Inside the North Korean Gulag

January 9th, 2018

With depressing regularity, we hear tales about military provocations from South Korea and the North’s ongoing attempts to develop atomic weapons. Alas much of the North Korean news is rarely regarding the suffering of it’s people. More likely we hear about trivialities such as the opening of a theme park or the shameful antics of a former basket ball star. An issue of much greater significance than the stories that are trivial, and of equal value to the security concerns, gets just scant coverage: North Korea’s dreadful record on human rights. In February, an unparalleled United Nations Commission of Inquiry published a report which exhaustively documents the range of North Korea’s repression. In uncharacteristically blunt language and drawing on hours of testimony from North Korean refugees and defectors, that the COI laid out that the unparalleled horrors of human rights abuses within the country.

It reasoned that North Korea’s government was committing offenses from humanity from its own people and called on that the countries of the world to act. Foremost among these crimes is the ongoing presence of political prison camps which share many aspects of the Nazi concentration peaks or the Soviet gulags. While hard numbers understandably vary broadly, most experts agree that between 100, 000 and 200, 000 North Koreans are now held in a community of vast camps, a number of which will be the size of small cities. Maintained separately from the prisons for regular crimes, North Korea’s gulags subject prisoners to appalling conditions.

Under North Korea’s ruthless system, 3 generations of families will be punished for the so called crimes of a single person. Every aspect of life there is that that the worst you can imagine as a human being. It’s something against all normal moral standards, punishing family members for crimes they didn’t commit. This is especially harsh in North Korea where ‘criminal behaviour’ is likely to be arbitrary or simply something that displeases the State.  In fact it’s very likely to be trivial, indeed even trying to access a mobile phone network or internet connection will get you into trouble.  North Koreans still try though the cost of an online IP changer like this which can protect your internet connection are prohibitive for most outside the elite class.

Take for example the story of one North Korean – Kang. When his grandfather was arrested for alleged political offenses, Kang was sent to the gulag together with his grandma, father, uncle, and sister. He was assigned to forced labour brigades, like other kids in the camps. Long denied by that the Kim regime and frequently overlooked by that the rest of that the world, these peaks have been exposed by the reform of an escalating number of refugees, and satellite imagery.

Those searching for North Korea to reform will be likely to be disappointed. The camps became a necessary Part of the Kim dynasty’s machines for maintaining power. Ahn Myeong Chul, who served as a guard in that the gulags and saw his members of the family sent to a camp noted in a latest Interview: The presence of political jail camps is vital for maintaining the regime.


Further reports on BBC News – Accessing BBC from Ireland/Outside UK