North Korean prison camps have survived twice as long as Stalin’s Soviet gulags, and much longer than the Nazi concentration camps. Another important difference is that they are still in operation today.
Shin Dong-hyuk has brought new insights into the secretive camps. Shin, 30, is the only man known to have been born and to escape from a North Korean prison known as Camp 14. He was born in a “total control zone” where prison authorities wield complete power, where guards beat children to death with no hesitation.
The unflinching account from a defector revealed how he picked corn kernels out of cow manure to eat as he competed with his family for food at one of North Korea’s notorious prison camp.
He was also forced to watch his mother’s hanging and his brother’s execution.
The concept of “reward marriages” was unknown until Shin told his story. These are rewards dispensed by prison guards, who allow a male and female prisoner to have sex. Shin was a product of a reward marriage in the prison camp.
The reward marriage works as an incentive for prisoners, Shin said.