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PRESS RELEASE: HRNK & AllSource Analysis Produce Rapid Assessment of Flooding at Kyo-hwa-so No. 12
September 16, 2016


Friday, September 16, 2016

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) and AllSource Analysis Produce Rapid Assessment of Flooding at Re-Education Prison Labor Camp (Kyo-hwa-so) No. 12

The prisoners’ vulnerability to natural disasters, a stark reminder of the need for a UN Human Rights Up Front (HRuF) approach in North Korea


The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), a non-governmental organization based in Washington, DC and AllSource Analysis, a leading global provider of high-resolution earth imagery solutions, have conducted a satellite imagery-based rapid assessment of flood damage at Kyo-hwa-so No. 12, Jongo-ri in Hamgyŏng-bukto, North Korea. Thousands of political prisoners are held in this re-education prison labor camp together with common offenders.

HRNK’s Co-Chairs Emeritus Roberta Cohen and Andrew Natsios called upon “the international community to seek access to and assist these prisoners. Time and again, humanitarian assistance is provided to North Korea without attention to the most vulnerable groups. The United Nations must seek to reach all those at risk.”

The HRNK/AllSource Analysis rapid assessment builds on the publication of a comprehensive baseline satellite imagery report on the same detention facility, released by HRNK and AllSource Analysis on August 30, 2016 (http://www.hrnk.org/uploads/pdfs/ASA_HRNK_Camp12_201608_v10_LR.pdf).

Run by the North Hamgyong Provincial Bureau, under the Prisons Bureau of the North Korean Ministry of People’s Security, Kyo-hwa-so No. 12 is located about 490 km northeast of the capital city of Pyongyang, and approximately 25 km south of Hoeryong City. It consists of two primary facilities: a walled prison facility commonly known as “Jongo-ri;” and a copper mine situated in a small branch valley a short distance south of the prison facility. The walled prison facility measures approximately 188 meters by 128 meters (205 yards by 139 yards), encompasses 2,360 hectares (28,230 square yards), and is encased by three-meter high walls, four elevated guard positions, and two exterior entrances. Kyo-hwa-so No. 12 prison population estimates have ranged from 1,300 in the late 1990s to about 5,000 in recent years.

The recent flooding in the northeast province of Hamgyŏng-bukto, North Korea, as a result of Typhoon Lionrock has highlighted the vulnerability of this remote section of the nation to natural disasters. According to Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., AllSource Analysis co-founder and chief analytics officer, “this vulnerability has been exacerbated by the historically limited resources expended on civil infrastructure in this area by the central government in Pyongyang.” Bermudez further added: “While the government has responded, the scope is so large that North Korea has made public the extent of the disaster and is soliciting assistance from the international community.” According to Bermudez, “while the vulnerability of the average citizen in this remote section of North Korea is amply demonstrated by North Korean media what has, of course, not been addressed is the even more acute vulnerability of prisoners held in the North’s notorious kwan-li-so and kyo-hwa-so prison camp system. Specifically, Kyo-hwa-so No. 12, Jŏngŏ-ri, located south of Hoeryŏng-si.”

Recent satellite imagery acquired by DigitalGlobe shows that the camp is located at the confluence of two small streams that have overflowed their banks and have reached several agricultural support buildings and housing areas. The only road into the camp appears to be flooded in at least two locations and the water level in the waste pond from the nearby copper mine has risen.

According to a September 14, 2016 press release from the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for DPR Korea (North Korea), “a total of 138 people have been confirmed killed and 400 people remain missing after remnants of Typhoon Lionrock caused heavy rains and flooding in the northeast of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) two weeks ago.” On September 6-9, 2016, UN agencies, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the DPRK Red Cross and international NGOs participated in a DPRK government-led assessment of flood-affected areas.

According to HRNK Executive Director Greg Scarlatoiu, “the vulnerability of Kyo-hwa-so No. 12 prisoners to flood damage is a stark reminder of the need for a UN Human Rights Up Front (HRuF) approach to humanitarian assistance in North Korea. UN agencies and international NGOs disbursing emergency humanitarian assistance to North Korea must seek ways to include detention facilities in the scope of their disaster assessments and interventions.”

For over two years, HRNK and partner organization The Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI) have been active proponents of the implementation by the United Nations of a HRuF approach to North Korea. Introduced by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the end of 2013, it calls for a UN system wide strategy when serious violations of human rights are found in a country. All UN agencies and offices are expected to become involved to advance human rights on the ground, provide candid information, and develop a common UN system for information. In the case of Typhoon Lion Rock, HRNK and JBI consider it essential that humanitarian agencies integrate into their programs the principles of non-discrimination in the distribution of food and other services; unimpeded access to the most vulnerable persons (such as those in kwan-li-so and kyo-hwa-so prison camps); and gender equality especially in the areas of food, health care, residence, and work. North Korea agreed to these principles at the UN Universal Periodic Review in 2014 and the UN should ensure they are implemented.

“Secretary-General Ban’s Human Rights up Front initiative commits UN system actors to react appropriately when they encounter gross violations of human rights in the course of their important work,” said Felice Gaer, Director of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights. Gaer further added, “in the case of humanitarian agencies working on the ground in North Korea, this must entail making every effort to ensure their aid reaches those, like political prisoners, who are most in need.”

The report North Korea: Flooding at Kyo-hwa-so No. 12, Jongo-ri can be downloaded from HRNK’s website (HRNK.ORG), together with other HRNK publications. For this report, AllSource Analysis used two satellite images of Kyo-hwa-so No. 12 acquired by DigitalGlobe.

The report North Korea: Imagery Analysis of Kyo-hwa-so No. 12, Jongo-ri is available on HRNK’s website: http://www.hrnk.org/uploads/pdfs/Kyo-hwa-so%20No_%2012%20Flooding.pdf.


Contact: Greg Scarlatoiu, Executive Director

  [email protected]; 202-499-7973


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