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Former North Korean Prisoner Speaks Out

A former North Korean prisoner is speaking out about his isolated homeland country and the fate of two American journalists detained there. Kang Chol Hwan spent 10 years in North Korea's notorious concentration camps.

Kang Chol-Hwan paints a disturbing picture of chaos and violence along North Korea's border with China. Defectors risk their lives while North Korean soldiers stand ready to arrest or shoot them.

He tells journalists in Tokyo that North Korea wants to control the border area desperately. Once the border opens up the system will never be the same.

That border is familiar territory for Kang. He escaped into China more than 10 years ago after he learned the North Korean government was investigating him. That followed a decade of abuse and starvation he experienced as a prisoner at the notorious Yodok concentration camp.

He was sent there with his family because former North Korean leader Kim Il Sung thought Kang's grandfather was a traitor.

Kang, now a journalist in South Korea, is speaking out about the North Korean camps in part because U.S. journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee sentenced to 12 years there. He is convinced the communist regime is treating both women well.

He says that North Korea's government will not bother the journalists because it knows the U.S. is a powerful country. Because the world knows where those journalists are, the government cannot harm them.

Kang also said that United Nations sanctions will not stop North Korea's nuclear programs, but that China could be influential.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans are thought to have fled hunger and repression into China. But the Beijing government considers them to be illegal migrants, and returns them to North Korea, where they face imprisonment and possible execution.

Kang wants the United States to pressure China to allow refugees to cross the border. He says that will lead to a collapse of the North Korean government, if hundreds of thousands of its citizens flee.