North Korea’s prison camps are a closed-off world of death, torture and forced labor where babies are born slaves, according to two survivors who liken the horrors of the camps to a Holocaust in progress.
“People think the Holocaust is in the past, but it is still very much a reality. It is still going on in North Korea,” Shin Dong-hyuk told AFP through an interpreter on the sidelines of a human rights summit in Geneva.
Shin himself spent his first 23 years in a prison camp in the secretive country, where he says he was tortured and subjected to forced labor before making a spectacular escape seven years ago – and giving the outside world a rare first-hand account of life inside the camps.
The 30-year-old is the only person known to have been born in such a camp to flee and live to tell the tale, and was portrayed in a book by journalist Blaine Harden published last year called “Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea to Freedom in the West.”
While Shin’s comparison with Nazi concentration camps – where the majority of the six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust were murdered – may seem extreme, another North Korean prison camp survivor, Chol-Hwan Kang, agreed with the analogy.
“Fundamentally, it is the same as Hitler’s Auschwitz,” Kang told AFP. With whole families in North Korea thrown into camps together and starving to death, he said the “methods may be different, but the effect is the same… It’s outrageous!”
Kang, now 43, was sent to Camp 15 with his whole family when he was nine years old to repent for the suspected disloyalties of his grandfather. He spent 10 years there before his family was released and later managed to flee to China and on to South Korea – the same route taken by Shin.