Seoul: North Korea`s political prison camps
have grown in size over the past decade and now hold an
estimated 200,000 people in "horrific" conditions, Amnesty
International said on Wednesday.
A report from the London-based rights group painted a
grim picture of one camp in which inmates witnessed public
executions and resorted to eating rats to survive.
Amnesty said it had obtained satellite images revealing
the location and size of the camps, along with new testimony
from former inmates of the Yodok camp complex and others.
The ex-detainees testified that "prisoners are forced to
work in conditions approaching slavery and are frequently
subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane, and degrading
treatment," Amnesty said in a report.
All ex-detainees at Yodok in South Hamkyong province had
witnessed public executions, it said.
Amnesty said comparison of the latest images with those
from 2001 showed a significant increase in the scale of the
"As North Korea seems to be moving towards a new leader
in Kim Jong-Un and a period of political instability, the big
worry is that the prison camps appear to be growing in size,"
said its Asia-Pacific director Sam Zarifi.
Leader Kim Jong-Il is grooming his youngest son Jong-Un
as eventual successor.
Amnesty said that in just one camp, Kwanliso 15 at Yodok,
thousands are believed to be held after being judged "guilty
by association" or simply because one of their relatives has
Many did not even know what crimes they were accused of.
Amnesty quoted Jeong Kyoungil, a detainee at Yodok from
2000-2003, as saying the working day started at 4am and ended
at 8pm but was followed by ideological education.
Only those who finished their assigned tasks would
receive the ration of a 200 gram (seven ounce) bowlful of corn
gruel, and inmates died daily.
Some prisoners ate rats or picked corn kernels out of
animal waste to survive, the report said.
Former detainees have frequently given similar accounts
of harsh and life-threatening conditions in the camps. The US
State Department in its 2010 human rights report cited
estimates of 150,000-200,000 detainees.