North Korean defectors recount nightmare of prison camps

Chosun Ilbo reports on unimaginable suffering at the core of testimonies from former inmates of North Korea’s political concentration camps. Three briefs:

“I ate whatever I could put into my mouth, except stones,” recalled an inmate at the Yodok camp between 2000 and 2002. “As starving inmates surreptitiously ate seeds, security guards sprayed pesticides on the seeds, so many died from eating the poisoned seeds.”

Of 250 inmates he met at the camp, 80 starved to death or were executed in public after being arrested for attempting to flee the Stalinist country. He himself was held on espionage charges after being caught with a Bible smuggled in from South Korea.

A female defector recalled how she languished at the Kaechon political prison camp for 28 years after being taken into custody at age 13 for “guilt by association”, related to a crime committed by one of her relatives. She said, “I saw a starving woman eat the flesh of her son who had died of a disease.”

Another was detained at Kaechon Women’s Prison for attempting to flee the North twice, in 2003 and 2005. “Once we stood in line in the hallway of a detention house where a security guard was kicking a pregnant woman,” she recalled. “Some time later, this woman returned and lay bleeding with an empty womb. But nobody was allowed to do anything to help her.”

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