Offenses meriting banishment to a North Korean prison camp include everything from disparaging North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to trying to flee the country, defectors say.
Former prisoner Jung said he spent three years in Camp No. 15 in Yodok, about 110km northeast of the capital, Pyongyang , on charges of spying for South Korea . Jung, who was working for a state-run trading company, claims the charges were fabricated by security agents seeking promotion. After months of torture, Jung said he acknowledged the charge. By then he had lost nearly 36kg.
At Yodok, Jung said, the 400 inmates in his section subsisted on 0.5kg of corn each — the equivalent of one medium-size can daily — while toiling at mines, farms and factories for 13 to 15 hours a day. Many died of hunger and diseases brought on by malnutrition, he said. Some managed to trap vermin and insects.
“People eat rats and snakes. They were the best food to recover our health,” said Jung, 46, adding he still suffers from ulcers, headaches and back pain.
One inmate, Choe Kwang-ho, sneaked away from his work for 15 minutes to pick fruit. He was executed, his mouth stuffed full of gravel to stop him protesting, Jung recalled. “I still can’t forget his emotionless face,” he said.
Life at the four other camps was even worse, Jung said. A former North Korean prison guard said only two inmates have ever escaped from the camps known as “total control zones.”
[ Taipei Times]