North Korean Prisons: A Detailed Look at Systematic Human Rights Violations
Seoul, South Korea – FLD Magazine
Former detainees have revealed extrajudicial executions, rape, forced abortions, jail without trial, torture, and starvation rations that leave prisoners so hungry some turn to eating insects. These are just some of the abuses commonplace in North Korean prisons and other detention facilities, according to a new report released by a human rights watchdog this week.
The Most Detailed Picture Yet
The non-profit NGO Korea Future has built up what it says is the most detailed picture yet of life inside the secretive country’s penal system. Using interviews with hundreds of survivors, witnesses, and perpetrators of abuse who have fled the country, along with official documents, satellite images, architectural analysis, and digital modeling of penal facilities, the report is a comprehensive account of the human rights violations that have taken place within North Korea’s penal systems.
Systematic and Widespread Human Rights Violations
“The purpose of our report is basically to reveal the human rights violations that have taken place within North Korea’s penal systems. (It) finds that even 10 years after the UN established a Commission of Inquiry there still is systematic and widespread human rights violations,” said Kim Jiwon, an investigator with Korea Future, which has offices in London, Seoul, and The Hague and focuses on human rights issues in North Korea.
More Than 1,000 Instances of Torture and Cruel Treatment
Alongside constructing 3D models of some of the detention sites, the group has documented what it believes are more than 1,000 instances of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, hundreds of instances of rape and other forms of sexual violence, and more than 100 cases of denial of the right to life.
A Gulag Comparable to the Soviet Union
“Comparable to the Soviet Gulag, (North Korea’s) penal system is not to detain and rehabilitate persons sentenced by courts in safe and humane facilities. Nor is its purpose to decrease recidivism and increase public safety,” the report says. “It is to isolate persons from society whose behavior conflicts with upholding the singular authority of the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un.”
Call for Investigations and Prosecutions
The report states it has identified hundreds of active participants it alleges have participated in the violence and is calling for investigations and prosecutions for the abuses. FLD Magazine supports the call for justice and accountability for the victims of these heinous crimes.
FLD Magazine: Investigative Report Reveals Horrific Conditions in North Korean Detention Centers
A recent report by Korea Future, a human rights group, has shed light on the appalling conditions in North Korean detention centers. The report alleges that officials as high-ranking as major generals personally carry out abuses in 206 detention facilities across every North Korean province.
The report highlights several cases, including that of three people jailed after trying to cross the border – a punishable crime in North Korea. One of them was forced to have an abortion when seven or eight months pregnant, while another was fed as little as 80 grams of corn a day, a starvation diet that saw his weight drop from 60 kilograms to 37 kilograms within a month. He was forced to supplement his diet with cockroaches and rodents. A third was forced to hold stress positions for up to 17 hours a day for 30 days. Survivors who spoke to CNN recounted surviving on animal feed, witnessing rapes, and being subject to severe beatings.
Korea Future hopes that other countries will consider pursuing domestic court cases against North Korean agents and that some of its findings can be used as evidence. It also hopes that western countries will apply targeted sanctions against some of the accused in the report.
Due to North Korea’s self-imposed isolation, CNN cannot independently verify the accounts. However, the conditions outlined in the report are in line with the findings of recent investigations by the United Nations. A report to the UN Human Rights council this week by Special Rapporteur Elizabeth Salmón stated that women detained in political prison camps were “subjected to torture and ill-treatment, forced labor and gender-based violence, including sexual violence by state officials.”
The hermit country is known as one of the most closed and repressive nations in the world. North Korea frequently denies any allegations of human rights abuses.
The report by Korea Future is a stark reminder of the need for continued international pressure to hold North Korea accountable for its human rights violations. FLD Magazine will continue to monitor the situation and report on any developments.North Korea has once again denied allegations of human rights abuses, claiming that they are part of a US-led campaign against the country. In a statement released after a UN meeting on the human rights situation in the country, North Korea denounced and rejected what it characterized as a “US-waged human rights pressure campaign.” The statement also criticized the US for taking issue with the human rights situation of other countries, calling it a mockery and an insult to human rights itself.
The statement further claimed that the US was using its “human rights maneuver as a mechanism for invading” North Korea, referring to a joint military exercise between the US and South Korea. However, investigators from both Korea Future and the UN have reported on the dehumanizing abuse suffered by inmates in North Korean prisons. Many inmates become so dehumanized by the abuse that they begin to feel they somehow deserve it. Many also have no concept of human rights with which to frame their experience.
One former inmate, who was detained for little over a year from 2015 after complaining to authorities over her housing situation, likened her treatment to that of an animal. She described being kept in a cell and given food from behind bars, and being treated as some kind of animal rather than a human being. Her cell was around two square meters, and she was not allowed to move or talk. She was fed only corn mixed with rice bran, which is more commonly used as animal feed.
It is important to shed light on the human rights abuses in North Korea and to hold the country accountable for its actions. The international community must continue to pressure North Korea to improve its human rights record and to treat its citizens with the dignity and respect they deserve.ience to the Supreme Leader and the Workers’ Party of Korea.”
North Korea’s Systematic Abuse in Prisons
North Korea has long been accused of torture and abuse in its political prison camps, known as “kwalliso”. A UN investigation in 2014 found that up to 120,000 people were held in these camps, and hundreds of thousands of political prisoners had died in kwalliso amid “unspeakable atrocities.”
Abuse in Ordinary Prisons
According to a report by Korea Future Initiative, similar methods of abuse are being used “systematically” in ordinary prisons, known as “kyohwaso,” and other penal institutes such as holding centers and prosecution offices. The report places responsibility on North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.
The Purpose of North Korea’s Penal System
The purpose of North Korea’s penal system is to isolate persons from society whose behavior conflicts with upholding the singular authority of the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un. Detainees are re-educated through forced labor, ideological instruction, and punitive brutality with the purpose of compelling unquestioning obedience to the Supreme Leader and the Workers’ Party of Korea.
Surviving North Korea’s Prisons
Survivors of North Korea’s prisons have described the conditions as inhumane, with little to no nutrition provided. “When you eat breakfast, from the moment you put down your spoon, you’re hungry. It’s all grass and no nutrition so you get hungry as you don’t even feel the food inside your stomach,” said one survivor. “All your nutrition in your body is gone so you end up looking like a skeleton by the time you leave, just right before dying.”
Systematic Abuse in Ordinary Prisons
Korea Future Initiative’s report also highlights that the abuse in ordinary prisons is “greater in scale … than in better-known political prison camps” and that many of the people held in kyohwaso are being held essentially as political prisoners. The report calls for the international community to take action to end the systematic abuse in North Korea’s prisons.
en subjected to beatings, sleep deprivation, and forced labor during his time in detention. He also described being forced to watch as other prisoners were tortured and executed. The survivor, who wished to remain anonymous, said he had been detained for his involvement in a peaceful protest against the government.
The Korea Future report, which was based on interviews with 22 survivors and former officials, details a system of detention centers where prisoners are subjected to brutal treatment, including torture, forced labor, and executions. The report also alleges that the North Korean government uses these detention centers to silence political dissidents and maintain control over the population.
Kim Jiwon, the Korea Future investigator who conducted many of the interviews, praised the survivors for their courage in speaking out. He also noted that it was difficult to hear their stories and that many of them did not even realize they were being subjected to torture due to the dehumanizing treatment they received.
The Korea Future report sheds light on the human rights abuses taking place in North Korea and highlights the need for international action to address these issues. It is important that the international community continues to pressure the North Korean government to improve its human rights record and hold those responsible for these abuses accountable.A North Korean Defector’s Account of Detention Centers
A survivor of North Korean detention centers has spoken out about his experiences, including multiple detentions for defection in 2000 and 2017. Despite the horrific conditions he faced, he noted that some aspects had improved over time.
During his detention, he witnessed prison guards raping female detainees and was subjected to beatings and forced to walk around with his body bowed at a right angle. However, he noted that in 2017, they were allowed to stand up and walk, which was an improvement from having to crawl on hands and knees.
He also described being held in a 6.6 square meter room with up to five other people, with no heating. However, in 2017, they were given blankets to help cope with the cold, unlike in 2000 when they were given nothing.
Despite the improvements, he noted that some detention centers were still horrific. He witnessed guards raping female detainees at night and reported it to an inspector, but was beaten up soon after. He eventually broke a window and stabbed himself in the stomach in an attempt to escape.
Despite all of this, he believes it is important to focus on the improvements that have been made, such as receiving three meals a day and the same food as the police. He likened it to encouraging a child, saying that focusing purely on bad behavior would not encourage them to change for the better.
The survivor’s account sheds light on the horrific conditions faced by detainees in North Korea and the need for continued efforts to improve human rights in the country.xperiences are very limited,” he said. “We have to be very careful about drawing conclusions from limited information.”
North Korea’s human rights abuses have been well-documented for years, but the situation remains dire. According to James Heenan, a representative of the UN Human Rights Office in Seoul, many escapees from North Korea don’t even have a concept of human rights. Educating them is one of the first steps in helping them recognize that what happened to them was abuse.
Heenan said that the abuse fits into four main categories. Firstly, people are being detained arbitrarily and either not given a trial or given a show trial, without a lawyer, that might be as short as 10 minutes. Secondly, people are being tortured and subject to other forms of ill-treatment related to health, food, and sanitation that could be “tantamount to torture if it’s done in a certain way.”
Thirdly, extrajudicial executions in prison are also a major issue. People who are just executed from prison without trial are subjected to the death penalty. Finally, forced labor is also a widespread violation. People in prisons and detention are forced to work in inhumane conditions for no pay for the profit of the state.
After the outbreak of Covid-19, North Korea shut down its few remaining connections with the outside world, making it harder to know what was happening in the detention centers. While some escapees had suggested “limited improvements” with perhaps fewer cases of torture and extrajudicial killings, Heenan cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from this, saying there were too many “blind spots.”
Heenan said that the issue of knowledge of human rights is a key one. Many escapees tell the UN Human Rights Office the raw, unadulterated version of what happened to them, and sometimes they see it as a bad thing. Sometimes they think, “I was beaten because I deserved it.”
The situation in North Korea is dire, and it’s important to continue to shed light on the human rights abuses that are happening there. By educating escapees and raising awareness of the situation, we can work towards a better future for the people of North Korea.
North Korea’s Detention Facilities: A Dire Situation
The experience of most of North Korea’s detention centers has always been difficult to come by, according to human rights groups. But despite the lack of information, these groups are confident that abuses are still occurring and that the situation is still very dire.
Survivors’ testimonies are cross-checked for consistency, or “triangulated,” not only against other survivors but also against medical evidence of their injuries and in some cases satellite evidence. “These individuals are telling consistent stories…you also have the sheer weight of testimony,” said a human rights expert.
Weight of Evidence
The weight of evidence and testimony is very strong in these cases. The situation in detention facilities is “one of the most egregious examples of the (human rights) violations we see (in North Korea),” said the expert. The UN Commission and most others have concluded that the things like torture and ill treatment that are going on in those facilities reach the level of a crime against humanity.
It is important to shed light on the dire situation in North Korea’s detention facilities and to continue to fight for human rights.
Additional reporting by Paula Hancocks.