North Korea Won't be Liberated in a Day

by Mike Deri Smith at The Morning News
Concentration camps are a reality in the 21st century. Their existence in North Korea is an incontestable fact proven by hundreds of satellite images and the testimony of thousands who have escaped. A former camp guard and a defector who once worked within North Korea’s National Security Agency have suggested that approximately 200,000 people are currently in the camps. That’s a number equal to the population of Tallahassee, Fla.
In North Korea’s concentration camps, there is no judicial system or right to appeal. Starvation-level rations kill thousands. Prisoners work 12-hour days, seven days a week, with time off only for national holidays. Forced abortions are carried out on pregnant women repatriated from China. Their young infants are often killed. Guards torture, murder, and rape. Almost every act classified as a crime against humanity is being carried out by the North Korean regime. This method of punishment has remained unchanged for more than 40 years. North Korea will eventually collapse. The horrors of the North Korean gulag will continue until that day. 
Read the complete article here.

Kim Jong-il’s final orders: Build more weapons

By Jeong Yong-soo at Joongang Daily.

Kim Jong-un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of North Korea, 
delivers an opening speech at the Fourth Meeting of Secretaries of
Cells of the party in Pyongyang on Monday. [XINHUA/NEWSIS]
Former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il ordered his youngest son to continue to develop not only his nuclear arsenal, but also long-range missiles and even biochemical weapons, in his last instructions before he died.

“Recently, the government obtained the entire contents of the final instructions of Kim Jong-il, which he left two months before he died,” a South Korean government official told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

“We found some comments were consistent with current affairs in North Korea, such as the nuclear weapons program, missile launches and its demand to remove U.S. troops from the South.”

Pyongyang reportedly considers the instructions from the two former leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il, as the final word in their policy-making, overruling even the Constitution.

Last April, the Korea JoongAng Daily reported on the partial contents of a note that was allegedly sent from Kim Jong-il to his sister on Oct. 17, 2011 and obtained by a North Korean defector in the South.

“Although some North Korean defectors and civic activists revealed instructions that were smuggled in from China, we need a verification process to confirm its authenticity,” a source familiar with foreign and national security affairs said.

“We shared the information with officials in other ministries and confirm the recent affairs in North Korea are consistent with the instructions.”

The final instructions, reportedly delivered on Oct. 8, 2011, include 44 specific orders. When it comes to the regime’s defiant nuclear test and missile capabilities, Kim said, “Keep in mind that the way to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula is to endlessly develop nuclear, long-range missiles and biochemical weapons and possess a sufficient number of them. Don’t ever be caught off guard.”

The Dangers of the Coming North Korean Famine

Andrew S. Natsios is an executive professor at the George H.W. Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, and the author of Sudan, South Sudan and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know. Natsios served as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development and as President George W. Bush's Special Envoy to Sudan.

While U.S. media and policymakers are focused on the chaotic situation in Libya, the civil war in Syria, and the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, another rogue state—North Korea—has been relegated to the back burner of public attention. But not for long, because the U.N.'s annual crop assessment for North Korea will shortly be published. These annual assessments have been published since the Great North Korean Famine of the mid-1990s killed as many as 2.5 million people, and they are supposed to warn the international humanitarian system of an impending famine. This assessment will show that drought early this summer seriously damaged the crop so that the harvest will drive the country, always on the edge of starvation, ever deeper into nutritional disaster.

While famines anywhere have terrible humanitarian consequences, in North Korea's case in particular, they have political consequences because they have nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. While the North Korean government has been building its nuclear arsenal and the maintaining the third largest land army in Asia, its people have been sliding into deepening poverty and acute malnutrition, stunting generations of children. One study shows that the average North Korean solider is 10 inches shorter than those in the South Korean military—a sign of chronic acute malnutrition affecting an entire generation of young North Koreans.

The one attempted military coup in North Korea's 60-year history took place during the 1990s famine in the region with the highest death rates. The death rates were so high in the epicenter of the famine that a truck would search street by street each morning collecting hundreds of dead bodies to bury them in mass graves. It was likely that the severity of the famine drove the military to mutiny. According to scholar Nicholas Eberstadt, North Korea sends 40 percent of its young men between the ages of 18 and 25 into the military. This means that a sizeable portion of the country's families have sons under arms, families which suffered terribly in the famine. Over the long term this is a recipe for political uprising and revolution. In a country with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, political uprisings can be dangerous to the world order, particularly if the regime loses control of the weapons as it collapses.


China's Repatriation of North Korean Refugees

Roberta Cohen, Co-Chair, HRNK

Statement of Roberta Cohen, Co-Chair, Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, and Non-Resident Senior Fellow, the Brookings Institution, on China’s Repatriation of North Korean Refugees, at the Hearing of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, March 5, 2012

On behalf of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, I would like to express great appreciation to Congressman Christopher Smith and Senator Sherrod Brown for holding this hearing today to highlight the case of an estimated 30 to 40 North Koreans who fled into China and now risk being forcibly returned to North Korea where they will most assuredly be severely punished. We consider it essential to defend the fundamental rights of North Koreans to leave their country and seek asylum abroad and to call upon China to stop its forcible repatriation of North Koreans and provide them with the needed human rights and humanitarian protection to which they are entitled. The right to leave a country, to seek asylum abroad and not to be forcibly returned to conditions of danger are internationally recognized rights which North Korea and China, like all other countries, are obliged to respect.

This particular case of North Koreans has captured regional and international attention. South Korean President Lee Myung Bak has spoken out publicly against the return of the North Koreans and National Assembly woman Park Sun Young has undertaken a hunger strike in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul. The Parliamentary Forum for Democracy encompassing 18 countries has urged its members to raise the matter with their governments.

The case, however, is situated at the tip of the iceberg. According to the State Department’s Human Rights Report (2010), there may be thousands or tens of thousands of North Koreans hiding in China. Although China does allow large numbers of North Koreans to reside illegally in its country, they have no rights and China has forcibly returned tens of thousands over the past two decades. Most if not all have been punished in North Korea and according to the testimonies and reports received by the Committee for Human Rights, the punishment has included beatings, torture, detention, forced labor, sexual violence, and in the case of women suspected of become pregnant in China, forced abortions or infanticide.

Stringent punishment in particular has been meted out to North Koreans who have associated abroad with foreigners (i.e., missionaries, aid workers or journalists) or have sought political asylum or tried to obtain entry into South Korea. The North Koreans currently arrested and threatened with return are therefore likely to suffer severe punishment should they be repatriated. Some might even face execution; the North Korean Ministry of Public Security issued a decree in 2010 making the crime of defection a “crime of treachery against the nation.”

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, a Washington DC-based non-governmental organization, established in 2001, has published three in-depth reports on the precarious plight of North Koreans in China and the cruel and inhuman practice of forcibly sending them back to one of the world’s most oppressive regimes. The first, The North Korean Refugee Crisis: Human Rights and International Response (2006), edited by Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland, establishes that most if not all North Koreans in China merit a prima facie claim to refugee or refugee sur place status. The second, Lives for Sale: Personal Accounts of Women Fleeing North Korea to China (2010) calls upon China to set up a screening process with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to determine the status of North Koreans and ensure they are not forcibly returned. The third, to be published in April, Hidden Gulag second edition, by David Hawk, presents the harrowing testimony of scores of North Koreans severely punished after being returned to North Korea.

North Korean Human Rights: Prison Camps in 2012

Keynote Remarks by Carl Gershman, President, the National Endowment for Democracy

At a conference jointly sponsored by The US-Korea Institute at SAIS, The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, and the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights

Washington, D.C.

Carl Gershman, president of National Endowment for Democracy

December 13, 2012

I want to base my remarks today on the book Escape from Camp 14 by the Washington Post
reporter Blaine Harden. It tells the story of Shin Dong-hyuk, the only person born and raised in the
camps to have escaped to tell what happened there – and still happens every day. This is the most
compelling and influential memoir yet written about the camps. The book has attracted a wide
audience and has made Shin, who was recently profiled on “60 minutes,” the most well-known defector from North Korea – a voice to the world of the most oppressed and abandoned people in the most isolated and closed country anywhere on the face of the earth.

Shin’s personal story -- especially his having been forced to witness the public execution of
his mother and brother, who had tried to escape the camp -- is almost too horrible to be believed.
The power of Escape from Camp 14 is that the story is told factually, with dispassion, and without
embellishment by a distinguished journalist who has a well-earned reputation for professionalism and
responsible reporting.

The book can be understood on three dimensions: the cruel conditions inside the camps; the
broader circumstances it describes of the eroding totalitarian system of NK; and the odyssey of Shin
Dong-hyuk from the camps to the free world and the significance of his journey, which of course is a
long way from over.

First, the cruelty. The stories in the book, recalled by Shin and recounted by Blaine Harden, are almost
too painful to read:
  • There is the “exceptionally pretty” six-year-old girl in his class who was beaten to death by her teacher who found five kernels of corn in her pocket. When he found the corn, he shouted, “You bitch, you stole corn? You want your hands cut off?” She had broken subsection three of the camp’s third rule: “Anyone who steals or conceals any foodstuffs will be shot immediately.”
  • Then there’s the bloody assault on Shin and thirty of his classmates when they walked past the compound housing the camp guard’s children, who rained heavy stones down on the prison children, shouting “Reactionary sons of bitches are coming!” The “teacher” of the bloodied prison children ordered them back to work immediately, and when they asked what they should do with those who were still unconscious, he shouted back, “Put them on your backs and carry them. All you need to do is work hard.” This was the nine-year old Shin’s introduction to the North Korean caste system called Songbun, which puts a third of the country’s 23 million people in the bottom caste that is considered hostile or disloyal and that has suffered the most from the camps and the famine. Harden quotes a former camp guard and driver who fled to China in 1994 as saying that “The theory behind the camps was to cleanse unto three generations the families of incorrect thinkers.” This theory of “cleansing” explains why a child would be imprisoned along with his or her parent or grandparent. It also explains why the new-born babies of female prisoners (who were preyed on sexually by the camp guards) were clubbed to death with iron rods.
  • Shin told Harden that an assignment to work in the coal mines was the equivalent of a death sentence. Shin was fortunately assigned to a pig farm and later to a garment factory, but when he dropped a sewing machine, they hacked off part of his middle finger with a kitchen knife.
Nothing conveys the horror of life inside the camps more powerfully than Shin’s feeling of
liberation in the days immediately after his escape. By any normal human standard, his circumstances
were truly desperate. He was without food or any place to sleep, ill-clothed in temperatures near zero
degrees Fahrenheit. His legs were burned and bloodied from having crawled through the high-voltage
wire fence surrounding the camp, surviving only because he was able to crawl through over the dead
body of his partner in flight, which insulated him from the worst effects of the electric current. He was
wandering in an utterly new and different world, among North Koreans who were not being terrorized
by a prison guard, and this literally shocked him.

Featured HRNK Publications:

North Korea's Camp No. 22 (Dec. 2012)
As a follow-up to the October 2012 joint HRNK- DigitalGlobe imagery analysis of North Korea’s Camp 22 (Kwan-li-so No. 22, Korean People’s Security Guard Unit 2209), DigitalGlobe’s Analysis Center was asked to assist in identifying reported activity in and around Camp 22 in Hamgyŏng-bukto. More specifically, the Analysis Center was to examine:
  • The outer perimeter fence, guard towers and guard positions to determine if some, or all, have been razed. The razing of these structures could indicate that Camp 22 prisoners have been replaced with a non-prisoner workforce.2
  • Mining-related activities in the Kungsim-dong and Kungsimjukp’o-dong areas. Undisclosed sources claim that mining operations in these areas have been shut down and the miners relocated to the Chungbong-dong (i.e., Camp 22) Mine, replacing the former prisoner workforce there.3
  • Examine and assess Camp 16 (Kwan-li-so No. 16) to determine if there is evidence that the prison population has increased in the past year. Such indications could support reports that prisoners from Camp 22 were transferred to Camp 16.
  • Because of time and resource constraints, the Analysis Center can only address the first two items at this time. A future report will examine Camp 16. 

Coercion, Control, Surveillance, and
Punishment (Jul. 2012)
Coercion, Control, Surveillance, and Punishment lifts the curtain on North Korea’s three main security agencies – the State Security Department, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Military Security Command.   Increasing in complexity and relevance with each generation, the apparatus relies on constant surveillance, a network of informants in every neighborhood, and the threat of punishment in North Korea’s notorious prison camps to ensure the Kim regime’s total control.
The report suggests that the internal security apparatus, built under Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, will continue to be a key element of Kim Jong-un’s political control. “For sixty years, the internal security apparatus has ensured the survival of the Kim family dictatorship,” says Gause, “Whether or not North Korea collapses, evolves, or continues to muddle through will depend a great deal on the viability of this all-pervasive apparatus.”  State security agencies have supported Kim Jong-un as he consolidates power, increasing border surveillance and cracking down on marketplaces and telephone communication.

Marked for Life: Songbun (Jun. 2012)
Marked for Life: Songbun - The North Korean government assigns a “songbun” status to every citizen at birth based on the perceived political loyalty of his or her family going back generations. While a small, politically loyal class in North Korea is entitled to extensive privileges, the vast majority of citizens are relegated to a permanent lower status and then discriminated against for reasons they cannot control or change.

The Hidden Gulag, 2nd Ed. (Apr. 2012)
Based on extensive interviews with over 60 defectors and more than 40 satellite photos of North Korean political prisoner camps, The Hidden Gulag, 2nd ed. calls for the dismantlement of the vast North Korean gulag system in which 150,000 to 200,000 are incarcerated.


Re-Defection to North Korea: Exaggeration or the Beginning of a Trend?

By Greg Scarlatoiu, Jana Johnson and Miran Song

Pak Jong-suk re-defected in May 2012.
Kim Kwang-hyok and Koh Jong-nam re-defected in September 2012.
North Korean Re-defectors
Reports of North Korean re-defectors have recently gained international attention. Along with a statement by former National Assemblywoman Park Sun-young that now one hundred defectors have returned to the North, these reports of re-defection have drawn attention to the struggles of North Koreans who resettle in the South.
While defectors face a number of challenges in the South, there is no clear indication that these challenges have caused an increased number of recent re-defections. In response to Ms. Park Sun-young’s statement, the South Korean government officially stated that it could not give the exact number of re-defectors but gave assurances that the number is much lower than Park’s estimate and may be less than ten cases. The South Korean government cites the difficulty of tracking re-defectors as the cause for not knowing the exact number.
Only a handful of re-defection cases have been reported. Using those reports, we have outlined the key causes of re-defection and the information we have about the number of re-defectors.

The Number of Defectors
There have been widely varying reports of the number of re-defectors. Reports range from under ten to two hundred. South Korea’s Minister of Unification, Jeong Dong-young, said at a 2012 press conference in Seoul: “There are a few cases of re-defection. Last year, 70 percent of defectors who traveled abroad visited China, and about forty of them are staying there now for a long time.”
Because re-defectors are unlikely to report their desire to re-defect to the South Korean government, it is difficult to track their actions. They may often travel back to North Korea through unconventional means similar to those they used to originally defect. They may also contact North Korean agents in China in order to enter Pyongyang.

Re-defection: Not a New Experience
It might be tempting to see North Korean re-defectors as a new group, but redefection is not a novel idea. During the Cold War, there were similar cases of redefection, cases that have similar themes to the ones we have seen in North Korean re-defectors’ stories.
During the Cold War, there may have been some cases of espionage-driven re-defection, but there was also a great effort on the part of the Soviet Union and some of its satellite governments to encourage defectors to come home. This effort included the establishment of an organization—supposedly established by repentant re-defectors themselves—and promises of a warm welcome back home. However, it is also possible that defectors may also have been driven by depression, difficulty of adjustment, and homesickness to return home.


"An Unbelievable Story"

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) became a member of the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK) in September 2011. In several of its reports, HRNK was one of the first organizations to recommend the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity that may have been committed in North Korea.

"An Unbelievable Story" is the tale of the humanitarian crisis in North Korea. Produced for the International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea, the video is a call for action to prevent human rights violations and protect North Korean citizens.
 The victims of crimes against humanity committed by the North Korean authorities are waiting for your help and attention. We must let them know that they are not alone. We can rescue them from this tragic, unbelievable situation with our love and justice. Help raise awareness of human rights in North Korea by sharing this video and help spread the word.

Challenges to Human Rights Information Gathering in North Korea

Roberta Cohen, Co-Chair, HRNK Board of Directors

This blog is based on a statement given at the International Forum on North Korea,
sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Korea Institute for National
Unification and the Henry Jackson Society, November 28, 2012, London, England.

Over the past decade, non-governmental organizations have been bringing to light
extensive information about human rights conditions in North Korea. As a result of their
meticulous work, governments and the United Nations have been able to develop policy
positions on North Korea and use the information as the basis of their own reports.

Some point out that public execution may be on the decline in North Korea, in
part because of international criticism. We also hear that North Korea's participation in
the Paralympics’ games may signal a change in policy toward the disabled. And some say
fewer people are dying from starvation because they have learned to survive by growing
their own food, which the government is increasingly permitting. All these areas are
being researched as are the prison camps, where particular efforts are being made
to ascertain whether one camp has been closed and another relocated and the significance
of such information.

This certainly contrasts with the past when the world was largely in the dark about
human rights conditions in North Korea. It was not until 40 years after Kim Il-sung
assumed powerin the late 1970s and 80sthat international NGOs first began to
report on the human rights situation. More recently, following the arrival in South Korea
of some 25,000 North Korean defectors, information has become more plentiful about
all aspects of human rights in North Korea. Hundreds of former prisoners and former
prison guards have been providing testimony about their prison experiences. And since
2003, satellite photos of the camps have helped verify the information provided by
former prisoners and guards. North Koreans hiding in China have also been providing
information. The report of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, Lives for
Sale, is based on interviews with North Korean women who made their way to China.
And North Koreans still inside North Korea are providing information by means of new

Nonetheless, many obstacles remain to information gathering. Let us focus on three.

(Continued after the jump...)


Press Release: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) became a member of the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK) in September 2011. In several of its reports, HRNK was one of the first organizations to recommend the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity that may have been committed in North Korea.

Pillay urges more attention to human rights abuses in North Korea, calls for international inquiry 

GENEVA (14 January) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called Monday for the international community to put much more effort into tackling the “deplorable” human rights situation of people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and said the time had come for a full-fledged international inquiry into serious crimes that had been taking place in the country for decades. 

“There were some initial hopes that the advent of a new leader might bring about some positive change in the human rights situation in DPRK,” Pillay said. “But a year after Kim Jong Un became the country’s new supreme leader, we see almost no sign of improvement.” 

“I am also concerned that, at the international level, the spotlight is almost exclusively focused on DPRK’s nuclear programme and rocket launches,” she said. “While these, of course, are issues of enormous importance, they should not be allowed to overshadow the deplorable human rights situation in DPRK, which in one way or another affects almost the entire population and has no parallel anywhere else in the world.” 

(Continued after the jump...)


About HRNK

In October of 2001, a distinguished group of foreign policy and human rights specialists launched the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) to promote human rights in North Korea.

HRNK’s Guiding Objectives

Close North Korea’s gulags:
Up to 200,000 people are believed to be imprisoned without due process, under inhumane conditions, for political reasons; an estimated 400,000 have died in such camps. We should seek access to the camps for International Red Cross inspection teams, a list of those imprisoned and those responsible for their care, and information regarding their sentences and their conditions. A special effort must be made to release those who are detained in the camps without charge, because of a policy of collective punishment for the kin of political prisoners. This practice, and infanticide against inmates’ new-born children should be stopped immediately.
Open North Korea’s borders:
North Korea and China must cease criminalizing the act of leaving North Korea without permission, and the rights of those fleeing North Korea’s political persecution must be respected. Escapees are political refugees who must not be forcibly repatriated. UNHCR must be given access to North Koreans in the border areas. Foreign citizens abducted by the regime and held against their will must be allowed to return to their homes.
Inform North Korea’s Citizens:
Provide information to the North Korean people, especially via radio and other media, ending their forced isolation.
Foster good economic principles:
Encourage companies investing in North Korea to develop a code of conduct, similar to the Sullivan principles that were applied in South Africa to protect workers and other citizens.
Promote access throughout North Korea:
Human rights organizations, and independent media must be given access to North Korea, thereby ending the information blockade that has prevented the true picture of conditions in north Korea from being known. Humanitarian relief to the North must be monitored to verify relief is reaching those most in need.
Feed the hungry in North Korea:
Under the regime’s military first policies, food supplies, even internationally provided food assistance, is being withheld from those that need it most and provided to those who are categorized as loyal to the regime. This use of food as a method of political retribution and coercion must stop.
Link Development Assistance to North Korea to tangible improvements in the regime’s human rights record:
Development Assistance to the government of North Korea must be predicated on steps taken by it to protect the rights, including freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and freedom of conscience of the people of North Korea.
Current Activities:
The Committee’s research and publication activities focus on how the North Korean totalitarian regime abuses the rights of its citizens, its vast system of political prisons and labor camps, the regime’s denial of equal access to food and goods, and the plight of refugees fleeing to China.
Our well researched and well-written studies have established our reputation and our leading role in the growing international network of human rights, humanitarian assistance, and policy organizations committed to opening up and revealing North Korea to the rest of the world.