Inside Kim Jong Il’s Death Camps

Frank Crimi is a San Diego-based writer and author of the book Raining Frogs and Heart Attacks. You can read more of Frank's work at his blog,www.politicallyunbalanced.com.


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Clearly detailed satellite photos released by the South Korean government reveal a rapidly growing network of six slave-labor camps, home to more than 200,000 North Koreans, one-third of whom are believed to be children.

Located in the rugged, isolated mountain terrain of central North Korea, the gulags are the repository for those unfortunate North Koreans who have committed perceived “political offenses” against the despotic regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong ll.

The prison system is divided into areas called “Total Control Zones,” from which no prisoners are ever released. As such, these camps hold up to three generations of North Koreans, many of whom have been born into permanent captivity.

While the North Korean government steadfastly denies the very existence of these slave camps, the new satellite imagery tells a different story. Moreover, a handful of North Koreans fortunate enough to have survived their time in the gulags have filled in the grisly details, most recently in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights.

Chaired by Chris Smith (R-NJ), the committee heard vivid accounts of hard labor, starvation, torture and public execution from Kim Hye Sook and Kim Young Soon, two female North Korean prison camp survivors.

Both women told tales of prisoners subjected to a Hobbesian existence in which they lived in rancid conditions, worked seven days a week in coal mines, and subsisted on a diet of rats, frogs, snakes, and insects. If the prisoners didn’t succumb to starvation or malnutrition, they faced torture, firing squads and even public stoning at the hands of the viscous North Korean prison guards.

Mrs. Sook, who was 13-years-old when she was incarcerated in 1975, said, “There was a time when I saw the bodies of people who were killed by firing squad who were rolled up in straw mats and carried away in carts, and said to myself, ‘even dogs will not die so pitifully.’”

Tragically for Mrs. Sook, despite being released after 28 years in the prison camp, her nightmare only continued when she went to China. There, she was sold several times as a victim of human and sexual trafficking.

Stories like Mrs. Sook’s have been sadly corroborated by the few North Korean prison guards who have defected from the North. One such man was Kwon Hyok, the former head of security at North Korea’s notorious Prison Camp 22, who testified about the mass atrocities committed in the gulags.

Those atrocities included the widespread use of gas chambers, as well as medical experimentation on prisoners, including children. He chillingly said, “It would be a total lie to say I felt sympathy for the children dying such a painful death… In the society and the regime I was under, I just felt they were enemies.”

The tragic reality of course is that the prison camp’s inhabitants are nothing more than the innocent victims of North Korean dictator Kim Jong ll’s genocidal assault against his own people — genocide based on religious, racial and the ethnic grounds.

Religious genocide in North Korea has been in full, vigorous effect since Kim Jong ll’s father, Kim ll Sung, first ascended to power in 1948 and established Juche, North Korea’s official religion. Juche required that all North Koreans worship Kim ll Sung as god, and later his son, Kim Jong ll, as the son of god. As such, according to one escapee from North Korea, “Religious freedom is not allowed in North Korea because it will ruin the deification of Kim ll Sung.”

Protection of the Kim family’s deity status has resulted in North Korean Christians being publicly executed or sent to concentration camps, where they are without exception starved, tortured and worked to death along with their entire families. The result, according to a statement released by the National Association of Evangelicals, has made North Korea “more brutal, more deliberate, more implacable, and more purely genocidal than any other nation in the world.”

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  • UCSPanther

    North Korea is a prison state, where those who are born into it never leave, except through death or escape…

  • StephenD

    Yet, we will hear China's exhortations about our own record of supposed "Human Rights Abuses" and never call them out for their adopted son (N. Korea). I'd love for a President that was able to "Man Up" and tell them, Russia, N. Sudan, Iran, and any other despotic regime, that we are aware and that they loose all credibility when they support such governments. We should be able to tell them to pound sand until they take decisive corrective action to address basic human rights issues. A President that believed in an “Exceptional America” would do no less.

  • maturin20

    Horrible, just horrible.

  • Chezwick_mac

    In a sane world, this despotic, outlaw regime that starves its own people would be removed by responsible members of the international community. But of course, it's not a sane world.

  • Guest

    Why would anyone expect the UN to do something about this? They have not done anything I can think of in recent history that went well.

    This is horrible. The only thing I know to do is pray for them. I do not believe we should use military intervention. They should be isolated, but again, that will only make the poor souls that much more miserable because we know the elite will not allow themselves to suffer.

  • g_jochnowitz

    Juche, North Korea's religion, is a sect of Marxism. Kim Il Song is God, but he is God the Son. Kim Jong Il is God the Grandson. God the Father is Marx. The world is unwilling to recognize that the cruelty of Marxism comes from the words of Marx. http://www.jochnowitz.net/Essays/MarxsDream.html
    Kim Jong Il is a frightened old man. He is afraid of airplanes. We could tempt him to leave office by telling him he and his friends and family could live in peace in the United States (they could get there by ship). He certainly doesn't deserve to be spared, but it is more important to spare the innocent people he persecutes.

  • tony

    Maybe I'm a bit confused, so perhaps you can help me out. Didn't the Soviet Union collapse under it's own weight in the early 90's? What would have made us all happier? The easy way would have been to accept what Gorbie and the Soviets wanted. What took balls was to say no. Reagan knew exactly what he was doing. He knew very well that the Soviets were going bankrupt and that SDI would accelerate their demise. Every limp wristed liberal (I know, unnecessary modifier) out there at the time was whining like a bitch (liberal) that Reagan walked away from the kind hearted Soviets. So who turned out to be right my friend?

    • maturin20

      Gorbachev, my friend.

  • UCSPanther

    Anyone who has read Shakespear's play "MacBeth" will be struck by the accuracy of how the titular character in the play behaves once he steals power from his king in comparison to how real life tyrants from ancient to present behave once the paranoia takes over.

  • BLJ

    We have been fighting the Second Korean War along the DMZ since 1953. Anyone recall the USS Pueblo? These bastards have been getiing away with crap for 60 years.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    If the leftists continue to have place in our Government, the future of America
    may look like N. Korea but with idiots shouting out of minarets, Alle Oopp! all
    day long. We have a sick world and to take on all of the monsters would be
    a true world war………………………………………………William

  • Datou

    Leftists don't give a crap about human rights atrocities unless it fits their narrative of blaming anyone remotely to the right of them. Let's send Obama and every Dem & RINO in congress to one of these camps for a little education…

  • Citizen-Comrade

    You're just saying these things because you are all right-wing fascist conservatives who fear the masses. Progressivism is the future, live with it. All power to the people's vanguard! Hands off democratic Korea! Pass the Jobs Bill!

    • fisher

      Please be a troll…

  • kafir4life

    I suspect that Barack Obama secretly wishes he could be the Black KJI. It's the only way he's still in office in 480 days.

  • CRW

    The only thing that can be done is to carpet bomb the prison camp known as North Korea. Then maybe the ones who survive will get a chance at living for once.

    I'd prefer to delude myself into thinking this is all hearsay. I cannot go on living while knowing that such horrors exist and nobody can stop them.

  • maturin20

    You wonder how much longer such a cruel regime can possibly last.