A report recently released by Navi Pillay, the United Nation’s chief human rights official, claims more than 200,000 people are incarcerated in political prison camps (kwan-li-so) in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The kwan-li-so are places where torture, rape and slave labour are common. It is believed that the scale of the crimes committed in North Korea amount to crimes against humanity.
Because of the enduring gravity of the situation, I believe an in-depth inquiry into one of the worst – but least understood and reported – human rights situations in the world is not only fully justified, but long overdue.
Navi Pillay, United Nations
Her report claims little has changed in the camps since Kim Jong-il’s son Kim Jong-un took over. Access to food and medical care in the camps was nonexistent and mass starvation and deprivation were reported.
The death penalty seems to be often applied for minor offences and after wholly inadequate judicial processes, or sometimes without any judicial process at all.
Ri Jang Gon, deputy ambassador at North Korea’s mission to the United Nations in Geneva, denied the report’s veracity and even the very existence of the kwan-li-so political detention camps in the DPRK. Pillay’s report comes as Japan is deciding on whether to submit a complaint next week about North Korea to the United Nation’s Human Rights Commission. Pillay had met survivors of the kwan-li-so while in Geneva. One man was born in the camps and lived there until he was 23 years old. At the age of 14 he witnessed the execution of his mother and brother.
One mother described to me how she had wrapped her baby in leaves when it was born and later made her a blanket by sewing together old socks
Related: Kwan-li-so – North Korea’s Gulag