Hoeryong concentration camp
회령 제22호 관리소
Hoeryeong Je Isipi-ho Gwalliso
Hoeryŏng Che Isibi-ho Kwalliso
회령 정치범 수용소
Hoeryeong Jeongchibeum Suyongso
Hoeryŏng Chŏngch'ibŏm Suyongso
Hoeryong concentration camp (or Haengyong concentration camp) is a political prison camp in North Korea. The official name is Kwan-li-so (penal labor colony) No. 22. The camp is a maximum security area, completely isolated from the outside world. Prisoners and their families are held in lifelong detention.
Satellite image analysis and reports indicate major changes or even a closure of Camp 22 in 2012.
4 Conditions in the camp,
5 Human rights violations,
6 Human experimentation,
7 Reports on mass starvation and closure,
8 Former guards/prisoners (witnesses),
9 See also,
11 Further reading,
12 External links,
Camp 22 is located in Hoeryong county, North Hamgyong province, in northeast North Korea, near the border with China and Russia. It is situated in a large valley with many side valleys, surrounded by 400-700 m (1300-2300 ft) high mountains. The southwest gate of the camp is located around 7 km (4.3 mi) northeast of downtown Hoeryong, the main gate is located around 15 km (9.3 mi) southeast of Kaishantun, Jilin province of China. The western boundary of the camp runs parallel at a distance of 5-8 km (3-5 mi) from the Tumen river, which forms the border with China. The camp is not included in maps and the North Korean government denies its existence.
The camp was founded around 1965 in Haengyong-ri and expanded into the areas of Chungbong-ri and Sawul-ri in the 1980s and 1990s. The number of prisoners increased sharply in the 1990s, when three other prison camps in North Hamgyong province were closed and the prisoners were transferred to Camp 22. Kwan-li-so No. 11 (Kyongsong) was closed in 1989, Kwan-li-so No. 12 (Onsong) was closed in 1991 and Kwan-li-so No. 13 (Changpyong) in 1992.
Camp 22 is around 225 km (87 sq mi) in area. It is surrounded by an inner 3300 volt electric fence and an outer barbed wire fence, with traps and hidden nails between the two fences. The camp is controlled by roughly 1,000 guards and 500-600 administrative agents. The guards are equipped with automatic rifles, hand grenades and trained dogs.
In the 1990s there were an estimated 50,000 prisoners in the camp. Prisoners are mostly people who criticized the government, people deemed politically unreliable (such as South Korean prisoners of war, Christians, returnees from Japan) or purged senior party members. Based on the guilt by association principle (Korean: 연좌제, yeonjwaje) they are often imprisoned together with the whole family including children and the elderly. All prisoners are detained until they die and prisoners are never released.
The camp is divided into several prison labor colonies:
Haengyong-ri is the camp headquarters with administration offices, a food factory, a garment factory, detention center, guards quarters and prisoner family quarters.,
Chungbong-ri is a mining section with a coal mine, loading depot, railway station, guards quarters and single prisoners quarters.,
Naksaeng-ri, Sawul-ri, Kulsan-ri and Namsok-ri are farming sections with prisoner family quarters.,
There is a secret execution site in Sugol Valley, at the edge of the camp.
Conditions in the camp:
Former guard Ahn Myong-chol describes the conditions in the camp as harsh and life-threatening. He recalls the shock he felt upon his first arrival at the camp, where he likened the prisoners to walking skeletons, dwarfs, and cripples in rags. Ahn estimates that about 30% of the prisoners have deformities, such as torn off ears, smashed eyes, crooked noses, and faces covered with cuts and scars resulting from beatings and other mistreatment. Around 2,000 prisoners he says have missing limbs, but even prisoners who need crutches to walk must still work. Prisoners get 180 g (6.3 oz) of corn per meal (two times a day), with almost no vegetables and no meat. The only meat in their diets is from rats, snakes or frogs that they catch. Ahn estimates that 1,500-2,000 people die of malnutrition there every year, mostly children. Despite these deaths, the inmate population remains constant, suggesting that around 1,500-2,000 new inmates arrive each year. Children get only very basic education. From six years on they get work assigned, such as picking vegetables, peeling corn or drying rice, but they receive very little food, only 180 g (6.3 oz) in total per day. Therefore many children die before the age of ten years.Aged people have to work to their death. Seriously ill prisoners are quarantined, abandoned, and left to die.
Single prisoners live in bunkhouses with 100 people in one room. As a reward for good work, families are often allowed to live together in a single room of a small house without running water. But the houses are in poor condition; the walls are made from mud and have a lot of cracks. All prisoners have to use dirty and crowded communal toilets.
Prisoners have to do hard physical labor in agriculture, mining and factories from 5:00 am to 8:00 pm (7:00 pm in winter), followed by ideological re-education and self-criticism sessions. New Year's Day is the only holiday for prisoners. The mines are not equipped with safety measures and according to Ahn prisoners were killed almost every day. They have to use primitive tools, such as shovels and picks, and are forced to work to exhaustion. When there was a fire or a tunnel collapsed, prisoners were abandoned inside and left to die. Kwon Hyuk reported that corpses are simply loaded into cargo coaches together with the coal to be burnt in a melting furnace. The coal is supplied to Chongjin Power Plant, Chongjin Steel Mill and Kimchaek Steel Mill, while the food is supplied to the State Security Agency or sold in Pyongyang and other parts of the country.
Human rights violations:
Ahn explained how the camp guards are taught that prisoners are factionalists and class enemies that have to be destroyed like weeds down to their roots. They are instructed to regard the prisoners as slaves and not treat them as human beings. Based on this the guards may at any time kill any prisoner who does not obey their orders. Kwon reported that as a security officer he could decide whether to kill a prisoner or punish him in other ways, if he violated a rule. He admitted that once he ordered the execution of 31 people from five families in a collective punishment, because one member of a family tried to escape.
In the 1980s public executions took place approximately once a week according to Kwon. However Ahn reported that in the 1990s they were replaced by secret executions, as the security guards feared riots from the assembled crowd. He had to go to the secret execution site a number of times and there he saw disfigured and crushed bodies.
In case of serious violations of camp rules, the prisoners are subject to a process of investigation, which produced human rights violations, such as reduced meals, torture, beating and sexual harassment. In Haengyong-ri there is a detention center to punish prisoners. Because of the harsh treatment, many prisoners die in detention and even more are crippled when leaving the detention building.
Ahn and Kwon reported about the following torture methods used in Camp 22:
Water torture: The prisoner has to stand on his toes in a tank filled with water to his nose for 24 hours.,
Hanging torture: The prisoner is stripped and hung upside down from the ceiling to be violently beaten.,
Box-room-torture: The prisoner is detained in a very small solitary cell, where he could hardly sit, but not stand or lie, for three days or a week.,
Kneeling-torture: The prisoner has to kneel down with a wooden bar inserted near his knee hollows to stop blood circulation. After a week the prisoner cannot walk and many die some months later.,
Pigeon torture: The prisoner is tied to the wall with both hands at a height of 60 cm (2 ft) and must crouch for many hours.,
There are beatings every day, if prisoners do not bow quickly or deeply enough before the guards, if they do not work hard enough or do not obey quickly enough. It is a frequent practice for guards to use prisoners as martial arts targets. Rape and sexual violence are very common in the camp, as female prisoners know they may be easily killed if they resist the demands of the security officers.
Ahn reported about hundreds of prisoners each year being taken away for several "major construction projects", such as secret tunnels, military bases or nuclear facilities in remote areas. None of these prisoners ever returned to the camp. Ahn is convinced that they were secretly killed after finishing the construction work to keep the secrecy of these projects.
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_experimentation_in_North_Korea
Kwon reported about human experimentation carried out in Haengyong-ri. He described a sealed glass chamber, 3.5 m (11 ft) wide, 3 m (9.8 ft) long and 2.2 m (7.2 ft) high, where he witnessed a family with two children dying from being test subjects for a suffocating gas. Ahn explained how inexperienced medical officers of Chungbong-ri hospital practiced their surgery techniques on prisoners. He heard numerous accounts of unnecessary operations and medical flaws, killing or permanently crippling prisoners.
Reports on mass starvation and closure:
Satellite images from late 2012 showed the detention center and some of the guard towers being razed, but all other structures appeared operational. It was reported that 27,000 prisoners died of starvation within a short time and the surviving 3,000 prisoners were relocated to Hwasong concentration camp between March and June 2012. It was further reported that the camp was shut down in June, security guards removed traces of detention facilities until August and then miners from Kungsim mine and farmers from Saebyol and Undok were moved into the area. According to another report the authorities decided to close the camp to cover its tracks after a defection.
Former guards/prisoners (witnesses):
Ahn Myong-chol (1990 - 1994 in Camp 22) was a prison guard and driver in the camp. In 1987 he was a prison guard in Kwan-li-so No. 11 (Kyongsong) and 1987 - 1990 in Kwan-li-so No. 13 (Changpyong).,
Kwon Hyok (1987 - 1990 in Camp 22) was a security officer in the camp. He defected six years later, when he worked as a military attaché in Beijing.,
No former prisoner from the camp is known to have escaped from North Korea.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license