
Former prisoners say conditions are so bad that 20 to 25 per cent of the prison population dies every year. (NOTE: This is the first of multiple disturbing illustrations supposedly made by a defector who spent time in the prisons.)
The North uses 'guilt by association' to lock up entire families just for knowing someone convicted of 'wrong thought.'
Few have ever escaped. That's because anyone who tries, plans, or has knowledge of an escape is executed, and all prisoners are required to watch.
Starvation is common, as prisoners are usually only fed gruel made of cornmeal and cabbage. 'We were always hungry, and the guards always told us 'through hunger you will repent,'' Shin said. They often eat rats and insects just to stay alive.
Without protein and calcium in their diet, prisoners develop hunchbacks from bending over in the fields or lose toes and fingers due to frostbite.
Guards treat prisoners as subhuman, terrorizing and torturing their captives, sometimes just for fun, according to escapees.
The tip of one of Shin's fingers was chopped off as punishment for accidentally breaking a machine while working in a factory.
When he was just 13 years old, Shin was sent to an underground torture center when his mother and older brother were accused of attempting an escape. 'They hung me by the ankles and they tortured me with fire.'
Pregnancy is strictly forbidden, except in the case of a 'marriage' arranged by the prison guards. One testified how she 'witnessed a female prisoner forced to drown her own baby in a bucket.'
They still need to get across the border to China, and if discovered, they face the possibility of being sent back.
Camps aren't limited to North Korean borders. The regime also exports slave labour to Siberia, according to a Vice report.
While North Korea denies they even exist, satellite imagery shows prison camps scattered around the country.
And for North Koreans outside the camps, the fear of the gulag ensures their loyalty to the regime ...
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