A South Korean civic group has released a list of North Koreans believed to be imprisoned in a North Korean prison camp and called for an investigation.
The International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK), a Seoul-based advocacy group, released a report Friday containing information on 180 North Koreans believed to be imprisoned in the Yodok political camp in the early 2000s.
The camp, located about 100 kilometers northeast of Pyongyang, is among several detention facilities in the North known to hold political prisoners.
Human rights groups say people considered hostile to the regime are often sentenced to indefinite terms in the camps.
The group submitted the report to a U.N. human rights field office in Seoul and called upon the North to provide information on inmates' whereabouts, including those whose identities were released.
The report was based on accounts of Jung Gwang-il, who was detained at the camp from 2000 to 2003 and now is settled in the South.
"The report contains the names of some of my fellow inmates. It also states that the guards who released me from the camp have all gone missing since then," Jung told reporters.
Jung said the North modified the prison last year, but the fate of its inmates is unknown.
The group estimates the North's four political camps hold 80,000 to 120,000 prisoners.
Kwon Eun-kyung, ICNK executive director, said the report's information will help bring the North Korean human rights situation to the International Criminal Court.
The U.N. office is expected to launch an investigation into the inmates' fate.
On Thursday, the U.S. State Department said in its annual human rights report that North Korea's human rights record "remained among the worst in the world."
"The government subjected citizens to rigid controls over many aspects of their lives, including denial of the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, movement and worker rights," the report said.
Human rights issue
The State Department report said the North Korean human rights issue came under particular scrutiny last year, noting another report by a United Nations Commission of Inquiry, a panel tasked with probing human rights abuses in the North.
The U.N. report, released in February 2014, accused the North of committing crimes against humanity.
Tom Malinowski, U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, said, "The leadership of North Korea is under more pressure on human rights today than it has been at any point in its history."
The North’s official media condemned Malinowski’s remarks and vowed “tougher countermeasures” against what it called “the U.S.' sinister attempt to carry out its ambition for bringing down the Korean-style socialist system.”
Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report from Washington.