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

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.