News / Asia

Report Details Rape, Murder at North Korean Gulags

Satellite photo of North Korea's Camp 16.
Satellite photo of North Korea's Camp 16.
VOA News
New satellite photos and witness testimony released by a top human rights group are revealing the extent of North Korea's vast and notorious system of prison camps.

Amnesty International's report Thursday detailed rape, murder and forced labor that allegedly takes place at the gulags, where as many as 200,000 people are held.

A former prison guard, who went only by the name Mr. Lee, worked at Camp 16 in the north of the country throughout most of the 1980s.

"The purpose of prison camps is to oppress, degrade, and violate the inmates for as long as they are alive."

Mr. Lee told Amnesty some detainees were forced to dig their own graves. They were then killed by being struck on the neck with a hammer.

Shin Dong-hyak, a former North Korean prison camp inmate who is now living in South Korea, agrees with Lee's assessment. "The political prison camps are for those who have committed grave crimes, worse than murderers. Once they are put into those camps, they are erased from all formal registry and they become non-existent. They live in a condition worse than animals. I cannot find a word that can describe their pains."

  • An aerial view of Camp 15 in North Korea, Sept. 16, 2013. (Amnesty International/DigitalGlobe)
  • Aerial views of logging at Camp 15 in North Korea in 2011 and 2013. (Amnesty International/DigitalGlobe)
  • Aerial views of a furniture factory at Camp 15 in North Korea taken over the last few years. (Amnesty International/DigitalGlobe)
  • Housing construction at Camp 16, North Korea, May 26, 2013. (Amnesty International/DigitalGlobe)
  • An aerial view of industrial areas of Camp 16 in North Korea in 2010 and 2012. (Amnesty International/DigitalGlobe)

Camp 16 covers a sprawling 560 square kilometers, making it nearly the size of the South Korean capital, Seoul.

Amnesty says satellite photos from the last two years show new housing blocks at the camp. Evidence of mining and logging activity also suggested forced labor.

Kim Young-soon was detained from 1980 to 1989 at Camp 15, in the southern part of the country.

Watch related video by Henry Ridgwell for VOA

Torture, Execution Rampant In Vast North Korea Prisonsi
X
December 05, 2013 1:06 AM
Human rights group Amnesty International has released satellite photos it says show political prisons in North Korea the size of large cities. Former guards and inmates say torture, rape and executions are commonplace. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London

"There were two prisoners who were caught trying to escape and were publicly executed. In a public execution, the prisoner is first beaten half to death. He is tied to a pole up on a platform, with his hands tied behind his back. His feet are also tied, another rope is tied around his waist, and he is blindfolded. Then one guard shouts to the firing squad, 'In the name of the people, shoot the enemy of the revolution!' They shoot three shots to the head, three shots to the chest, and three to the legs. By then, the head drops and the body is dragged away."

Amnesty says it has shared its evidence of the prison camps with the United Nations Commission of Inquiry, which is looking into human rights abuses in the North.

North Korea has refused to work with the commission. It denies the existence of political prison camps.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Activists for Peace Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs