The leaders of North Korea’s horrific prison camps encourage guards to beat prisoners to death and induce starvation, a U.S. State Department fact sheet revealed.
The report highlighted details gathered from six prison camps, some of which housed as many as 50,000 prisoners, mostly detained for political offenses. The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights prepared the information published Friday detailing a prisoners’ daily struggle to even obtain a decent meal at the camps.
“Induced starvation is common among prisoners, who are driven to catch and eat rodents, frogs and snakes,” the report said.
A former camp guard, identified as Ahn Myong-chol, said inmates appeared like “walking skeletons, ‘dwarfs,’ and ‘cripples’ in rags,” and about 1,500 to 2,000 of them would die of malnutrition yearly.
The U.S. wants the U.N. Security Council to approve a range of new sanctions, including a full ban on exports of oil to North Korea. Experts say an oil embargo would be a major shift in international efforts to squeeze Kim’s regime.
“Something like this has not been tried before,” said Kent Boydston, a research analyst at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “It would be a different kind of sanction that would have broader impact on the economy.”
A prolonged halt in oil supplies could eventually bring the North Korean economy to its knees. But it would need the support of China, North Korea’s main trading partner, and Russia — both of which can veto the measure at the U.N.
The escalating crisis over North Korea is a thorny problem for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is trying to project strength and stability ahead of a key meeting of the Communist Party next month. That makes experts skeptical that he will take drastic measures at this point against Kim Jong Un.
Global Times, a Chinese state-run tabloid that often expresses nationalistic views, suggested in April that Beijing might cut off North Korea’s oil supply if it carried out another nuclear test. But after Pyongyang went ahead with the test, the newspaper poured cold water on the idea of an oil ban.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is also opposed to an oil embargo, telling South Korean President Moon Jae-in that he’s concerned it may harm civilians, according to a spokesman for Moon.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the escalating crisis over North Korea’s weapons program risks developing into a “global catastrophe” with mass casualties. Putin, speaking in China on Tuesday at the closure of the BRICs summit, cautioned against “military hysteria” and said that the only way to resolve the crisis was through diplomacy.
He warned that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has calculated that the survival of his regime depends on its development of nuclear weapons. Kim had seen how western intervention in Iraq had ended in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein after which the country was ravaged by war, Putin warned, and Kim was determined not to suffer the same fate.
“Saddam Hussein rejected the production of weapons of mass destruction, but even under that pretense, he was destroyed and members of his family were killed,” Putin said. “The country was demolished and Saddam Hussein was hanged. Everyone knows that and everyone in North Korea knows that.”
Putin said that while Russia condemned North Korea’s latest actions, imposing any kind of sanctions would be “useless and ineffective.” Kim would rather starve his people than see his regime overthrown, he said. “They will eat grass but they will not turn away from the path that will provide for their security,” he said.
Chloe, a North Korean defector now living in Seoul, wants to be an advertising manager and needs to learn English for that to happen. While most South Koreans already learn or are engaged in advanced English studies, it is rare for North Koreans to understand English. They are told what they will learn at university, or what career they will undertake. Chloe said while school was free in her homeland, many people bribed teachers for extra tutoring or to learn what they needed. She said her memories of North Korea were mostly happy but her mother’s decision to escape was based on wanting a better life for them.
For Jenna, another defector, the one thing she misses most is the grandmother who raised her, following the death of her father and the defection of her mother. She knows she is unlikely to ever see her grandmother again. “I really miss my grandmother,” Jenna said, admitting she found aspects of life on the south side of the 38th parallel hard. “South Korea has many academies and people study all the time.”
Many North Koreans faced discrimination and once in South Korea are stuck in poverty unable to get better qualifications or a job due to the highly competitive education and job markets. English was just one of the minimum requirements needed to succeed.
Associate Professor Bronwen Dalton, from the University of Technology, Sydney, says defectors learn some South Koreans view their northern neighbors as a burden. “They are not seen as working as hard or they are not as refined or can’t be trusted,” she said.
While life in Seoul sounds like heaven compared to life under a brutal dictator in Pyongyang, North Korean defectors know firsthand, life isn’t all sweet and rosy on the other side.
“When I first moved to South Korea, I had spare time, I didn’t know what to do with it” James said. We never had that in North Korea.”
“I found it difficult to identify,” he said. “In North Korea most communication is face-to-face, in South Korea it’s done over the internet.”
James is one of five students studying English in Sydney as part of a scholarship program at the University of Technology Sydney, specifically aimed at former North Koreans. He is the first to admit he doesn’t miss the day to day life in North Korea, but he does long to see friends and family he left behind.
The group explained that they not only found discrimination in the competitive South Korean world, but also faced the challenge of having to catch up on years of education. James said most students not only study during the day, but also take up extra tutorial in the evenings just to get ahead.
Enormous difficulties adjusting to their lives in the south including how to use the internet and things like using the train service or topping up a travel card. These simple life skills are all learned during a three-month stay at the Hana Foundation, a defector mentoring program.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has a third child, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) has learned.
Kim Jong Un’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, is believed to have given birth in February. “The gender of their new child is unknown,” a South Korean lawmaker said.
Little is known about the North Korean first family, but opposition lawmaker Yi Wan-yong confirmed “Kim’s first child is a son [born in 2010] and the second child is a daughter[born in 2013],” noting he learned this information from non-NIS sources.
In 2013, former NBA star Dennis Rodman revealed the name and gender of one of Kim and Ri’s children, a daughter called Ju Ae. “I held their baby Ju Ae and spoke with Ms. Ri as well,” he said, describing Kim as “a good dad.”
There was speculation that Ri was pregnant late last year, when she disappeared from public view for several months, a time frame that would seem to line up with a February birth.
Little is known about Ri, Kim Jong Un’s wife, who accompanied him to his father’s funeral in late 2011, sparking widespread speculation about the couple. It wasn’t until the following year that South Korean intelligence confirmed they had been married since 2009.
Ri was partially educated in China and visited South Korea in 2005 for the Asian Athletic Championships “as a member of North Korea’s cheering squad,” a South Korean lawmaker told CNN in 2012. She is believed to be around 30 years old.
North Korea carried out its most powerful nuclear test to date on Sunday, claiming to have developed an advanced hydrogen bomb that could sit atop an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The bomb used in the country’s sixth-ever nuclear test sent tremors across the region that were 10 times more powerful than Pyongyang’s previous test a year ago, Japanese officials said.
While the type of bomb used and its size have not been independently verified, if true, the pariah state is a significant step closer to being able to fire a nuclear warhead to the US mainland, as it has repeatedly threatened it could if provoked.
The test came just hours after North Korea released images of leader Kim Jong Un inspecting what it said was a hydrogen bomb ready to be put on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the type of weapon the country would need to use to deliver a nuclear warhead to far-away locations.
Based on the tremors that followed the test, NORSAR, a Norway-based group that monitors nuclear tests, estimated it had an explosive yield of 120 kilotons. Hiroshima’s had 15 kilotons. But South Korean officials gave a more modest estimation, saying that Sunday’s bomb had a yield of 50 kilotons.
North Korea has for years worked on nuclear miniaturization, which means creating a nuclear warhead small and light enough to be fired over long distances.
Commentary in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the official mouthpiece of North Korea, called on the United States to recognize the North as a nuclear power if it wants future diplomatic efforts to make headway.
“The situation is turning unfavorable for the US day by day. There is no proper way out. The US should make a switchover in its policy on the basis of recognizing the fundamentally changed DPRK strategic position and geographical influence,” it said, using North Korea’s acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“As the US escalates the confrontation with the DPRK and wastes time to find out a solution, the striking capabilities of the DPRK’s strategic forces which put the whole US mainland in their strike range will rapidly increase.”
A day earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the United States and others against going down a “dead-end road” on North Korea and called for talks to resolve the issue, saying “putting pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear missile program is misguided and futile.”
Russia’s foreign minister is urging the United States to negotiate a deal with North Korea to avert war, voicing concern that tensions might spiral out of control.
Referring to the U.S., Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that “the one who is smarter and stronger must take the first step” in diplomatic efforts.
Lavrov says Moscow has asked Washington in confidential conversations if it realizes that U.S. allies South Korea and Japan would suffer the most if the North’s nuclear missile tests provoke a military conflict.
He says the U.S. response was that certain developments would leave military intervention as the only option. Lavrov didn’t offer further details, but said Russia would do all it can to prevent “such horrible developments.”
North Korea’s latest missile launch over Japan seemed, as Stephan Haggard of the University of California at San Diego described it, “perfectly calibrated to create political mischief.” This enabled it to send a strong political signal without overtly crossing a “red line” and spurring the United States into action, analysts said.
The launch also seemed designed to drive a wedge between North Korea’s neighbors.
In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called it “an unprecedented, grave and serious threat.” Abe wants to beef up Japan’s military capabilities, and missile launches like this provide ammunition for his controversial cause.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s liberal president Moon Jae-in, who has promoted engagement with Pyongyang, immediately denounced the launch and sent his fighter jets to drop bombs on a shooting range near the border with North Korea, a show of South Korean might.
Both reactions will have rattled Beijing, which Tuesday called on all sides to take a step back. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying characterized the North Korea situation as “at a tipping point, approaching a crisis.” She repeated China’s call for talks between North Korea and the United States.
China doesn’t want Japan increasing its military capabilities and rivaling it in the region, and it doesn’t want South Korea sticking to its agreement to host an American antimissile battery that it fears could be used to keep China in check.
Most of all, analysts say, Kim Jong Un is showing that he won’t be cowed by President Trump’s tough talk.