North Korea expanding gulag network, satellite images show
By National Post Staff, February 26, 2013
A newly released analysis of satellite imagery paints a bleak picture of North Korea’s growing gulag network.
The North’s Labour Camp No. 25, which makes up part of what campaigners call “one of the worst, but least understood and reported, human rights situations in the world,” appears to be in the midst of a dramatic expansion.
According to the Committee of Human Rights in North Korea, the camp grew at least 72% since 2003. The number of perimeter guard posts jumped from 20 in 2003 to 43 by 2010.
The group believes the gulag network expansion may be a response to purges in the lead up to Kim Jong-un’s succession.
Direct information on North Korea’s forced labour camps is hard to come by, but human rights abuses have been well-documented by defectors.
After escaping, Shin Dong-hyuk equated his experience with surviving a camp in Hitler’s Germany.
“People think the Holocaust is in the past, but it is still very much a reality,” Dong-hyk told Agence France-Presse. “It is still going on in North Korea.”
Gulag prisoners are often victims of forced disappearances. There are between 150,000-200,000 political prisoners in the camps, according to an Economist report.
Hard labour and torture are both commonplace.
While incarcerated, “I was stripped, my legs were cuffed and my hands were tied with rope,” Dong-Hyuk told Amnesty International. “I was then hung by my legs and hands from the ceiling. Someone started a charcoal fire and brought it just under my back. I felt the heat at my waist and shrieked. My torturers pierced me with a steel hook near the groin to stop me writhing; the pain was so much that I fainted.”
With files from Youkyung Lee, Associated Press and Ross Johnston, National Post.