11/05/2014, 00.00
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From the gulag to the coal mines: the new slaves of North Korea

The regime of the "Young Marshal" Kim Jong-un is deporting male prisoners from labor camps to coal mining areas in the north of the country. The order is to dig new mines to normalize energy production. Inhuman working conditions, beatings, malnutrition is the norm. The risk of an intervention by China, which has controlled the area for years.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - The North Korean regime has begun to deport the male inmates from labor camps in the north of the country, where they are forced to work in inhuman conditions - and risk their lives on an ongoing basis - to open coal mines. The move, said a source at the DailyNK, was necessary to normalize declining energy production. The risk now is that Beijing will intervene, as the coal fields of North Korea have for years been in the hands of Chinese state-owned enterprises.

The source, who lives in the southern Pyongan province, explains: "The State has issued the order to produce more coal, and to do that now forces male prisoners to mine. They do not have security lights and are forced to push carts weighing tons along underground passageways hundreds of meters long. They only have acetylene lamps, which are very dangerous. They eat leftovers of corn and rice and frequently collapse from respiratory problems, fatigue and hunger".

Most of these new slaves were sentenced to concentration camps for "anti-socialist activities": charges that include not working in an industry; sell cds with foreign content; carrying out "illegal business activity". The North Korean regime, led by the "Young Marshal" Kim Jong-un, has always denied the existence of state concentration camps. Some time ago, however, the regime admitted that there are detention centers "where people are persuaded to improve their way thinking and reflect on their mistakes."

The most serious problems, the source continues, "are respiratory problems. In the mines the most important thing of all is the ventilation, but here there is none. Those who suffer from lung problems are not taken care of, and if they faint are pulled out from quarries only to come back when they get back on their feet. Anyone who resists is beaten by other prisoners on the orders of the guards".

The decision to open new mines seems to have bothered even China, the last ally of the Pyongyang regime. The state-owned industries operated by Beijing have for years invested millions of dollars in exploiting the natural resources of the northern part of North Korea, which is now seen as a "Chinese colony". In particular they mined the coal fields, given the nations' hunger for energy sources.

In seizing these lands for their own domestic economy, say some sources, "Kim Jong-un wants to wrestle with Beijing. In order to make sure Pyongyang complies with the agreements, China should raise its voice or even hire armed guards, but these tensions may open really disastrous scenarios".


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