The Hell Holes of North Korean Gulags

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-Chief
Last Modified: 02:50 a.m. EDT, 03 March 2013
Originally Published: 17:57 p.m. EDT, 4 May 2011

LONDON, England – Today Amnesty International released a report claiming the North Korean camps for political prisoners are expanding in size. A political prisoner in an interview recounted a horrific tale of his three-year internment in the sprawling camp.

There is a global pandemic of human rights abuses from post conflict rape of women in Africa to collateral death of innocent people at the hands of homicide bombers of all persuasions. However, the systematic and organized machinery of suppression practiced in these North Korean internment camps recall the forced labor camp system of the former USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) known as The Gulag.

The Gulag camp system was officially created on “April 25, 1930 and claims have been made that it was dismantled on January 13, 1960. Wherever there is political oppression, lack of freedom of speech, and dissidence is viewed as sedition the conditions exist for internment camps to operate with relative impunity.

More than 14 million people passed through the Gulag from 1929 to 1953, with a further 6 to 7 million being deported and exiled to remote areas of the USSR. According to a 1993 study of incomplete archival Soviet data, a total of 1,053,829 people died in the Gulag from 1934 to 1953.

More complete data puts the death toll for this same time period at 1,258,537, with an estimated 1.6 million casualties from 1929 to 1953.These estimates exclude those who died shortly after their release but whose death resulted from the harsh treatment in the camps;such deaths happened frequently.The total population of the camps varied from 510,307 (in 1934) to 1,727,970 (in 1953).

Most Gulag inmates were not political prisoners, although the political prisoner population was always significant. People could be imprisoned in a Gulag camp for crimes such as petty theft, unexcused absences from work, and anti-government jokes.About half of the political prisoners were sent to Gulag prison camps without trial; official data suggest that there were more than 2.6 million imprisonment sentences in cases investigated by the secret police, 1921-1953.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Amnesty International asserts that there are currently about 200,000 people in the North Korean prison camps. Critics counter that the satellite photos do not prove that the areas identified actually show four of the six prison camps believed to exist in North Korea’s South Pyongyang, South Hamkyung and North Hamkyung provinces.

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About Ayanna Nahmias

Ayanna Nahmias was interviewed on Radio Netherlands Worldwide program titled 'The State We’re In,' about her life in Africa and her determination to transcend her past. She started the Nahmias Cipher Report to provide information to readers about life in emerging economies, and to provide alternative insight into the challenges faced by women and children living in these countries. The blog features stories from around the world to inspire other people to persevere and triumph in the face of great adversity. She blogs about current events in emerging economies, international politics, human rights abuses, women’s rights and child advocacy.

View all posts by Ayanna Nahmias

7 Comments on “The Hell Holes of North Korean Gulags”

  1. bintikamau Says:

    This is disheartening and inhuman “People could be imprisoned in a Gulag camp for crimes such as petty theft, unexcused absences from work, and anti-government jokes.About half of the political prisoners were sent to Gulag prison camps without trial”
    Are these reasons enough to kill one of your kind…sometimes I wonder what we take other people for…who would want to be treated like this? so why treat someone else like so? What happened to compassion, care, love and forgiveness? What happened to the view that we don’t have to always agree but then even in our difference we can find the heart to live with each other?


  2. johannisthinking Says:

    I have heard that generation after generation of families are kept in North Korean prison camps. Sometimes entire families are brought out in front of the other prisoners and murdered…to provide a lesson for the others. HORRIFIC! I do not know what to do…except weep for our inhumanity to each other.


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