“Hundreds of thousands of people exist with virtually no rights, treated essentially as slaves, in some of the worst circumstances we’ve documented in the last 50 years.”
– Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International Asia-Pacific Programme Director
This past month, Amnesty International released a report documenting the political prison system in North Korea, which they have estimated holds around 200,000 political prisoners. Detainees in these prisons are subjected to harsh labor, torture, malnutrition and often execution. My blog post this Friday for The Mantle will discuss the situation in further detail. For now, let me give you an idea of who exactly is being held in these camps. According to Amnesty International, here is the list of offenses worthy of political imprisonment:
– Criticizing the leadership
– Being seen as having failed in your duties as an official
– Contacting South Koreans
– Being a part of, or being believed to be a part of an anti-government group
– Listening to South Korean radio broadcasts
– Prisoners of War from the original Korean War in the 1950s
– Attempting to flee the country, or being connected to NGOs, holding religious texts
For these offenses, North Korean citizens are sentenced to what are being called “Gulags” and many will never leave these camps. This is a story I have been, and will continue to follow. For more information, look for my piece on Friday.
*It should be noted that there is also a high incidence of imprisonment based on “guilt by association”.