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North Korean defectors tell the truth about prison camps

Murder locations, remote burial sites, and crimes against humanity are just some of the things happening within the Asian country

North Korea

The Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) has released a report based on the findings of over two years’ worth of research and interviews with nearly 400 North Korean defectors. In this statement, and thanks to the help of Google Earth Technology, they have created a digital map of crimes against humanity in the Asian country; it identifies murder locations and government offices where violations have been carried out. What also catches the eye are the sites where public hangings and executions have been held, as well as various remote burial sites found throughout the country.

Most of these places identified by said defectors are in North Hamgyong Province which borders with China. The majority of those interviewed stated that they came from that region and, because of their knowledge, can easily recognize the 47 places where the administration abandons corpses without the intention to bury them. To find the places on Google, the renegades were shown basic landmarks; they soon started sharing their knowledge about those facilities and how no one else in the country knows they exist.

The defectors affirmed to the interviewers how they grew up thinking their country was a paradise but when they realized the truth, the disappointment pushed them to run away. Most of them coincide on the fact that North Korea seems to be a bubble, a dark and scary place. Human rights violations happen every day and dubious behavior is punished with all the tortures known to mankind; “everyone has to obey what the administrations says”, Choi Yong, a North Korean that now lives in Tokyo and wishes he could forget his past, declared.  

With the help of Human Rights Watch, the interviewed estimate that almost 250.000 people live in prison camps and almost a third of them are locked away because one family member has committed a crime; the three generation law forces into custody most of the family if one individual acts out against the government. “You never know when one of your family members will do something forbidden and you will get locked away too”, stated Joo-il Kim who flew away from “paradise” in 2015.

The data gathered was collected, at least throughout the first year, thanks to informants that were in North Korea, which they had to escape in order not to be arrested, and from other defectors who now live in Seoul. Most of those interviewed described the atrocities they have knowledge of; these stories depict the horror that has been unfolding in what seems to be the bloody reign of Kim Jong II and the current of Kim Jon Un. With this report, TJWG wishes to spread knowledge on what is actually happening in North Korea and also to persuade legal authorities to initiate an investigation which would bring to justice those who are perpetrating these heinous acts.

Latin American Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto 

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