North Korea Security Camps
Former guard An Myong-chol describes the conditions in the camp as harsh and life-threatening. He recalls the shock he felt upon his first arrival at the camp, where he likened the prisoners to walking skeletons, dwarfs, and cripples in rags. An estimates that about 30% of the prisoners have deformities, such as torn off ears, smashed eyes, crooked noses, and faces covered with cuts and scars resulting from beatings and other mistreatment. Around 2,000 prisoners, he says, have missing limbs, but even prisoners who need crutches to walk must still work. Prisoners get 180 g (6.3 oz) of corn per meal (two times a day), with almost no vegetables and no meat. The only meat in their diets is from rats, snakes or frogs that they catch. Ahn estimates that 1,500–2,000 people die of malnutrition there every year, mostly children. Despite these deaths, the inmate population remains constant, suggesting that around 1,500–2,000 new inmates arrive each year. Children get only very basic education. From six years on they get work assigned, such as picking vegetables, peeling corn or drying rice, but they receive very little food, only 180 g (6.3 oz) in total per day. Therefore, many children die before the age of ten years. Elderly prisoners have the same work requirements as other adults. Seriously ill prisoners are quarantined, abandoned, and left to die.
Single prisoners live in bunkhouses with 100 people in one room. As a reward for good work, families are often allowed to live together in a single room of a small house without running water. But the houses are in poor condition; the walls are made from mud and have a lot of cracks. All prisoners have to use dirty and crowded communal toilets.
Prisoners have to do hard physical labour in agriculture, mining and factories from 5:00 am to 8:00 pm (7:00 pm in winter), followed by ideological re-education and self-criticism sessions. New Year’s Day is the only holiday for prisoners. The mines are not equipped with safety measures and, according to Ahn, prisoners were killed almost every day. They have to use primitive tools, such as shovels and picks, and are forced to work to exhaustion. When there was a fire or a tunnel collapsed, prisoners were abandoned inside and left to die. Kwon Hyuk reported that corpses are simply loaded into cargo coaches together with the coal to be burnt in a melting furnace. The coal is supplied to Chongjin Power Plant, Chongjin Steel Mill and Kimchaek Steel Mill, while the food is supplied to the State Security Agency or sold in Pyongyang and other parts of the country.