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Cablegate: New Ngo Reveals Abuse at Previously Unknown Dprk

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DE RUEHUL #2306/01 3372211
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 022211Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2491
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 5013
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 9102
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 5119
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG PRIORITY 3877
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RUACAAA/COMUSKOREA INTEL SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMUSFK SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

UNCLAS SEOUL 002306

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PHUM PGOV PROP KTIP KS KN
SUBJECT: NEW NGO REVEALS ABUSE AT PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN DPRK
PRISON CAMPS

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: At the November 18 inaugural gathering of
Campaign for North Korean Freedom (NK Freedom), Yonsei
University Associate Professor of Law Hong Seong-phil
explained that the group's founding was based on the notion
that defectors needed to take ownership of the North Korean
human rights cause. Defectors who had escaped from "complete
control" prisons provided harrowing accounts of how people
and babies were treated. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Yonsei Professor Hong Seong-phil explained at the
November 18 initial gathering of the Campaign for North
Korean Freedom that among North Korean defectors in South
Korea, there were 30-40 who had been political prisoners in
the North. Of these, only four had been imprisoned at
"complete control" facilities in the DPRK, and all were
members of the NK Freedom NGO. Of the two types of prison
camps in the North, relatively few ever survived conditions
at "complete control zone" facilities, as indicated by the
very small number of defectors in South Korea who had escaped
from them. Other speakers underscored that "not even corpses
can escape the complete control zone." These "complete
control zone" prison camps have been in existence for four
generations and held some Japanese-Koreans in the 1970s, they
said.

------------------------------------------
Camp 18 and 25: Now Made Known To Public, After Witness' Last
Family Member Arrives in South Korea
------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Performing as interpreter during a PowerPoint
presentation featuring satellite photos of several prison
camps, Professor Hong stated that two of these camps, Numbers
18 and 25, had hitherto been unknown to the outside world.
Lim Jong-soo, a 43-year-old "living witness" to conditions in
the former, described being held first at Camp 11, and then
at near by Camp 18 in Pyungnam-Kyecheon for a combined total
of 22 years. Camp 18 held 100,000 prisoners, seven train
stations and eight schools with 5,000 students each. The
schools provided only very rudimentary education, that which
might be useful when performing work in the camp. There were
three groups of detainees, two of them being so-called
"settlers" and "golamin" -- the latter those who had killed a
party official or had come from Japan. The camp was situated
near a river in which there was an island that had been used
for public and private executions -- usually about 20 each
autumn. There were trees on the opposite side of the rivers.
Sometimes children would drown crossing to gather nuts.

4. (SBU) Lim had lived in the prison camps with his family
from 1967 to 1989. His father had been a prisoner of war
captured by the North. His mother and three siblings were
also in the camps. Lim was placed in the re-education area
of the camp and was unable to see or interact with the
"settlers" and "golamin." For food, his family received
rationed corn powder mixed with cabbage. Prison officers
took food from the fields, but others had to pay for this.
Officers may have had pork, too, as pigs were nearby. Lim's
family suffered from constant hunger and often ate a certain
poisonous plant as a result. This ended up killing Lim's
brothers and blinding Lim. Lim's mother did forced labor.
She was killed in an accident by a train moving in reverse.

5. (SBU) At the camp school, Lim was taught that his
suffering was the fault of his parents and consequently grew
to hate them. Another prisoner similarly educated buried his
father alive. No one recorded such deaths in "complete
control" areas; people just vanished. Lim had a vague
recollection of other children having marks on their bellies.
His parents told him this was a brand, and he now thinks it
was to mark the children as slaves.

------------------
Camp 14, 22 and 25
------------------

6. (SBU) A second escapee pointed out features on a satellite
photo of Camp 14: a coal mine, pig farm (meat reserved for
party officials and guards), adjacent houses holding three
families each, a village surrounded by electric fencing, and
a public execution space. As in Camp 18, executions were
usually held in the fall. Camp 14 schools likewise provided
only the most basic education.

7. (SBU) NK Freedom Representative An Myeong-cheol, formerly
a guard at "complete control" described Camp 22 in
Hambuk-Hweryong as "medium-sized" among prison camps. He
indicated the locations of a checkpoint, coal mine, and
electric fence at that facility. Unlike other prisons, Camp
22 had a "Kim Il-sung" auditorium and guard headquarters.
There were locations for both secret and public executions,
he said. There was a dam nearby, which could flood the
entire village if destroyed. There were plans to breach it
and drown the prisoners if necessary, An said. Camp 25, made
known for the first time at the North Korea Freedom
inauguration gathering, was located in Chungjin-Soosung and
inmates there produced bicycles.

------------------
Camp 11, 15 and 16
------------------

8. (SBU) According to a former resident of Camp 11 Lim
Jong-soo, Camp 11 held about 5,000 detainees, with electric
fences, a mine, and a logging area. Camp 11 was adjacent to
Camp 16 in Hambook-Hwasung, newly discovered through the
nearby 2006 North Korean nuclear test site. Camp 15 in Yoduk
became more widely known to the outside world through a
musical called "Yoduk Story," which opened in fall of 2006 in
Seoul.

--------------------------------------------- ------------
Failed Escape To China: Interrogation of Female Prisoners
--------------------------------------------- ------------

9. (SBU) Asking that attendees refrain from photographing
her, 42-year-old Lee Jun-shim (protect) shared her prison
experiences and those of other female defectors she has
counseled. Born in Pyongyang in 1967 and a 10-year veteran
of the North Korean military, Lee left the military as a
second lieutenant in 1992, got married, and moved to Kaesong,
but then fell on hard times. Having no food, Lee and her two
children wandered the countryside with no destination as
"hunger orphans", eventually making it to Hyesan and crossing
into China. Hunted by Chinese security, Lee and her children
hid on a rooftop once for seven hours until they were
discovered. Turned over to North Korean authorities, Lee was
subjected to one and a half months of interrogation by the
DPRK National Security Agency.

10. (SBU) Upon entry into prison, Lee said, prison officials
separated the women by age, herding those under ten into one
room and separating out those under 16 from those remaining
and lining them up. Women in their 20's were told to remove
their clothing in full view of the male guards and subjected
to various humiliations, including being forced to exercise
in that state. Many of the women who had been in China had
hidden money in body cavities. Some confessed to this.
Those who did not were searched, sometimes with sticks or
soap. Some were given laxatives.

11. (SBU) Prison officials subjected the women to other forms
of torture as well, Lee said. They hit their fingers with a
glass ruler, causing the joints to disconnect. They would
interrogate women near stoves so that they could pour boiling
water on them or burn them with the hot stove pipe. Lee's
own body still bore the scars of such treatment, she said.

-----------------------------------
Interrogation of Pregnant Prisoners
-----------------------------------

12. (SBU) Pregnant women were also separated from the others.
Caressing their bellies, guards would ask how many months
pregnant the women were, but the women were fearful of a
sudden kick to the stomach. Security personnel would inject
the women with rivanol, inducing labor and delivery within 24
hours. Some babies were born dead, others still moving, but
all would be wrapped in paper and discarded. Prison
authorities extended no assistance to the women after their
deliveries. They were left swollen and bleeding in very
unhygienic surroundings. A defector now living in Incheon,
Lee said, had been imprisoned when she was nine-months
pregnant and given an injection. Guards put her stillborn
baby in the women's bathroom so that she would see it again
and again.

13. (SBU) As Lee had previously been in the military, she was

assigned to care for camp orphans. She was still constantly
hungry, though, and conditions were as unsanitary as ever.
On one occasion, one of the orphans fell ill. She was
allowed to take the child to a hospital and managed to
escape, fleeing again to China. Once there she was captured
again with her children and sold, she for 5,000 yuan and her
children for 3,000 yuan each (five and three years old). As
with much of what she has gone through, Lee said she has
learned through her work with other female defectors that
many have experienced similar exploitation and abuse. Lee
arrived in the ROK in March 2007. She lives and works in the
Jeolla province, assisting other North Korean defectors in
her region.

14. (U) Media representatives from AP, Economist, two
Japanese television stations, and other NGO groups attended.
STEPHENS

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