N. Korea’s system of prison camps turns more brutal: report
North Korea's system of prison camps has turned more brutal in recent years but also more difficult to hide, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing new research based on defector testimonies and satellite imagery.
WSJ said two recent reports, by researchers in the U.S. and South Korea, portray an acute desperation and horror inside North Korea's notorious prison camps.
More than 200,000 people are sentenced to live and work in grueling conditions there, many until they die, according to the accounts as well as private and governmental estimates, WSJ said.
There are indications that the population of this gulag-like system could grow, WSJ said, noting that in December, shortly after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, his son and heir to power, Kim Jong-un, ordered that imprisonment for someone caught illegally leaving the country would also be extended to the person's older and younger relatives.
WSJ reported that people are sent to “total control camps,” often without trial, for offenses including defacing a picture of one of North Korea's leaders, attending a church service or leaving the country without permission. Nearly all are in remote, mountainous regions.
Sexual abuse of women is common, the newspaper said.
A former female prisoner in one such facility, Camp 18, recalled coming upon a fellow prisoner who, apparently crazed from hunger, had beaten her daughter to death and was cooking the body in a pot, it said.