The Concentration Camp System of North Korea

Anonymous Author/ August 30, 2017

The Mechanisms of Incarceration

Most of the prisoners are sent to the camps for political reasons. The category of “political prisoner” has proven to be a very arbitrary and vague one whenever it has been used in historical or contemporary circumstances. In North Korea it includes anything from mentioning a foreign country when talking in private to the possession of knowledge about a relationship that former leader Kim Jong-il had with a woman. Given the broadness of possible accusations, anybody that might appear as a potential threat to the state or who simply represents a nuisance for an influential neighbour can easily end up in one of the camps.

If any interrogation takes place at all, torture is a common way to force the accused to confess to whatever the authorities have accused them of.

Additionally, guilt by association is widespread in North Korea. It often leads to the incarceration of whole families because of the alleged actions of one person. Often prisoners do not even know why and for whose alleged crimes they are imprisoned. The accusations may even stem from a previous generation, and still restrict the grandchildren in their personal freedoms.

The Conditions in the Political Prisons

As reported by a number of eyewitnesses, as well as former guards, the living conditions in the camps are not to any degree better than the justifications for incarceration.

In Camp No.18, for instance, the prisoners had to work up to twenty-hour shifts in unsecured mines with no wages at the end of the month. Such conditions existed in Europe in the Nineteenth Century, in the age of early Industrialization and Manchester capitalism.

A former guard explained that the goal for the inmates is to “die of hard labour”.

The humiliations and punishments within the camps are also broad, ranging from sexual violence committed mainly against incarcerated women, to a wide variety of physical and mental forms of torture, to extra work shifts or the cutting of food rations. Mandatory disciplinary sessions are held regularly for the inmates. Furthermore, the guards’ powerful position in the camps offers them the possibility to freely live out sadistic and perverted fantasies which go unpunished and lead to more suffering and pain for the inmates.

The above-outlined conditions deem it necessary, in my opinion, to spread awareness about the on-going violations of human rights in the state of North Korea and to pressure decision makers to deal with these unsolved problems.