Kang Chol-hwan was just nine when he was sent to the Yodok concentration camp in North Korea with most of his family, including his father and grandmother. His grandad, who he would never see again, was accused of being a spy for the Japanese — and under North Korean rules, the whole family was guilty.
“At Yoduk, prisoners are executed in public to instill fear and obedience. Children, out of hunger and desperation, resort to scavenging for roots and rats. … There is one distinction that I would draw between the North Korean prison camps and Auschwitz,” Kang said. “While Auschwitz’s goal was rapid, industrial-style extermination, Yodok prolongs the suffering over three generations.
“The purpose of Yodok is to be but one facility that helps sustain the regime and cleanse the North Korean people of any freedom of thought.”
Kwon-Hyuk was once the commander of Haengyong Concentration Camp — the infamous Camp 22. Speaking about Haengyong to documentary filmmakers in 2004, he swore he had seen a family being gassed and said he had himself ordered the deaths of five families.
He recalled: “The parents were vomiting and dying, but till the very last moment they tried to save their kids by doing mouth to mouth breathing.”