Versione italiana | Search in site:

Hell's doors are closed

story of Camp 22, North Korea

It could be an important change. Kim-Jong-un decided to close Camp 22, a detention center in North Korea. The camp became popular in 2002, when some witnesses revealed atrocities and massacres perpetrated by guards.

A real hell, at the edge of Russia and China. Here you can find men, women and child charged with political crimes. The account of survivors is chilling, and looks like the story of German lager.

In 2002, the same year in which the former President of the United States George W. Bush declared that North Korea was a “rogue state” part of the “Axis of Evil”, the Guardian published declarations of Soon Ok Lee, a woman escaped from Camp 22. In this way the world became aware of tortures and atrocities that are supposed to belong to a sad and far period.

Soon stayed in the camp for three years, from 1987 to 1993. She said she had managed to survive in the camp only because, with a background as an accountant, she had been given work keeping the camp's records. When she was in the camp she saw not only tortures, massacres and summary executions, but also scenes of extermination. She said “women are forced to have an abortion. Soldiers put salt water in their bodies, in order to kill the babies. It was horrible to watch the prison doctor kicking the pregnant women with his boots. When a baby was born, the doctor shouted, 'Kill it quickly. How can a criminal expect to have a baby? Kill it'”.

Some witnesses told that in Camp 22 some extermination methos looked like Nazi lager. Kwon Hyuk, the former responsible for Camp 22, revealed the existence of gas chambers to execute prisoners and scientific experiments on detainees. Lots of families have been killed in this way, while scientists observed the entire process from above, through the glass.
He explains how he had believed this treatment was justified. “At the time I felt that they thoroughly deserved such a death. Because all of us were led to believe that all the bad things that were happening to North Korea were their fault. So I felt no sympathy or pity for them at all”. The evil became an everyday practice. “'An officer – Soon reminds - ordered me to select 50 healthy female prisoners. One of the guards handed me a basket full of soaked cabbage, told me not to eat it but to give it to the 50 women. I gave them out and heard a scream from those who had eaten them. They were all screaming and vomiting blood. All who ate the cabbage leaves started violently vomiting blood and screaming with pain. It was hell. In less than 20 minutes they were quite dead”.

It’s great that the regime decided to close Camp 22, but it’s important to remind that only 50.000 of 200.000 detainees were in that camp. Now they are in other korean camps, where life is not easy. Shin Dong-hyuk, born in Camp 14 and witness of many act of violence, in 2008 told Washington Post his experience. He saw the rape of his cousin by prison guards and the beating to death of a young girl found with five grains of unauthorized wheat in her pocket. Then, his partents union arranged by prison guards. As a reward for excellent work as a mechanic, his father was given the woman who became Shin's mother.

24 October 2012

Don’t miss the story of the Righteous and the memory of Good

Once a month you will receive articles and events selected by Gariwo Editorial Board. Please fill out the field below and click on subscribe.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Crimes of genocide and against the humankind

the denial of the individual's value

The first legal definition in the domain of mass persecution dates back to 1915 and concerns the massacres of the Armenian populations perpetrated by the Turks, which were followed by the trials of the perpetrators before the Martial Court. In the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920 the Great Powers use the terms "crimes against civilization" and "crimes of lèse-humanity". In the aftermath of Second World War, face the Holocaust tragedy, the Military Tribunal of the Nurnberger Trials against Nazi officials started the proceeding by stating the crimes on which it was competent... On 9 December 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously approved the Convention for the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, which is considered as the most heinous crime against Humanity. 

read more

Featured story

Hawa Aden Mohamed

teacher and girls’ rights activist