My daughter showed me this, this morningSubmitted by phenn on Sun, 06/10/2012 - 06:39
Yodok concentration camp (also romanized Yodŏk, Yodeok, or Yoduk) is a political prison camp in North Korea. The official name is Kwan-li-so (penal labor colony) No. 15. The camp is used to segregate those seen as hostile to the regime, punish them for political misdemeanors, and exploit them with hard labor.
The Yodok camp is about 70 miles (110 km) from Pyongyang. It is located in Yodok county, South Hamgyong province, stretching into the valley of the Ipsok River, surrounded by mountains: Paek-san 1,742 m (5,715 ft) to the north, Modo-san 1,833 m (6,014 ft) to the northwest, Tok-san 1,250 m (4,100 ft) to the west, and Byeongpung-san 1,152 m (3,780 ft) to the south. The entrance to the valley is the 1,250 m (4,100 ft) Chaebong Pass to the east. The streams from the valleys of these mountains form the Ipsok River, which flows downstream into the Yonghung River and eventually into the sea near Wonsan city.
Yodok camp has two parts:
The total control zone (Chosŏn'gŭl: 특별독재대상구역), with the prison labor colonies Pyongchang-ri and Yongpyong-ri, is for people who authorities believe have committed crimes against the regime or who have been denounced as politically unreliable (e.g. returnees from Japan or Christians). These prisoners are never released.
The revolutionary zone (Chosŏn'gŭl: 혁명화대상구역), with reeducation camps Ipsok-ri, Kuup-ri and Daesuk-ri, is to punish people for less serious political crimes (e.g. illegally leaving the country, listening to South Korean broadcasts, or criticizing government policy). These prisoners are eventually released after serving their sentences.
In the 1990s, the total control zone had an estimated 30,000 prisoners while the smaller revolutionary zone had about 16,500 prisoners; recent satellite images, however, indicate a significant increase in the camp's scale. Most prisoners are deported to Yodok without trial, or following grossly unfair trials, on the basis of confessions obtained through torture. People are often imprisoned together with family members and close relatives, including small children and the elderly, based on guilt by association (Sippenhaft).
The camp is around 378 km2 (146 sq mi) in area. It is surrounded by a barbed-wire fence 3–4 m (9.8–13 ft) tall and walls with electric wire and watchtowers at regular intervals. The camp is patrolled by 1,000 guards with automatic rifles and guard dogs.
In 2004, a Japanese television station aired what it said was footage showing scenes from the camp.
Conditions in the camp
The prisoners live in primitive dusty huts with walls made of dried mud, a roof (rotten and leaking) made of straw laid on wooden planks, and a floor covered with straw and dry plant mats. In a room of around 50 m2 (540 sq ft), 30–40 prisoners sleep on a bed made of a wooden board covered with a blanket. Most huts are not heated, even in winter, where temperatures are below −20 °C (−4 °F), and most prisoners get frostbite and have swollen limbs during the winter. Camp inmates also suffer from pneumonia, tuberculosis, pellagra, and other diseases, with no available medical treatment.
New prisoners receive clothes that predecessors had worn until their death. Most clothes are dirty, worn-out, and full of holes. Prisoners have no proper shoes, socks, or gloves, and usually no spare clothes. The dead are buried naked because their possessions are taken by other prisoners. All prisoners are covered with a thick layer of dirt, as they are overworked and have almost no opportunity to wash themselves or their clothes. As a result, the prisoners’ huts stink and are full of lice, fleas, and other insects. Prisoners have to queue in front of dirty community toilets, one for every 200 prisoners, using dry leaves for cleaning.
The camp guards make prisoners report on each other and designate specific ones as foremen to control a group. If one person does not work hard enough, the whole group is punished. This creates animosity among the detainees, destroys any solidarity, and forces them to create a system of self-surveillance.
Men, women, and children perform hard labor seven days a week and are treated as slaves. Labor operations include a gypsum quarry and a gold mine, textile plants, distilleries, a coppersmith workshop, agriculture, and logging. Dangerous work accidents often occur.
Work shifts in summer start at 4 a.m. and end at 8 p.m. in the evening. Work shifts in other seasons start at 5:30 a.m., but are often extended past 8 p.m. when work quotas are not met, even when dark. After dinner, prisoners are required to attend ideological education and struggle sessions from 9 to 11 p.m., where inmates who do not meet the targets are severely criticized and beaten. If prisoners cannot memorize the instructions given by Kim Il-sung, they are not allowed to sleep, or their food rations are reduced.
Most of the primary school children attend school in the morning. The main subject is the history of revolution of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. In the afternoon they carry out hard labor with very high work quotas in terms of amount and intensity. Children are beaten with a stick for failure to meet the day's quota. Primary school children have to carry heavy logs 12 times a day over 4 km (2.5 mi) or dung buckets of 30 kg (66 lb) 30 times a day. Other child works involve collecting 20 kg (44 lb) of plants in the mountains or cultivating 130–200 m2 (1,400–2,200 sq ft) of field. Sometimes children die in work accidents. Older children have to work all day, and from age 16 are assigned the same work quotas as adults.
Prisoners are constantly kept on the verge of starvation. The daily rations for prisoners are between 100 and 200 g (3.5 and 7.1 oz) of corn boiled into gruel, served three times a day. Depending on the agricultural produce of the year, rations can be less. If prisoners do not finish their daily work quota or violate minor rules, the daily rations are reduced or temporarily discontinued, no matter if they are sick, crippled, or disabled. Prisoners eat whatever wild animals they can catch, including rats, snakes, frogs, salamanders, worms, and insects, though they are severely punished if seen doing so by the guards. To avoid being detected, they mostly eat the meat raw, often without removing the skin. Wild animals are the only source of meat or fat, as the food rations lack both meat and plant oil. Some prisoners sneak into the pigsties and steal pig slops or pick undigested corn kernels out of animal feces to survive.
Lee Young-kuk estimates that end of the 1990s, around 20% of prisoners in Daesuk-ri died from malnutrition each year, with new prisoners arriving each month. All former prisoners say they frequently saw people dying.
Human rights violations
The following torture methods are described in testimonies of former prisoners:
“Pigeon torture”: The prisoner’s arms are tied behind his back, his legs tied together, and he is hung from the ceiling for several days.
Forced water ingestion: The prisoner is strapped to a table and forced to drink large amounts of water. Guards then jump on a board laid on the swollen stomach to force the water out.
Immersion in water: A plastic bag is placed over the prisoner’s head and he is submerged in water for long periods of time.
Beatings: Prisoners are beaten every day if work quotas were not met, if they do not kneel down quickly enough before the guards, or just for the sake of humiliation. Prisoners often become disabled or die from the beatings. Even children are severely beaten and tormented.
Prisoners are completely at the guards’ mercy; guards can abuse them without restraint. Former prisoners witnessed a man being tied by the neck to a vehicle and dragged for long distances and a primary school child being beaten and kicked hard on his head. In both cases, the prisoners died soon after.
Prisoners who violate camp rules (e.g. steal food or attempt to escape) are usually executed in public (barring those already shot). Summary executions take place in front of assembled prisoners several times each year; and every former prisoner testifies to having witnessed them. Before the execution, the prisoners are tortured and denied food. Those forced to watch the execution often cannot endure the scene without protest and are killed as well.
A more common method of killing singled-out prisoners is to assign them an impossible workload. When the work is not finished, the prisoner's food rations are reduced as punishment. Eventually, the combination of heavy work and less food leads to death by starvation.
Prisoners released from Yodok are forced bide by a written oath with a hand stamp. The pledge reads: “I will face execution if I reveal the secrets of Yodok.”
Abuse and forced abortions
Women in the camp are completely unprotected against sexual assaults by the guards. Prisoners are often ordered to strip naked to be beaten and harassed, and a former prisoner said that it is routine for guards to sexually abuse female prisoners. The women sometimes die after being raped. Pregnant women are usually given forced abortions.
Demand for closure
Amnesty International summarize the human rights situation in Yodok camp: "Men, women and children in the camp face forced hard labour, inadequate food, beatings, totally inadequate medical care and unhygienic living conditions. Many fall ill while in prison, and a large number die in custody or soon after release." The organization demands the immediate closure of Yodok and all other political prison camps in North Korea. The demand is supported by the International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea, a coalition of over 40 human rights organizations.
Kang Chol-hwan (in Yodok 1977–1987) was imprisoned as 9-year-old child because his family returned from Japan and was considered politically unreliable.
An Hyuk (in Yodok 1987–1989) was imprisoned at the age of 18 because he illegally left North Korea.
Kim Tae-jin (in Yodok 1988–1992) was also imprisoned at age 18 because he illegally left North Korea.
Lee Young-kuk (in Yodok 1995–1999), former bodyguard of Kim Jong-il, was kidnapped from China and imprisoned because he illegally left North Korea and criticized the country.
Kim Eun-cheol (in Yodok 2000–2003) was imprisoned at the age of 19 because he illegally left North Korea. He was part of a group of seven refugees repatriated by Russia; the United Nations granted them refugee status but failed to protect them.
South Korean citizens Shin Suk-ja and her daughters Oh Hae-won and Oh Kyu-won (in Yodok since 1987, when the daughters were ages 9 and 11) were imprisoned because her husband Oh Kil-nam did not return from a stay abroad. The family had been lured from Germany on North Korean agents’ false promises two years prior. Kang Chol-hwan and An Hyuk testified to meeting Shin Suk-ja during their imprisonment.
South Korean citizen Jeong Sang-un (in Yodok since 2010) is an unrepatriated Korean War prisoner and was imprisoned at age 84 for illegally leaving North Korea.