Archive for the 'Gulag' Category


WITNESS: AN Hyuk, Kwan-li-soNo. 15 “Yodok” (1987–1989)

Excerp taken from The Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea’s Prison Camps, By David Hawk

AN Hyuk was born at Manpo City, Jakang Province, in 1968 into a loyal party family. At the age of twelve, he received a government scholarship to a school for physical education. In 1986, when he was nineteen, after ice skating in Hysean near Mt. Paekdu on the Chinese border, An crossed into China largely out of curiosity. Arrested in China, he was repatriated to North Korea. He was detained for one year and eight months in solitary confinement in an undersized, underground cell in the Maram ku-ryu-jang(detention facility) at Yongsong, Pyongyang, and for another year and a half at the Daesuk-ri singles prison area at Yodok, one of the villages in the “revolutionizing” section of Kwan-li-soNo. 15.

While at Maram, An was subjected to sleep-deprivation and compelled to sit motionless
for days. He saw only forty other detainees but believes there were as many as 1,000.
Among those in nearby cells were prisoners detained for spilling ink on or failing to ade-
quately dust photographs of Kim Il Sung, charges even the prison guards regarded as
lacking seriousness. An relates that when he was transferred to Yodok, the guards there
told him that he had been sitting down for too long and that it was time for him to do
some work. During his year and a half at Yodok, there were some 2,000 prisoners in the
Daesuk-ri singles section of the prison camp.

At Yodok, An’s first labor assignment was construction work at a water-driven electric-
power plant at the camp. His duties entailed breaking ice and wading waist-deep into a
frozen stream to gather stones, and laying boards to re-channel the water. It was literally
a “murderous” construction project, as scores died from exposure, and even more lost
fingers and toes to frostbite. His next work assignment was cutting down and carrying
from high mountains rare hardwood trees for export to Japan. Deaths resulted from
injuries during this project as well. His last work project was gathering wild mushrooms
in the mountains, also for export.
Kwan-li-so No. 15 Yodok

In 1992, An escaped to Seoul along with fellow former Yodok prisoner Kang Chol
Hwan. In 1995, Chongji Media in Seoul published his Korean-language prison memoirs,
Yodok List.


North Koreans being Repatriated

Excerpt taken from: The Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea’s Prison Camps by David Hawk U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Kore

When first repatriated from China, North Koreans are questioned in the police jails and
detention facilities about why they went to China, what they did there, and when. More
ominous questions follow, revolving around whether the individual being questioned
had any contact with South Koreans while in China, which is deemed a political offense.
(Many North Koreans do have contact with South Koreans there, as this part of north-
east China, formerly known as Manchuria, is frequented by South Korean businessmen,
students, tourists, missionaries, and refugee and humanitarian aid workers.) Fearing
transfer to a kwan-li-soor kyo-hwa-so, or even execution, repatriated North Koreans
typically deny having had any contact with South Koreans or exposure to South Korean
radio stations, television programs, movies, or music while in China. But such denials
often are not deemed credible by the North Korean police, who literally attempt to beat
the truth out of the repatriated detainees. When the police are satisfied, the repatriates
are transferred to the jip-kyul-sopolice detention centers or ro-dong-dan-ryeon-dae
labor-training camps.

Two phenomena of extreme repression are associated with the treatments meted out to
repatriated Koreans. First, the jip-kyul-so, despite the shortness of sentences served
there, are characterized by very high levels of deaths in detention from inadequate food
combined with excessively hard labor — most seriously affecting those detainees lacking
nearby relatives to bring them extra food. (Many detainees, when they become too ema-
ciated or sick to perform hard labor, are given sick-leave or release so that they can
recover or die at home, reducing the number of deaths in detention.) Second, in at least
three places of detention along the North Korea–China border cited by persons inter-
viewed for this report, North Korean women who were pregnant when repatriated were
subsequently subjected to forced abortions, or if the pregnancy was too advanced, were
allowed to deliver their babies only to have them killed immediately after birth (based
on the possibility that the Korean women had been impregnated by Han Chinese men).

May 2018
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