A small and very hungry girl is searched by her teacher who finds five grains of wheat in her pocket. He beats her to death in front of her classmates.
A teenage boy witnesses the public execution of his mother and brother.
A man is made to help load the corpses of prisoners dead from starvation, put them in a pot and burn them.
A mother is forced to drown her baby in a bucket.
Are these the accounts of witnesses to crimes against humanity in a concentration camp or torture chamber of the past? Something from Auschwitz perhaps or acts committed under Stalin or Pol Pot?
No, these acts were committed in the 21st century in the modern-day prison camp ludicrously named the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. These horrors are inflicted daily on up to 200,000 prisoners. North Korea’s camps have existed twice as long as Stalin’s Soviet gulags and 12 times as long as the Nazi extermination camps. Yet we’ve barely noticed.
Millions have died in these black holes, through imprisonment, forced labor, starvation and torture.
At last, thanks to the first UN commission of inquiry into North Korea’s human darkness, light is being shone on this secretive totalitarian state. Australian former High Court judge Michael Kirby, who is chairing the inquiry, said the testimony of almost 80 witnesses, defectors and experts at public hearings in Seoul, Tokyo, London and Washington in recent months evoked reactions similar to the discovery of concentration camps in Europe during World War II.