Report by the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Theo van Boven

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

508. By letter dated 5 July 2004, sent jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, the Special Rapporteur notified the Government that he had received allegations concerning:

509. Kwan-li-so, or political prisoner labour camps, which consist of sprawling encampments located in the valleys in the northern provinces. There are said to be between 5,000 and 50,000 prisoners per kwan-li-so, totalling perhaps 150,000 to 200,000 persons in the six kwan-li-so in operation: No. 14 Kaechon in South Pyong-an; No. 15 Yodok in South Hamgyong; No. 16 Hwasong in North Hamgyong; No. 18 Bukchang in South Pyong-an; No. 22 in Haengyong, North Hamgyong; and No. 25 Chongjin in North Hamgyong. Except for No. 18, the labour camps are administered by Kuk-ga-bo-wi-bu, the National Security Agency. Detention is arbitrary, as the prisoners have not been arrested, charged, or tried in a court, but picked up and taken to an interrogation facility and tortured to “confess” before being sent to the camp. Family members are also picked up and deposited there. The camps are usually surrounded at their outer perimeters by barbed-wire fences with guard towers and patrolled by armed guards. The encampments include self-contained, closed compounds for single persons - usually the alleged offenders - and others for their families. Some of the camps are divided into sections called wan-jeon-tong-je-kyuk (“total-control” zones), where the prisoners are kept for life. Only camps No. 15 and No. 18 have hyuk-myunghwa-kyuk (“revolutionizing” zones), so-called “re-education” areas from which prisoners eventually can be released; the others do not feature “re-education,” as it is not anticipated that the prisoners will be returned to society. In the total-control zones, only privileged prisoners are allowed to marry and have children. With the exception of camp No. 18, prisoners have no correspondence or contact with the world outside the camp except for news provided by newly arriving prisoners. Camp life is characterized by below-subsistence food rations and hard labour. Prisoners are provided only enough food to be perpetually on the verge of starvation. Prisoners are compelled by their hunger to eat anything remotely edible. Many of the camps involve mining for coal, iron deposits, gold, or various other ores, or logging in the adjacent mountains. Prisoners undertake farm labour during planting and harvesting seasons. They work 12 or more hours per day, seven days per week, with time off only for national holidays. Punishments for rule infractions or working too slowly include further reduction in food rations, or detention in punishment cells that do not have enough space for a person to either lie down or stand up, causing the loss of circulation and atrophy of leg muscles and often leading to death within several weeks. The combination of below-subsistence-level food rations and brutal working conditions lead to large numbers of deaths in detention. Persons who try to escape and other major rule-breakers are publicly executed by hanging or firing squad in front of the assembled prisoners of that section of the camp.

510. In kyo-hwa-so, or “re-education through labour” camps, where the prisoners have been tried and given sentences of set lengths. These camps are run by the In-min-bo-an-seong (People’s Safety Agency). The facilities consist of a single large compound surrounded by high walls and barbed- or electrified-wire fencing and contain several buildings for manufacturing, prisoner housing, and offices for guards and prison officials. Some camps are large, barbed-wire enclosed encampments in the valleys and composed of villages where prisoners engage in mining or logging activities. The “educational” component at these facilities consists mostly of forced memorization of the speeches of the leadership and organized “self-criticism” sessions. These sessions are often conducted in the evenings, and exhausted prisoners are not allowed to return to their cells until they can recite the speeches. The prisons are harsh “strict-regime” places (virtually no prisoner privileges) where prisoners are forced to perform hard, heavy and often dangerous labour with insufficient food rations. The combination of hard labour and below-subsistence-level food results in rapid weight loss, work accidents, malnutrition-related diseases and death. The prison clinics are too poorly equipped in terms of staff, equipment and medicines to deal with even basic complaints, and therefore the number of deaths is high.

511. Citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea forcibly repatriated from China. Upon repatriation, citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic are detained in a jail or a detention or interrogation facility and face interrogation, which follows a similar pattern. The authorities ask: “Why did you go to China? Where did you go? What did you do in each place? Did you meet any South Koreans? Did you go to a Christian church? Did you watch or listen to South Korean TV or radio? Were you trying to go to South Korea?” An affirmative answer would result in execution or being sent to a kwan-liso or kyo-hwa-so. Usually after several weeks of interrogation, the detainees are sent to short-term detention facilities (i.e. for sentences up to six months), such as do-jip-kyul-so (provincial detention centres) and ro-dong-dan-ryeon-dae (labour-training centres) The facilities are characterized by below-subsistence- level food rations, forced labour, such as construction work or brickmaking, and high levels of death in detention. They are administered by the In-min-bo-anseong (People’s Safety Agency) and the Kuk-ga-bo-wi-bu (National Security Agency police). Women who are pregnant at the time of repatriation are compelled to have abortions, or their babies are killed immediately after birth, particularly in Sinuiju, Onsong, and Chongjin, to prevent them from having “half-Chinese” babies.

512. By letter dated 15 July 2004, the Government informed that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea suffers from the most severe form of infringement upon its sovereign rights, that is, the artificial division of nation and territory, and is subject to constant threats and sanctions from outside hostile forces. These forces are taking up the “nuclear issue” to destruct the nation’s socialist system, and leave no stones unturned for impairing the image of the country by employing “human rights issues”. The “allegations” are fabricated and distributed by those attempting to blame the nation’s socialist system and also by those who have fled to other countries after having committed crimes in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Such phenomena as have been mentioned in the “allegations” do not exist legally or in reality in this people-centred socialist society, and therefore, there is no need of clarifying their substance whatsoever.

Urgent appeals

513. On 20 September 2004, the Special Rapporteur sent a joint urgent appeal with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, regarding Ms. Kyoung-Sook Jin, a 24-yearold. According to the allegations received, on 8 August 2004, she was abducted by four plain clothes security services personnel of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea near Budon Village, Hwaryong City, Nampyongjin, Jilin Province, China. She was carried away in a large sack from the Chinese side of the Tumen River to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea side to an unknown location. Her husband manage to escape and has attempted to locate her without success.

514. By letter dated 21 October 2004, the Government responded that according to an investigation, neither such incident nor any other similar act has occurred in the border area between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and China before, during and after 8 August 2004. The Government draws attention to the suspicion over the validity of the incident when viewed even in terms of the basic common sense, without taking care of its “credibility”. There exists an inviolable border between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and China, and the Government of China is independently exercising jurisdiction over its territory. In ignorance of this stark reality, if supposedly the “security agents” of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had entered into China across the border for “abduction” purposes, put a “woman” into a big “sack” in that foreign territory in broad daylight and carried it through back home, would it in any make sense to anybody living in this civilized world? Furthermore, one may have to look into what, on earth, would be the use of undertaking such colossal and terrible affairs by resorting to security forces against an individual with whom the Government has no connection at all. Although the Government has nothing to do with the incident itself, it is compelled to state its position on the matter since the incident was referred to as it’s “doing”. The incident constitutes a clear fabrication masterminded behind the screen by those hostile to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The hostile forces have long been engaged in fabricating a great a number of plots aimed at defaming the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. A typical example is the socalled “incident of chemical weapons experiments on people”. The “incident” was forged by hostile forces by coercing a citizen of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea into copying their fabricated materials and of presenting the case of his relative who died of a normal disease, as an example of the “experiment”. However, when the afore-mentioned citizen came forward to disclose the inside story of the fabricated “incident” in a press conference, the hostile forces were unable to refute him. In the light of the hostile forces’ habit of fabricating whatever incident they wish to, the incident such as the one mentioned above, is quite easy for them to falsify. The key to finding out the genuine identity of “Kyung- Sook Jin” may be in their hands. The fabricators and true culprits of the “abduction incident” in the border area between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and China are none other than the hostile forces and not the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It is well known that the agents of the intelligence plot organs, as well as certain human rights bodies, which are crazy with money, maintain their continued presence in that area with camouflage identities and signboards. There, they seduce and abduct the innocent citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and finally take them to South Korea branding them as “refugees”. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been a victim of the constant fabrication by hostile forces of plot incidents for more than half a century. The Government has been taking a high degree of precautions against such incidents attempting to mislead the international community in the name of the United Nations. All issues now arising out of the Korean peninsula, irrespective of whether they are nuclear or human rights, big or small, remain politically sensitive in nature without exception. Under such circumstances, any prejudiced approach absolutely favouring the view of one side while completely ignoring that of the other side will inevitably lead to unpredictable devastating consequences.


515. The Special Rapporteur considers it appropriate to draw attention to the concerns of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC/C/15/Add.239, para. 34) about reports on the persistence of some forms of institutional violence against persons under 18, especially in detention and social institutions.

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