06/18/2012, 00.00
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More than 200,000 condemned to die in North Korea's labour camps

by Joseph Yun Li-sun
According to the testimony of Jo Chung-Hee, a former party member who converted to Christianity, the country has six labour camps holding religious leaders (mostly Christians) and political dissidents. In 2008, prisoners numbered 900,000 but they were killed by famine.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - At least 200,000 people are languishing in North Korea's labour camps. Christians represent about 20 per cent, held for more than a decade. Many of the inmates have no hope of getting out alive since North Korea's ideology holds that a criminal remains so "for at least three generations". The testimony comes from Jo Chung-Hee, a former Communist party member who converted to Christianity.

According to his information, the regime operates six labour camps. The worst is Camp 14, known as a "complete control district," which means that its 50,000 prisoners will work there until they die.

Camp 22 is about the size of Los Angeles and is thought to be used for human experiments. It too holds about 50,000 prisoners.

Camp 25 is run by the North Korean secret police and is believed to hold felons, religious leaders, alleged Western spies and their families.

Few people have come out of the camps alive. Although the average sentence is 15 years, life expectancy on average is only seven years in a place where torture and hard labour are common currency. Up to three generations of entire families have been detained, working in heavy industry and coal mining.

After the Korean War (1950-1953), Kim Il-sung, North Korea's first president and "Father of the nation," ordered the creation of labour camps for South Korean prisoners of war so that they could be kept under control and exploited.

Within five years, political dissidents and protesters began filling up the camps, especially clergymen and religious believers, above all Christians, for their opposition to the regime.

According to data published in 2008, such camps held about 900,000 people.

The current lower number of prisoners is due to the high mortality rate that resulted from the famine and humanitarian crisis of 2009, which the Communist regime ignored completely.


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