Generational Death in North Korean Labor Camps

Labor camp in North Korea, approximately six kilometers from Kaechon.

Labor camp in North Korea, approximately six kilometers from Kaechon.

You can destroy people in two classic ways:  run them over with tanks or throw them in a labor camp. To cruel leaders, the camps are cheaper.

Labor camps are concealed in the wilderness. They have limited lines of supply and communication. They don’t show up on any official maps and some have no names. In these deadly environments, your future is suddenly ended. No other species on the planet treats its kin in such a manner, and despite all the evils fought before, camps continue to exist.

Auschwitz was discovered by accident in an aerial overflight in World War II. Today, we have the benefit of satellite reconnaissance to uncover atrocities. But images like the one pictured here (39 38 44N, 125 59 02E) of an alleged North Korean labor camp require definite confirmation. According to Amnesty International, evidence from prisoner and guard defectors point to a time-honored system of brutalizing citizens without restraint. Korean prisoners can select from a traditional menu of camp horrors:  executions, exhausting work, little or no food, beatings, and much worse. Here is what we know thus far:

  • As many as 16 camps exist in North Korea with a ballpark total population of 200,000 people.
  • Few have escaped to report on camp conditions; China has been known to toss escapees back to the North Koreans.
  • The system has existed since the 1950s.
  • Some Koreans are sent to camps simply because of their relation to offenders, and that it takes three generations of punishment to clear a family of so-called crimes. Some Koreans have no idea why they are imprisoned.

To the United Nations falls the nearly impossible task of unveiling this network of human abuse—impossible because of North Korea’s broken record of denial. Running camps for over fifty years is simple for those who have learned from other powers. Their victims have died at the generational level:  fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, brothers and sisters. With the release of satellite imagery and testimony, the clock may also be ticking . . . human evidence can also be buried.

Photo:  Google Maps

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