Concentration Camps

The North Korean government spends an incredible amount of money and effort into building many vast concentration camps. Depending on the crime, North Koreans are sent to different concentration camps. In North Korea, not only are the families and relatives of the criminals forced into concentrated camps, but second generations and third generations of the criminals are forced into prison camps as well because the North Korean state believes that "further generation of counterrevolutionaries" should disappear (Kang, et al., 146). The prison camps serve as a means to reeducate the counterrevolutionaries to appreciate the great deeds of the Great Leaders, Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jung-Il. Prisoners in these concentrated prison camps are treated even worse than animals.

In North Korea, even the smallest things or actions that provoke the North Korean government are magnified and people are accordingly forced into prison camps. Watching South Korean television programs or listening to South Korean radios, caught having a Christian bible in home, and even the slightest bad-mouthing of the North Korean party or the leaders can lead to forced labor in prison camps. According to testimonies from North Korean defectors who were once prison guards or prisoners, prisoners are only given a very small amount of "bad corn and corn prorridge for food"
( while doing hard labor and receiving severe beatings and tortures. Many people die in concentration camps of malnutrition, disease, and beatings. There is no adequate medical treatment available in the prisons for prisoners, (although there is a separate hospital specially made for guards and their families who reside near the prison camps, which prisoners are not allowed to use) which is not surprising when we think about how commoners in North Korea can also die of a simple cold because of lack of food and medication. Although many countries and organizations have sent lots of aid to North Korea, it has been told that very little, if any, of the aid goes to the citizens of the country. Rice and food donations often times go to the military men or elite class, while the money is contributed to the development of nuclear weapons and the military.

As the number of people who attempt to escape the country has increased in great numbers, the North Korean government has set even harsher punishments to people who cross the borderlines. Today, many people who are caught crossing the borderline are publicly executed right away. Only a year ago, 22 North Korean fishermen, who had accidentally strayed into South Korean waters but returned back to North Korea, were executed.

Above is an image of Camp 22, in which prisoners are
"treated equivalent to an insect." Concentration camps in North
Korea are like "hidden holocaust that no one can do anything about."
Camp 22 is one of the many prison camps in North Korea. It is
specially built for political prisoners.

Kang Chol-Hwan, a North Korean defector who had been forced into Camp 15 with his grandmother, father, and uncle because of his grandfather's political crime of criticizing the party, testified that prisoners reach the concentration camps by a truck driven by military men who cover the windows so that the prisoners cannot see where the road leads to. Kang Chol-Hwan and his family spent more than ten years in the prison camp until they were released after his grandfather's execution. He was told that his grandfather was sent to Camp 22, a camp for political prisoners. When Kang Chol-Hwan and his family were released from the prison, they were required to sign a document that forbid them to tell other North Korean citizens about anything they saw and experienced in the prison camp. Although not all North Koreans know what really happens in the prison camps, they all know that it is a terrifying place.

Pregnant women are no exceptions in prison camps. They are also beaten and forced to abort their babies because the North Korean state believes that "the people of undesirable origins should . . . at the very least be prevented from reproducing" (Kang, et al., 146). Some women still manage to hide their pregnancy and give birth to their children, but the guards eventually find out and kill the newborn babies. A North Korean refugee, Lee, recalled when he was in the prison camp, arrested for attempting to escape North Korea, he witnessed newborn babies put into small wooden boxes and hit in the head with a scissor, killed.

Monday, May 11, 2009 (last updated)