Journalists Face Hellish Sentence in Korean Gulag

Survivors describe torture, starvation in 're-education' camps
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 9, 2009 6:30 AM CDT
North Korean soldiers observe the South Korean side at the border village of Panmunjom, which separates the two Koreas since the Korean War, north of Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, June 9, 2009.   (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)
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(Newser) – The 12 years of hard labor facing Euna Lee and Laura Ling hardly seem like a weekend in county lockup, but yesterday's sentence is particularly brutal in North Korea, where prisoners routinely face torture and often death. The two journalists may be sent to a re-education reformatory, reports the Los Angeles Times. One North Korean defector who spent seven months in a prison estimated that nearly half of inmates died in custody.

According to a North Korea expert, the re-education camps are linked to mines or textile factories, where inmates start work before dawn and then face hours of forced memorization of North Korea policy doctrine. Torture and corporal punishment are widespread, and political prisoners often fare worst of all. "They are beaten so harshly," said one camp survivor. "There is no responsibility for their death." (Read more Euna Lee stories.)