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

Analysis: China Raises Hong Kong Rhetoric to Tiananmen Level

A front-page commentary in The People’s Daily called the current demonstrations 'chaos,' the same word Party officials used 25 years ago to describe the Tiananmen Square protests More

US Airstrikes Anger Syrian Civilians Fleeing Their Homes

Pentagon officials say they have seen no credible evidence of civilian deaths caused by US airstrikes against Islamic State militants More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid