Some 120 inmates escaped from a political concentration camp in northeastern North Korea several months ago in an unprecedented prison break. The prisoners escaped from Hwasong camp in North Hamgyong, a province close to the Chinese and Russian borders, in December, the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper reported Wednesday.
The Daily NK report said the area was put in a "state of emergency" after the prison break, calling it unprecedented.
North Korean authorities have since tightened inspections at Hwasong and adjacent cities to catch the fugitives, of whom 21 have so far been caught, the report said. So far, 21 prisoners have been caught, most of whom were found in China and sent back to the communist North after failed attempts to defect to South Korea, the report said.
The Hwasong prison camp -- located deep inside a mountain and encircled by high wire fences -- holds about 10,000 prisoners, Daily NK said. The escape seemed to have been carefully planned with outside help since the escapees drove off in a vehicle waiting outside the prison, according to the report.
Between 150,000 and 200,000 people are believed to be held in prison camps in the communist North for political reasons, according to U.S. government data.