The US State Department’s report is one of several recent institutional investigations documenting North Korea’s human rights record and prison camp system.
Last November, the Washington-based Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) released satellite images that show the reclusive nation’s prison camp system, where detainees are subjected to forced labor, torture, starvation, rape and death, may be expanding. The images are of Camp No. 25, a camp near Chongjin, on North Korea’s northeast coast.
According to the United Nations, up to 120,000 men, women and children are imprisoned in the gulags, known as “kwanliso” in Korean. A 2014 report from the international organization estimated that “hundreds of thousands of political prisoners” have died in the North Korean gulags over the past 50 years amid “unspeakable atrocities.”
“The inmate population has been gradually eliminated through deliberate starvation, forced labor, executions, torture, rape and the denial of reproductive rights,” the report said, drawing a parallel between the camps and those of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
“These camps constitute the cornerstone of the country’s large infrastructure dedicated to political repression and social control that enables widespread and systematic human rights abuses,” rights group Amnesty International said in a statement.