Thursday, June 20, 2019
The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) Launches Report Based on Satellite Imagery of North Korea’s Kyo-hwa-so Labor Camp No. 4 at Kangdong
HRNK and Asia Press combine satellite and ground imagery of the same North Korean detention facility; prison working environment centered on limestone plant, possibly creating severe health hazard for the prisoners
The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), a non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C., has launched the report North Korea’s Long-term Re-education through Labor Camp (Kyo-hwa-so) No. 4 at Kangdong. The report was authored by senior satellite imagery expert Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., in collaboration with HRNK’s Greg Scarlatoiu, Amanda Mortwedt Oh, and Rosa Park, with the assistance of veteran satellite imagery specialists Bobby Holt and Allen Anderson. Osaka-based Asia Press shared ground imagery of this detention facility with HRNK. For the first time in its history, HRNK was able to base its analysis of a detention facility on the combination of satellite and ground imagery of the same structures. According to report author Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., “if a transitional justice process ever takes place in North Korea, such thorough documentation of detention facilities will be critical.”
The Kangdong Kyo-hwa-so No. 4 is located at Chaek-kol in Kangdong-gun, Pyongyang-si, approximately 15.5 kilometers south-southeast of Kangdong. It is 8.3 kilometers east of the Pokchong-ni Kyo-hwa-so. HRNK examined security perimeters, guard positions, the internal arrangement of the camp, housing and support facilities, an adjacent limestone quarry as well as activity within and in the immediate environs of the facility.
Author Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr. confirmed that “the camp was established prior to August 23, 1965, according to declassified satellite imagery from the 1960s.” In addition, “the size of the excavated area in the limestone quarry more than doubled in size from 1965 to 2004, a clear indication of continued use.” During the same period, prisoner housing expanded by about 902 square meters (1,078 square yards), indicating an increase in the prison population, output, or both. Bermudez pointed out that imagery from October 16, 2014 confirmed the construction of a 43 meter by 43 meter inner compound encircling a single building within it. This may be indication of a small expansion of the prison to house a separate class of prisoners, different from the main prison population.
Economic activity at this detention facility is focused on limestone processing. The main prison can be functionally separated into three sections: a limestone plant; plant support and plant administration; and prisoner housing. The presence of a rotary kiln indicates that the plant is capable of crushing and grinding limestone into limestone powder. HRNK Executive Director Scarlatoiu said, “industrial safety and health standards are hardly observed outside prison camps in North Korea. The utter absence of proper safety measures at North Korea’s labor camps has been documented through extensive escapee testimony. This could mean that the inhalation of powdered limestone at Kangdong Kyo-hwa-so will lead to significant respiratory problems among the prisoners.”
The report is the latest step in HRNK’s efforts to create a clear picture of the evolution and current state of North Korea’s political prison camps. HRNK is the NGO that put North Korea’s penal labor colonies on the map by publishing Hidden Gulag in 2003.
The report North Korea’s Long-term Re-education through Labor Camp (Kyo-hwa-so) No. 4 at Kangdong is available on HRNK’s website:
Contact: Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director
[email protected]; 202-499-7973
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