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Defectors Tell of Death Camp

Camp 12 Chongo-ri Kyo Hwa So

On February 5, LFNKR hosted a seminar during One World Festival, an annual event held in Osaka, Japan. For the seminar this year, LFNKR invited Mr. Sung-hun Kim, the chief of Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB) and three North Korean defectors who have resettled in South Korea.

Each of the three defectors has experienced the nightmare of North Korea's Camp 12 Chongo-ri Kyo Hwa So, a camp well known for its high death rate.

According to one defector, a man who had been in charge of disposing of the dead while he was detained at the Camp, 859 bodies were incinerated and buried during the 6 months and 19 days from June 30, 1998 to January 19, 1999. This means that 4.5 detainees died every day on average. The causes of death included, of course, extreme malnutrition while being forced to do heavy physical labor, such as mining and lumbering, compounded by constant torture at the hands of Camp guards.

According to the NKDB database, as of the end of 2011, out of all North Korean defectors who have resettled in South Korea, a total of 81 (51 males and 30 females) had been detained at Chongo-ri Kyo Hwa So during the period from 1995 to 2009.

Of these 81 people, 62 were arrested and detained for attempting to escape from North Korea, and 4 were charged with expressing complaints about the North Korean regime. Thus, the majority of those detained at Chongo-ri were people who had tried to escape from their country. In 2009 to 2010, about 1,350 females and about 2,000 males were detained at that Camp.

For the accurate location of Chongo-ri Kyo Hwa So, click here.

The participants at the seminar were shocked by the stories told by the former detainees and horrified by sketches displayed at the seminar. The sketches were drawn by a few of the former detainees. Several of the sketches are included here.


(1) Overview of Camp 12 Chongo-ri Kyowa So

(2) Female detainees undergo degrading personal searches on arrival. If they look away or appear to be embarrassed, the guards mercilessly beat them.


(3) Male detainees also go through the same personal searches on
arrival. The guards then kick them into cells.


(4) The detainees are constantly tormented by fleas and lice. Skin diseases caused by bug bites can develop into serious scarring all the way to the bone.


(5) Despairing female detainees


(6) Detainees eat anything, including mice, frogs,
snakes and lizards, to survive.


(7) A typical male detainee in rags is characterized by skinny body and projecting cheekbones


(8) A typical female detainee on farm


(9) Mice or snake eggs are considered treats


(10) The guards check the anuses to assess the level
of frailty of each detainee.


(11) If a vertical knuckle can enter the anus, it means frailty level 2.
If a horizontal knuckle can enter the anus, it means frailty level 3,
which indicates that the detainee will die soon.
A detainee found to be at frailty level 3 is thrown out of the Camp.


(12) Detainees are forced to climb up and down steep mountainsides.


(13) Infirm detainees often lose their balance while
carrying logs on the steep mountains.


(14) One day, incompletely dried blocks stacked 2 stories high collapsed,
killing more than 10 detainees. The bodies remaining after public
executions are sometimes left to lie for several days at a workplace.


(15) Solitary cells


(16) Torture called "sparrow"


(17) Torture by hanging


(18) Tortures called "crane," "airplane" and "motorbike." Detainees must maintain the postures imitating crane, airplane and motorbike for hours while continuously imitating their sounds.