North Korean Death Camps: the Research

cropped-nk26The information here represents the bare facts of the existence of, and conditions within North Korean internment camps. The evidence is mounting, from satellite images, international human rights reports, and rare but in-depth first-hand accounts of survivors. I have assembled this information here because the world needs to see the sheer horror or what’s going on. Many North Korean people are imprisoned or have died in these camps only for being Christians, or suspected of being Christians. Even more importantly, WE NEED TO PRAY! Only God and the power of prayer can bring this breathtaking evil down. It must come down.

 North Korean Prison Camps

According to many sources, conditions in North Korean prisons are harsh and life threatening, and recent reports show that they are expanding. Despite official statements to the contrary, and signs that the new regime led by Kim Jeong Eun may be taking on a more relaxed stance, the hundreds of thousands of North Korean citizens held in internment camps are subject to routine torture and inhumane treatment. An estimated 10,000 people die in these camps every year of torture, starvation and abuse. Those hundreds of thousands imprisoned, and 10,000 yearly dead are held and tortured in a country smaller than the state of Pennsylvania, with a population of about 25 million.

In these death camps starvation and exposure is the rule; executions, even of children, are common; infanticides (forced abortions and baby killings upon birth) also often occur. The mortality rate in these death camps is very high, as many prisoners die of starvation, illnesses, work accidents and torture. The DPRK government has consistently failed to provide any information on prisoners or prison camps, nor have they allowed any access to human rights organizations.

The North Korean prison camp facilities can be distinguished into two categories: large internment camps for political prisoners that have few facilities but encompass a large area of land, and reeducation prison camps built more like prisons with large facilities built on smaller sites.

Internment Camps for Political Prisoners

Internment camps for people accused of political offences have been expanding in the past few years. “Political prisoners” may simply be people who are denounced as politically suspicious in some way; their only crime may be that they are related to someone deemed suspicious. They are subject to guilt by association, punishment and life imprisonment. Whole families are arrested and interred: the “three generation” rule dictates pyongyang_gulag1the imprisonment of grandparents, parents and all children. Families are broken up and sent to separated sections, or other camps entirely. They are held without any lawsuit or conviction. They are most often imprisoned in death camps for the rest of their lives.

The internment camps are located in central and northeastern North Korea, in areas of harsh, freezing climate. They comprise many prison labor colonies in secluded mountain valleys, completely isolated from the outside world. The total number of prisoners held in these camps is estimated to be 150,000 to 200,000. Yodok camp and Bukchang camp are separated into two sections: One section for political prisoners in lifelong detention, another part similar to re-education camps with prisoners sentenced to long-term imprisonment with the vague hope of eventual release.

The prisoners are forced to perform hard and dangerous slave work with primitive means in mining and agriculture. Food rations are very small, so that the prisoners are constantly on the brink of starvation. An estimated 40% of prisoners die from malnutrition alone. Moreover many prisoners are crippled from work accidents, frostbite or torture.

Initially there were twelve small political prison camps, but they have been merged over time. Today there are six larger political prison camps in North Korea. The sizes of the camps are documented in testimonies of former prisoners, and ongoing comparisons of satellite images.

Political Prison Camp Official Name Size Prisoners
Kaechon Political Prison Camp Kwan-li-so No. 14

155 km² (60 mi²)


Yodok Political Prison Camp Kwan-li-so No. 15

378 km² (146 mi²)


Hwasong Political Prison Camp Kwan-li-so No. 16

549 km² (212 mi²)


Bukchang Political Prison Camp Kwan-li-so No. 18

73 km² (28 mi²)


Haengyong Political Prison Camp Kwan-li-so No. 22

225 km² (87 mi²)


Chongjin Political Prison Camp Kwan-li-so No. 25

0,25 km² (0,1 mi²)


Reeducation Camps

Inmates in these camps are anyone that is accused of committing a crime in North Korea. The numbers of inmates in these camps have been swelling. They often consist of people who get on the bad side of influential political leaders, and are denounced on false accusations. These people are then forced into false confessions with brutal torture in detention centers and are then condemned in a brief show trial to a long-term prison sentence. In North Korea crimes are greatly varied, from border crossing to possession of outlawed religious materials, to a disturbance of the political order, and any infraction, or accusation of an infraction, is rigorously punished.

The reeducation camps are large prison building complexes surrounded by high walls. The situation of prisoners inside is quite similar to that in the political prison camps. They have to perform slave work in prison factories and are tortured and confined for many days to special isolation cells, too small to stand up or lie down in. The reeducation camp prisoners are required to attend ideological reprogramming sessions after long work days, are forced to memorize speeches of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, and have to undergo self-criticism rites.

There are 15 – 20 reeducation camps in North Korea:

Name Location Type Prisoners Size Comments
Kwan-li-so # 14 Kaechon Kaechon, South Pyongan Political prison camp


155 km² (60 mi²)

Shin Dong-hyuk testimony; mining area
Kwan-li-so # 15 Yodok Yodok, South Hamgyong Political prison camp


378 km² (146 mi²)

Best-known camp; total control zone and revolutionizing zone
Kwan-li-so # 16 Hwasong Hwasong, North Hamgyong Political prison camp


549 km² (212 mi²)

Near nuclear test site (Mantap-san)
Kwan-li-so # 18 Bukchang Bukchang, South Pyongan Political prison camp


73 km² (28 mi²)

Mining area; total control zone and revolutionizing zone
Kwan-li-so # 22 Haengyong Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Political prison camp


225 km² (87 mi²)

Near Chinese border; mining area
Kwan-li-so # 25 Chongjin Chongjin, North Hamgyong Political prison camp


Penitentiary style
Kyo-hwa-so # 1 Kaechon Kaechon, South Pyongan Reeducation camp


Penitentiary style Lee Soon-ok testimony
Kyo-hwa-so # 3 Sinuiju Sinuiju, North Pyongan Reeducation camp


Penitentiary style Near Chinese border
Kyo-hwa-so # 4 Kangdong Kangdong, South Pyongan Reeducation camp


Penitentiary style Near Pyongyang
Kyo-hwa-so # 8 Yongdam Chonnae, Kangwon Reeducation camp


Penitentiary style
Kyo-hwa-so # 11 Chungsan Chungsan, South Pyongan Reeducation camp


Penitentiary style Many repatriated defectors
Kyo-hwa-so # 12 Chongori Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Reeducation camp


Penitentiary style Many repatriated defectors
Kyo-hwa-so # 15 Hamhung Hamhung, South Hamgyong Reeducation camp


Penitentiary style Former colonial prison
Kyo-hwa-so # 22 Oro Yonggwang, South Hamgyong Reeducation camp


Penitentiary style
Kyo-hwa-so # 77 Danchon Danchon, South Hamgyong Reeducation camp


Penitentiary style
Kyo-hwa-so Hoeryong Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Reeducation camp


Penitentiary style



About jscotthusted

J. Scott Husted is a writer, educator, minister and teaching missionary currently living and working in Seoul, South Korea. He carries a passion for cultivating authentic community, the establishment of the house of prayer, the plight of children at risk around the world, and raising up a new generation of leaders with a passion for the Kingdom of God.
This entry was posted in Cultivating Kingdom, God's Kingdom and World Events, North and South Korea and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s