More than 150,000 North Koreans are incarcerated in a Soviet-style, hidden gulag despite Pyongyang's denial it even holds political prisoners, a human rights group reported today. The US-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea said it based its report, which it's releasing as Pyongyang prepares to celebrate the centennial of Kim Il Sung, on interviews with 60 former prisoners and guards. It includes satellite images of what are described as prison labor camps and penitentiaries.
The report documents the alleged incarceration of entire families, including children and grandparents for the "political crimes" of other family members. The labor colonies are enclosed behind barbed wire and electrified fences, mainly in the north and north central mountains of the country, the report says, alleging high rates of death in detention due to systemic mistreatment, torture, execution, and malnutrition. It adds that the camp system was initially modeled in the 1950s on the Soviet gulag to punish "wrong thinkers." Former prisoners were able to identify their former barrack and houses, work sites, and execution grounds via Google Earth. Click for the tale of one survivor. (Read more North Korea stories.)