List profiles North’s political prisonersA group of civil of rights activists in Seoul submitted a list Friday of some 180 North Koreans believed to be detained in a brutal political prison camp in North Korea to the newly opened United Nations office on the human rights situation in Pyongyang.
The report, based on the testimony of a North Korean defector, lists the profiles of people who were imprisoned between 2000 and 2003 at the notorious Yodok concentration camp, one of the regime’s most brutal political prisons, located in South Hamgyong Province.
The International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK) held a press conference Friday at the Seoul Press Center, where it unveiled the report, based on the recollections of Jung Gwang-il, a North Korean defector who spent three years in the Yodok prison camp on charges of internal spying.
He also heads No Chain, an organization for North Korean political victims. The report, “My Fellow Inmates in [Yodok],” listed people’s names, ages and reasons for detainment.
Jung said that since October, satellite images had shown the facilities at Yodok being torn down.
He further estimated that there were about 400 inmates at Yodok during his time there. “The North Korean authorities need to reveal the whereabouts of those 400 prisoners,” he said, “including the 180 listed in this report.”
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Tuesday opened a Seoul office to monitor the North Korean human rights situation. In response, Pyongyang on Thursday threatened “catastrophic consequences in the North-South relations.”
While North Korea denies the existence of any political prison camps - it maintains there are only labor camps used as correctional facilities for criminals - there are estimated to be between 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners across four political prisons in the country.
The OHCHR field office, located at the Seoul Global Center, was established following a recommendation in a UN Commission of Inquiry report in February that detailed the heinous crimes perpetuated by the North Korean regime.
The document included accounts of dissidents being summarily executed, raped, tortured and persecuted for reasons including political or religious beliefs.
“Thanks to the Commission of Inquiry, the human rights situation in the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] is now firmly on the international agenda,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, told reporters on Thursday.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]