A blog by Grant Montgomery, co-founder of Family Care Foundation, a 501c3 that provides emergency services and sustained development for families on 5 continents. This site highlights the plight of 300,000 North Koreans who have fled their country due to the brutal oppression of a Stalinist North Korean regime, as well as those still living in North Korea.
Shin Dong-hyuk spent his first 23 years in North Korean prison camp 14, where he was tortured and subjected to forced labor. Another North Korean prison camp survivor, Chol-Hwan Kang, spent 10 years in Camp 15.
Kang suggests that Pyongyang’s recent nuclear test was meant not only as a message of strength to the outside world but also to potential opponents to the regime within the country. Both men say the international community must do more to help North Koreans, with Kang insisting the world should take advantage of growing feelings of opposition within the communist state.
Both Shin and Kang described life in their labor camps as defined by hunger and violence.
“Daily I saw torture, and every day in the camp I saw people dying of malnutrition and starvation. I saw lots of friends die and I almost died myself of malnutrition,” Kang recalled.
Shin still carries the scars of his experience on his body. Resting his right hand on the table in front of him, he revealed the missing tip of his middle finger, which was chopped off by a prison guard as punishment after he dropped a piece of machinery in a factory.
“I’m here outside the camp, but what I’m doing daily is talk about the situation in the camp,” Shin said. “I’m still in the camp in my head.”
After meeting Shin and hearing his harrowing account in December, UN right chief Navi Pillay called for an in-depth international inquiry into “one of the worst, but least understood and reported, human rights situations in the world.”
North Korea drew worldwide condemnation Tuesday after it announced it had successfully conducted its third nuclear test, in direct defiance to U.N. Security Council orders to shut down its atomic activity or face more sanctions and international isolation.
Experts say North Korea’s successful detonation of a miniaturized nuclear device is concerning because it indicates the country may be getting closer to the ability to put a nuclear device on a missile.
North Korea expert Andrei Lankov told Fox News that possession of such a “miniaturized” device would be necessary to create a nuclear warhead. “It shows they are advancing their nuclear technology,” Lankov said. He also noted the significance of the timing of the test, which came just months after North Korea’s successful intercontinental ballistic missile test. “It seems they are very close to being able to put a device on a missile,” Lankov said.
Peter Beck, an expert for Asia Society, tells Fox News the blast appears to be “significantly greater” than North Korea’s past nuclear tests. He, too, said the test “…shows a greater commitment by North Korea to marry the missile and nuclear programs.”
Earlier Tuesday, South Korean, U.S. and Japanese seismic monitoring agencies said they detected an earthquake in North Korea with a magnitude between 4.9 and 5.2.
The timing will be seen as significant. The test came hours before President Obama was scheduled to give his State of the Union speech, a major, nationally televised address. It’s also only days before the Saturday birthday of Kim Jong Un’s father, late leader Kim Jong Il, whose memory North Korean propaganda has repeatedly linked to the country’s nuclear ambitions. This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
North Korea said the atomic test was merely its “first response” to what it called U.S. threats, and said it will continue with unspecified “second and third measures of greater intensity” if Washington maintains its hostility.
North Korea has been signaling that a third nuclear test is imminent, and speculation of a major advance has been fueled by the assertion of its top military body, the National Defense Commission, that any test will be of a “higher level”.
Numerous analysts believe this could point to the first-time test of a uranium device. The North’s two previous tests in 2006 and 2009 used plutonium for fissile material. The test will offer a rare chance to gauge where its nuclear program is headed, with most expert attention focused on what type of device is detonated and how.
“It’s not that a uranium test would reflect any great technical achievement,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the non-proliferation program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. “But it would confirm what has long been suspected: that the North can produce weapons-grade uranium which doubles its pathways to building more bombs in the future,” Fitzpatrick said.
A basic uranium bomb is no more potent than a basic plutonium one, but the uranium path holds various advantages for the North, which has substantial deposits of uranium ore. North Korea revealed it was enriching uranium in 2010 when it allowed foreign experts to visit a centrifuge facility at its Yongbyon nuclear complex.
Another red flag raised by a uranium device relates to proliferation, according to Paul Carroll, program director at the Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation based in California. “Highly enriched uranium is the preferred currency of rogue states or terrorist groups,” Carroll said. “It’s the easiest fissile material to make a crude bomb out of and the technical know-how and machinery for enriching uranium is more readily transferred and sold,” he added.