Where Are The Concentration Camps In North Korea

Introduction to Concentration Camps in North Korea

North Korea maintains an extensive system of concentration camps which serve to punish, detain and control its population. Known as kwanliso, these camps are designed to create an environment of intense deprivation and hardship, and exert absolute control over the prisoners. Officially, the camps are referred to as correctional centers; however, it is more accurate to refer to them as forced labor camps,re-education camps,and political prisoner camps.In addition to punishment, the camps also reportedly act as extermination camps for those deemed politically or socially undesirable.The concentration camps have been in operation since the early years of North Korea’s rule, and are believed to have been expanded considerably since then.

Reasons For Concentration Camps In North Korea

The concentration camps in North Korea serve multiple purposes.First, they are utilized by the North Korean government to punish and control those it considers to be enemies of the state or challenges to the ruling ideology. Political prisoners, dissidents, and those accused of religious or ideological offenses are the most common targets of the camps. These individuals are usually held in detention for indefinite periods of time and subjected to intense deprivation, hunger and hard labor.
Secondly, the camps also serve as a means of furthering the political aims of the North Korean government. By restricting the freedoms and movement of those deemed dangerous, the government is able to better maintain its grip on power. Additionally, the camps are also used for the purpose of indoctrination, with prisoners forced to participate in various ideological and political programs during their confinement in order to ensure their loyalty to the state ideology.

Location of Concentration Camps In North Korea

The most infamous concentration camp in North Korea is known as Camp No. 16, located in Yodok County, North Hamgyong Province. This camp is believed to be the largest and most expansive concentration camp in the country, with reports pegging the number of inmates at around 50,000. Other camps are located in Byormo, Chongjung, Kaechon, Hyesan, and Pyongyang. The exact number of camps and their locations are difficult to ascertain due to the secretive nature of the North Korean government.
It has been reported that many of the camps are located in remote, mountainous areas in order to better conceal the prisoners from outside view. These camps are also typically surrounded by barbed wire fences, guard towers and landmines in order to prevent any attempts at escape.

Living Conditions In The Camps

Living conditions in the concentration camps in North Korea are unsurprisingly harsh and inhumane. Reports indicate that prisoners are routinely subjected to physical, psychological and even sexual abuse, as well as forced labor, starvation diets and other forms of deprivation. Reports have also indicated that prisoners are subjected to both public and private executions, as well as torture while in the camps.
Other conditions include overcrowding, harsh living conditions and a lack of medical care and hygiene. Most prisoners are allegedly forced to work in coal mines and lumber yards, and are provided with extremely inadequate meals that often fail to meet even the minimum nutritional needs.

International Response to Concentration Camps In North Korea

The issue of concentration camps in North Korea has garnered considerable attention from the international community. In 2016, the United Nations released a report detailing the human rights abuses taking place in the camps, noting that the conditions and practices went beyond punishment and instead amounted to human rights violations.
In 2017, the UN Security Council passed a resolution condemning North Korea’s human rights violations and calling on the North Korean government to cease all practices of torture and forced labor in the camps. However, despite the international outcry, there has thus far been little sign of change in the situation, and the camps remain in operation.

Impact of Concentration Camps In North Korea

The concentration camps in North Korea have had a devastating impact on the country’s inmates, with many individuals already subjected to inhuman treatment and suffering long-term psychological and physical damage. In addition, there is also a risk that the camps may act as a breeding ground for radicalized ideology, as prisoners become further indoctrinated into the state ideology and come to view dissent and criticism as treasonous acts.
Furthermore, the camps also serve to further entrench the North Korean political system by curtailing freedom of expression and dissent. By eliminating perceived enemies of the state and limiting the freedom of political activists, the camps enable the North Korean government to more effectively consolidate its power and control the population.

North Korea’s Denial of Concentration Camps

The North Korean government has consistently maintained that its camps are used for the legitimate purpose of re-education, and that reports of inhumane treatment are baseless fabrications. According to government officials, the camps serve only to “discipline” individuals who have committed crimes against the state. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has even made several public appearances at several of the camps in order to prove their legitimacy.
However, the North Korean government’s denial of the camps and its refusal to allow outside inspection has been met with widespread condemnation from the international community. The international community has further unified in its repudiation of the camps and its call for their immediate closure.

Accounts From Former Prisoners

Many former prisoners of the camps have spoken out against the horrific treatment they endured at the hands of their captors.These accounts describe a culture of terror and brutality, with prisoners subjected to inhuman treatment ranging from forced labor in brutal conditions to starvation diets and routine torture. What’s more, former prisoners also reported that they had no way to appeal their situation or seek recourse, and that they had no chance of being released.
These reports have served to reinforce the notion that the camps are not re-education facilities, but instead places of extreme duress and deprivation that function as instruments of control and oppression.

Public Awareness On Concentration Camps In North Korea

The issue of the concentration camps in North Korea has come to the forefront of international attention in recent years, with activists and human rights organizations seeking to bring attention to the plight of the country’s prisoners. Organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have made strenuous efforts to shed light on the issue and bring about changes to the situation.
Additionally, numerous influential figures have also publicly condemned the camps and called for their immediate closure. These include UN Special Rapporteurs, US Congress members and prominent diplomats from around the world. Through their efforts, the international community has sought to pressure the North Korean government, as well as its allies, to end the practice of internment camp imprisonment.

Attempts To Free Concentration Camps In North Korea

Despite the widespread condemnation, the concentration camps in North Korea remain in operation, with prisoners subjected to horrific conditions. In order to free the prisoners, there have been numerous calls for international action, such as sanctions and increased diplomatic pressure, as well as a peaceful resolution and diplomatic dialogue between North Korea and the international community.
In addition, non-governmental organisations have also taken steps to aid the prisoners, such as providing access to legal assistance and providing funds for those who have escaped from the camps. Additionally, prominent activists have taken up the cause of the prisoners, calling for their immediate and unconditional release and for the camps to be closed.

Sites Dedicated To Concentration Camps In North Korea

The issue of concentration camps in North Korea has become a cause for concern and action among the international community. As such, there are a number of websites and organisations dedicated to raising awareness about the situation and providing resources to help those affected. Websites such as NKhumanrights.org and NKprisons.org are dedicated to providing up-to-date information on the camps, and providing resources to those in need.
In addition, there are also numerous petitions and campaigns seeking to bring the plight of the prisoners to light, as well as international organisations such as the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea and Amnesty International who are actively campaigning for the closure of the camps and the release of all prisoners.


The concentration camps in North Korea are a dire reminder of the country’s oppressive and repressive rule. Inmates are subjected to horrific treatment, forced labor and psychological abuse and their rights and freedoms completely curtailed. Despite international outcry, the camps remain in operation, with little sign of change. Fortunately, there have been numerous efforts to raise awareness about the issue, and to provide assistance for those in need. It is only through international action, as well as support from NGOs, that the plight of the prisoners can be brought to an end.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

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