North Korean Death Camp Still Operational, Group Says
By Alex Johnston On October 24, 2012 @ 6:47 pm In Asia Pacific | No Comments
North Korea’s notorious Camp 22, which by some accounts is the country’s equivalent to the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, was reportedly shut down last month, but new satellite photos published Wednesday show that it is still open.
It is unclear exactly how many prisoners are being housed there, but it is said to be the largest concentration camp in impoverished, communist North Korea. The camp is located near the border with Russia and China. Reports tell of camp officials conducting human experiments involving chemicals and gas on prisoners, amid accounts of torture and extrajudicial killings; if true, they would be among the worst human rights atrocities committed in the world today.
The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), a Washington, D.C.-based NGO, and DigitalGlobe, which operates commercial satellites, have joined forces to monitor North Korea’s prison camps in order to prevent the regime from destroying evidence of its killing and torturing of prisoners.
In 2004, Kwon Hyuk, a former chief of management at Camp 22, said that he saw “a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas chamber,” according to The Guardian. He said, “Scientists observe the entire process from above, through the glass.”
Soon Ok Lee, a survivor of the camp, corroborated Kwon’s claims. While at the camp she was instructed to hand out apparently poisoned cabbage that was being tested on women prisoners, all of a sudden they were vomiting blood and then died, recalled Soon.
Apparently thousands are killed there each year and even newborn babies who are born to prisoners are stamped on the neck to signify that they will soon be killed, according to the Guardian.
In a report in late September by the Daily NK, a South Korea-based publisher, the death camp was said to have been closed after a high-level North Korean official apparently defected.
But the report may have been premature, according to photos from HRNK that were taken Oct. 11 and were compared with photos taken in November 2010 and May 2011.
“Harvesting of crops continues as does coal production, making it not yet clear that the camp has closed and that North Korean authorities have been slowly transferring small sections of prisoners out of Camp 22 and replacing them with a regular workforce from other locations,” said HRNK on its website.
Greg Scarlatoiu of HRNK, however, said that by publishing satellite photos of the camps, North Korea does not have many choices left.
“The North Korean regime’s hiding and distorting the harsh reality of North Korea’s unforgiving political prison camp system is no longer an option,” he said.
“With constant satellite imagery, we can maintain a watch over these camps even if no outside entry is allowed.”
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