Home > HRNK Announcements
HRNK Announcements
PRESS RELEASE: HRNK Launches New Report: North Korea’s Hidden Gulag: Interpreting Reports of Changes in the Prison Camps
August 26, 2013


                              

PRESS RELEASE

Report Embargoed until 12:01 am EDT, Tuesday, August 27, 2013

HRNK Launches New Report: North Korea’s Hidden Gulag: Interpreting Reports of Changes in the Prison Camps

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), a US-based non-governmental organization, has launched a new report by David Hawk, updating the current status of the North Korean political prison camp system. The report was made possible by funding from the Open Society Foundations (OSF). The report confirms the closure of two of North Korea’s known six political penal labor colonies, finding “extremely high” the total number of prisoners remaining incarcerated on political grounds, reported missing and unaccounted for, and who have died in detention. The report builds on the 2012 HRNK report Hidden Gulag Second Edition by the same author, drawing on recent satellite imagery analysis, interviews with former camp prisoners and guards as well as new sources of information within North Korea.

Through this vast system of unlawful imprisonment, the North Korean regime isolates, banishes, punishes and executes those suspected of being disloyal to the regime. They are deemed “wrong-thinkers,” “wrong-doers,” or those who have acquired “wrong-knowledge” or have engaged in “wrong-associations.” Up to 130,000 are known to be held in the kwan-li-so penal labor colonies where they are relentlessly subjected to malnutrition, forced labor, and to other cruel and unusual punishment. Thousands upon thousands more are forcibly held in other detention facilities.  North Korea denies access to the camps to outsiders, whether human rights investigators, scholars, or international media and severely restricts the circulation of information across its borders.

In Camp No. 22 in Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province, one of the two closed camps, the prison population is said to have dwindled dramatically prior to closure in 2012-2013 from 30,000 to between 3,000 and 8,000, reportedly due to severe food shortages inside the camps. “If even remotely accurate, this is an atrocity requiring much closer investigation,” concludes David Hawk.

HRNK’s report examines whether the dismantling of Camp No. 18 in Bukchang, South Pyongan Province, finalized in 2006, which resulted in the release and rehabilitation of all but a fraction of the inmates, could serve as “a precedent” for how the entire camp system could be ended.

“Through satellite imagery and eyewitness accounts, HRNK will continue to monitor the status of North Korea’s political prison camps, as it is essential to ensure that the North Korean regime not be allowed to erase evidence of atrocities or eliminate the surviving prisoners,” said Greg Scarlatoiu, HRNK Executive Director.

“An accounting of the fate and whereabouts of all of North Korea’s political prisoners, including those missing and those who have died in detention should be of highest priority to the UN commission of inquiry and the entire international community,” declared HRNK Co-Chair Roberta Cohen. “International arrangements should be negotiated for the entry of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) into the camps.”

HRNK’s 2012 report Hidden Gulag Second Edition recommended immediate access to the prison camps by the ICRC and the World Food Program. It contained information about all known political prison camps in North Korea and called for the creation of an international commission of inquiry to investigate North Korea’s breaches of international human rights law and international criminal law, concluding that massive crimes against humanity are being perpetrated in North Korea. Further it called on China to allow access by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to all North Koreans seeking refuge in China, and called on the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan to integrate human rights concerns into any future normalization of political and economic relations with North Korea.

HRNK, established in 2001 by a distinguished group of foreign policy and human rights specialists, seeks to draw attention to human rights conditions in North Korea by publishing well-documented reports and papers, convening conferences, testifying at national and international fora, and seeking creative ways to end the isolation of the North Korean people. In its 2006 report Failure to Protect: A Call for the UN Security Council to Act in North Korea, HRNK became the first organization to propose the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on the human rights situation in North Korea.

The report’s author, David Hawk, is a prominent human rights researcher and advocate, a former Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, and a former United Nations human rights official, who investigated, documented, and analyzed the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia and for over a decade has scrutinized North Korea’s vast system of unlawful imprisonment.

The report North Korea’s Hidden Gulag: Interpreting Reports of Changes in the Prison Camps, embargoed until 12:01 am EDT Tuesday, August 27, is available on HRNK’s website: www.hrnk.org

Contact: Greg Scarlatoiu, executive.director@hrnk.org; 202-499-7973

David Hawk: 732-793-3104; 718-644-2963

    

 

North Korea's Camp No. 25 Update
Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.
Jun 05, 2014

As part of a joint undertaking with the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) to use satellite imagery to shed light on human suffering in North Korea AllSource Analysis (ASA) has been monitoring activity at political prison facilities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, more commonly known as North Korea).  This report covers activity observed during the past 12 months at the facility commonly known as Kwan-li-so&nbs

In Illicit: North Korea’s Evolving Operations to Earn Hard Curre­­ncy, Sheena Chestnut Greitens provides a detailed and thoroughly researched account of the role of illicit activities in the North Korean economy. A central conclusion of Chestnut Greitens’ analysis is that in the context of eroding state control over the licit aspects of the economy, illicit activities are also being “privatized” by North Korea’s elite.  As HRNK Co-chair and for

David Hawk interprets reports of changes in North Korea's political prison camps in his most recent report, North Korea's Hidden Gulag: Interpreting Reports of Changes in the Prison Camps. Please view the press release here. 

The newest version of Coercion, Control, Surveillance, and Punishment: An Examination of the North Korea Police State by Ken Gause, updated on May 24, 2013. 

North Korea's Camp No. 25
HRNK & DigitalGlobe, Inc.
Feb 25, 2013

For this report, DigitalGlobe Analytics examined eleven images collected from 2003 to 2013 of the North Korean political prison facility known as Camp 25 (a.k.a. Kwan-liso No. 25, Political Prison Facility No. 25, No. 25 Chongjin Political Concentration Camp, Susŏng Correctional Center) in Susŏng-dong, Ch’ŏngjin-si, Hamgyŏng-bukto, on the northeast coast of the nation. In this analysis, imagery was compared to identify changes in the organization of the camp, including variations in:

North Korea's Camp No. 22 - Update
HRNK & DigitalGlobe, Inc.
Dec 11, 2012

As a follow-up to the October 2012 joint HRNK- DigitalGlobe imagery analysis of North Korea’s Camp 22 (Kwan-li-so No. 22, Korean People’s Security Guard Unit 2209), DigitalGlobe’s Analysis Center was asked to assist in identifying reported activity in and around Camp 22 in Hamgyŏng-bukto. More specifically, the Analysis Center was to examine: The outer perimeter fence, guard towers and guard positions to determine if some, or all, have been razed. The

North Korea's Camp No. 22
HRNK & DigitalGlobe, Inc.
Oct 24, 2012

During late September 2012, the North Korean activist community began reporting that the notorious political penal labor facility Camp 22 had been closed in early 2012. On October 1, 2012, in response to these reports and in partnership with the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, DigitalGlobe’s Analysis Center initiated an imagery analysis of Camp 22.

The North Korean government assigns a “songbun” status to every citizen at birth based on the perceived political loyalty of his or her family going back generations. While a small, politically loyal class in North Korea is entitled to extensive privileges, the vast majority of citizens are relegated to a permanent lower status and then discriminated against for reasons they cannot control or change.

The Hidden Gulag Second Edition
David Hawk
Apr 10, 2012

Based on extensive interviews with over 60 defectors and more than 40 satellite photos of North Korean political prisoner camps, the report calls for the dismantlement of the vast North Korean gulag system in which 150,000 to 200,000 are incarcerated.

Taken!
Yoshi Yamamoto
Nov 30, 2011

TAKEN! provides an in-depth and comprehensive history and analysis of North Korea’s state-sponsored policy of abducting citizens of other countries. This criminal enterprise dates back to the earliest days of the regime, and to policy decisions made by Kim II-sung himself. Those abducted came from widely diverse backgrounds, numerous nationalities, both genders, and all ages, and were taken from placs as far away as London, Copenhagen, Zagreb, Beirut, Hong Kong, and China, in addition to Japan.

This report calls the world’s attention to the suffering of North Korean women who have become the victims of trafficking and forced marriages after escaping their country to seek a new life in China. Seventy-seven interviews with North Korean women living in China yield 52 personal accounts--life stories of women who leave their home country for survival and safety only to be purchased by Chinese men who abuse and exploit them in China. In spite of finding places to live, North Korean women ent

North Korea after Kim Jong-il: Can We Hope for Better Human Rights Protection?
Kim Kwang Jin, HRNK Non-Resident Fellow
Dec 31, 1969

North Korea today is in a state of power transition that could lead to new dangers, instability, and uncertainty.  This was not the case during the first succession.  Kim Jong-Il had been carefully groomed by his father to succeed him.  The process had gone on for twenty years and was directed by Kim Il-Sung himself. In North Korea, all political power derives from Kim Il-Sung’s reign.  At the present, North Korea refers to itself as “Kim Il-Sung’s nati

After Kim Jong II: Can We Hope for Better Human Rights Protection?
Kim Kwang Jin, HRNK Non-Resident Fellow
Dec 31, 1969

This report is part of HRNK’s “Occasional Papers,” expressing a viewpoint not necessarily representative of the Committee or its Board of Directors. Rather, this paper is written from the viewpoint of a courageous man who has seen the North Korean system from within and has participated in the workings of that system. The author knows how outcomes are produced in North Korea and which individuals are critical to the political process. Kim Kwang-jin provides an overview of the North K

This report is a sequel to the previous report, “Failure to Protect: A Call for the UN Security Council to Act in North Korea” (2006), which called for the UN Security Council to take action. The report identifies concerns with respect to human rights in North Korea. While North Korea has opened up to some international aid, their food policy and inequitable social classification system (“Songbun”) prevents large segments of the population from ever receiving food provided by i

Legal Strategies for Protecting Human Rights in North Korea
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Dec 31, 1969

For over sixty years, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has engaged in the systematic, flagrant violation of nearly every human right recognized and protected by international law. This handbook describes the options available to human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) seeking to pursue international legal action against North Korea. The international legal system offers a variety of avenues for action, which NGOs can pursue. This report explores such legal avenues, linking NG

Czech Republic President Havel, Norwegian Prime Minister Bondevik, and Nobel Peace Prize Laurate and Boston University Professor Elie Wiesel commissioned the global law firm DLA Piper LLP to work with the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, because they believed that the security threat posed by North Korea has relegated the human rights concerns in the country to a second-class status. With the unanimous adoption by the UN Security Council of the doctrine that each state has a “resp

The North Korean Refugee Crisis: Human Rights and International Response
Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland
Dec 31, 1969

Concentration on the strategic problem in the national security context is clearly warranted, yet there is another, growing dimension to the North Korean problem that poses a grave challenge: the plight of ordinary North Koreans who are denied even the most basic human rights, and those who risk their lives to escape the world’s worst nightmare, the tyranny of the Kim Jong-il regime. In this report, six experts – Stephen Haggard, Marcus Noland, Yoonok Chang, Joshua Kurlantzick, Jana Mason,