Pukchang concentration camp

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Pukchang concentration camp

Pukch'ang concentration camp (Hangeul: 북창 제18호 관리소, also spelled Bukchang) is a labor camp in North Korea for political prisoners. It is sometimes called Tŭkchang concentration camp (Hangeul: 득장 제18호 관리소, also Deukjang or Dukjang). The official name is Kwan-li-so (Penal-labor colony) No. 18.

Contents

Location

The camp is in Pukchang County and Tukchang district, P'yŏngan-namdo province in North Korea. It is situated along the middle reaches of the Taedong river, which forms the northern boundary of the camp, and also includes the mountains south of the river. On the other side of the Taedong river is the Kaechon internment camp (Kwan-li-so No. 14). [1]

Description

North Korea adm location map.svg
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Pyongyang
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Pukchang
Location of Pukchang camp in North Korea

According to Hwang Jang-yop, the former leader of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Pukchang camp is the oldest North Korean prison camp and was already erected by 1958. [2] Like in Yodok camp there is one section for political prisoners in lifelong detention and another section functioning as a reeducation camp. Possibly these sections were completely separated earlier and therefore are named Pukchang and Tukchang respectively. [3] While all the other political prison camps belong to the State Security Department, Pukchang camp is run by the Interior Ministry. [4] In some cases, political prisoners were deported to the Kaechon camp, while their relatives (parents, children, siblings, grandchildren) were deported to the Pukchang camp. They are classified as politically unreliable and are imprisoned without any lawsuit or conviction solely on the basis of kinship.

The camp is around 73 km2 (28 sq mi) in area [5] and is surrounded by a 4-metre-high (13 ft) fence. [6] There are several prison labor colonies with barracks for the prisoners and housing for the guards: the 4th, 5th, and 6th divisions. Family members are often allowed to live together. Around 50,000 prisoners live in Pukchang concentration camp. [7] Kim Yong reported the presence of foreign prisoners, but there is no other source to confirm this. [8]

Purpose

Pukchang camp isolates people from society who are deemed by the North Korean government to be politically unreliable. It was established to exploit the prisoners with hard and dangerous labor. Within the camp borders, there are at least five coal mines, [9] where all capable prisoners have to work from early in the morning to late in the evening. Furthermore, there is a cement factory and some other factories. [10]

Human rights situation

Kim Hye-sook has described the human rights situation in detail and testified to the Canadian Parliament and the British Parliament. Rules in Pukchang camp seem to be slightly less strict compared to the human rights situation in other political prison camps. [11] Despite this, prisoners are still shot in cases of escape attempts, thefts of food, or violations of instructions. [12] Kim witnessed more than 100 public executions per year with prisoners being tortured and then shot or hanged as a deterrent to the other prisoners. [13]

The most common causes of death are malnutrition, work accidents, and illnesses. [14] Kim reported that in the 1990s her family only received 7 kg (15 lb) of corn per month and occasionally some bean paste (Doenjang), or salt. [15] In order to survive, they had to search for edible plants, leaves, and insects. [16] She saw bodies lying around the camp and reported cases of cannibalism. [17] Since the prisoners have to work 16–18 hours in the mines every day without any protection, after a few years most suffer from pneumoconiosis and many die from it. Kim developed a pulmonary tumor because of the inhaled dust. [18] Work accidents often lead to limb amputations. Many children have frostbite, because they have no shoes and have to go barefoot even in winter. [19]

Kim reported that the prisoners have no human rights and are treated at the guards’ mercy. To humiliate the prisoners, the guards would often force them to get on their knees, and then spit into the prisoner's mouths and make them swallow the spit. If prisoners do not immediately obey, they are savagely beaten. [20] The prisoners are monitored almost continuously by security agents and are urged to spy on each other and to denounce other prisoners. [21]

Reported closure and re-opening

According to some sources, the camp ceased operations in 2006. The satellite images, however, show that the mine inside the camp is still operating with civilian laborers. It is likely that some parts of the camp still hold political prisoners, but most of the former camp area has stopped functioning as a labor camp. [22]

In 2016 it was reported that camp 18 had either been re-opened or merged with camp 14 on the other side of the river. Satellite images showed a new security perimeter and increased activity in the area. There also seemed to be an operational ferry between the two camps, giving the suggestion that the camps may have merged. [23]

Prisoners (Witnesses)

See also

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References

  1. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea: Satellite Imagery of the North Korean Gulag: Kwan-li-so No. 18 Bukchang Overview, p. 209
  2. Federation of American Scientists: Hwang Jang-yop speaks
  3. ”Curious about Dukjang Gulag Where Jeong Ha Cheol Has Been Imprisoned?”, The Daily NK, December 14, 2005
  4. The 9th International Conference on North Korea Human Rights and Refugees, Melbourne, March 20, 2009 (page 28)
  5. ”North Koreas Hard Labor Camps“ with interactive map, Washington Post, July 20, 2009
  6. "Life & Human Rights in North Korea, Vol. 60; Witness Account: Twenty-eight Years of My life in Political Prisoner Camp (Gwalliso) No.18 (p. 24)". Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  7. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea: The Hidden Gulag (Section: Testimony Kwan-li-so No. 18 Bukchang, p. 69 - 70)
  8. “N Korean officer saw ‘Westerners’ at prison camp”, ABC News, October 23, 2003
  9. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea: Satellite Imagery North Korean Gulag: Kwan-li-so No. 18 Bukchang 4th and 5th Division, p. 219
  10. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea: Satellite Imagery North Korean Gulag: Kwan-li-so No. 18 Bukchang 4th and 5th Division, p. 220
  11. "Kim Hye-sook: 'I saw prisoners turned to honeycomb by the bullets'". The Independent, July 13, 2011. London. July 13, 2011. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  12. "Subcommittee on International Human Rights, 40th Parliament, 3rd session, February 1, 2011: Testimony of Ms. Hye Sook Kim (section 1320)". Parliament of Canada. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  13. "Life & Human Rights in North Korea, Vol. 60; Witness Account: Twenty-eight Years of My life in Political Prisoner Camp (Gwalliso) No.18 (p. 30)". Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  14. "The Hidden Gulag: Kwan-li-so political panel-labor colonies (section Testimony Kwan-li-so No. 18 "Bukchang") (p. 69 - 70)" (PDF). Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  15. "Inside N. Korea's Prisons: Moms Kill Children to Survive". CBN News, October 28, 2011. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  16. "Life & Human Rights in North Korea, Vol. 60; Witness Account: Twenty-eight Years of My life in Political Prisoner Camp (Gwalliso) No.18 (p. 25)". Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  17. "Life & Human Rights in North Korea, Vol. 60; Witness Account: Twenty-eight Years of My life in Political Prisoner Camp (Gwalliso) No.18 (p. 29)". Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  18. "Subcommittee on International Human Rights, 40th Parliament, 3rd session, February 1, 2011: Testimony of Ms. Hye Sook Kim (section 1315)". Parliament of Canada. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  19. "Escaping North Korea's prison (radio interview with Kim Hye-sook, 30th June 2011) (about 1:15)". BBC News. June 30, 2011. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  20. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-05-01. Retrieved 2016-04-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. "Has Camp 18 been re-opened or merged with Camp 14?". North Korean Economy Watch. Retrieved 2019-07-10.
  22. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea: The Hidden Gulag (Section: Testimony Kwan-li-so No. 18 Bukchang, p. 76)
  23. ”Freedom from Morbid Concentration Camp – and then Gloomy Fate”, The Daily NK, April 25, 2011
  24. The Independent , "Kim Hye-sook: 'I saw prisoners turned to honeycomb by the bullets'", 13 July 2011; retrieved 18 July 2011.

Coordinates: 39°32′46″N126°03′48″E / 39.546164°N 126.063223°E / 39.546164; 126.063223