Kwan-li-so No. 15, Yodok Concentration Camp, North Korea

Posted: October 16th, 2011 in criminals, human behavior, North Korea
Tags: , , , , , ,

Soldiering on with the sporadic series on the crimes against humanity committed in that most vile of places, ‘Dear Leader’ Kim Jong Il’s North Korea. For this one, please note that “Number 15” is just a small part of this astonishing ~100 square mile ‘complex’ at Yodok. Keep in mind that there are known to be at least two dozen similar ‘facilities’ scattered amongst the mountain ranges. So far, no one has done anything to stop them as the sole concern is nuclear politics.

Uploaded by on Dec 26, 2009

Yodŏk is a concentration camp in North Korea. It is located in Yodŏk-gun (county) in South Hamgyong Province. The official name is Kwan-li-so (reeducation center) No. 15.

In the 1990s, an estimated 30,000 prisoners were in the lifetime area, and around 16,500 prisoners in the revolutionizing zone (many of them family members of prisoners and people repatriated from Japan).

Yodŏk camp has a lifetime-imprisonment “total-control zone,” but also “revolutionizing zones,” from which prisoners are sometimes released. That is why there are testimonies by refugees about Yodŏk.

The whole encampment is surrounded by a barbed-wire fence measuring 3 to 4 meters and walls 2 to 3 meters tall topped with electrical wire. Along the fence there are watchtowers, and patrolled by 1,000 guards armed with automatic rifles, hand grenades and guard dogs.

Labor operations at the Kuŭp-ri section of Yodŏk include a gypsum quarry and a re-opened gold mine, where some 800 men worked and accidents happen frequently. There were also textile plants, distilleries and a coppersmith workshop.

Kang Chol-Hwan, prisoner from 1977 to 1987, estimates around 4% of prisoners in the Kuŭp-ri revolutionizing zone died per year, mostly because of malnutrition and disease. Although complete families (including children) were imprisoned based on the claimed guilt of one member, any sexual contact between prisoners is not allowed and pregnancies are forcibly aborted. Guards, however, sexually abuse female prisoners, who are then punished if they fall pregnant. Kang described life in Yodŏk camp in the book The Aquariums of Pyongyang.

Lee Young-kuk prisoner from 1995 to 1999, estimates that around 20% of prisoners in the Taesuk-ri revolutionizing zone died per year, while new prisoners arrived each month. As cells were not heated, most prisoners suffered from frostbitten ears and swollen legs during the winter months.

Both revolutionizing areas have public executions by hanging and shootings for prisoners who had tried to escape or who had been caught stealing food. In at least one case an attempted escapee was tied and dragged behind a car in front of the assembled prisoners until dead.

In 2004, a Japanese television station aired what it said was footage showing scenes from the camp.

Sorry to interrupt, but just to be clear, the video shown above is the footage shown in Japan. How FujiTV got this… I can only imagine… and can well imagine the fear the crew, or whoever it was, almost certainly felt while shooting, not to mention before and after. One should be aware that North Korean footage of any kind is highly valued and in big demand in Japan, with any footage whatsoever of the camps themselves naturally representing the Holy Grail.

The Japanese pay high prices. This I think may actually be a good thing, as there has been an increase in footage escaping the country, shot by some very brave individuals. They are driven to use whatever money they get to smuggle themselves or family out of there. Let the veil drop… however slowly. Maybe someday, someone, somewhere, will actually do something.

In a note of a rather gross nature, sorry, it has been claimed that the people carrying the buckets near the end are transporting their fellow inmate’s excrement for use as fertilizer in the fields. I can certainly believe it.

Edit to add: Regarding the above paragraph, this is to be found on Wikipedia’s page on Yodok: […] Primary school children have to carry heavy logs 12 times a day over 4 km (2.5 mi)[38] or a dung buckets of 30 kg (66 lb) 30 times a day.[39] […]. (Emphasis added)

And, while I’m adding… here is a strangely titled page with a handy embedded Google map for your perusal. I do not know where in here No. 15 is. The extent of the place boggles the imagination and I have a very good imagination. Yes, Virginia, it is the entire valley. And then note that Yodok is not the largest camp in the DPRK’s system.

In 2008, a new documentary, Yodok Stories, by Andrzej Fidyk came out, telling a story of a small group of people that have managed to escape from Yodŏk camp. Here is the film’s website.

Okay, thats enough emotional exhaustion, surely.

Sigh. Peace.

  1. A. Agul says:

    And I thought Angola and Parchman were big…

    • iggymak says:

      Indeed. Think on that a while. Technically, you could say, in fact that the entire country is a prison. There is no such thing as a tourist who is from North Korea.

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