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, [email protected]; 202-499-7973
David Hawk: 732-793-3104; 718-644-2963
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