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Seoul report draws renewed attention to Pyongyang's human rights abuses

All News 17:29 July 18, 2016

SEOUL, July 18 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean report on the realities of torture carried out in North Korea is drawing renewed attention to deep-rooted human rights abuses continuing in the reclusive country.

In a seminar held in Seoul, the state-run Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU) released a report based on years of surveys and interviews of North Korean defectors who suffered from merciless torture in labor camps.

Under the theme of "North Korea's Tortures and Inhumane Treatment," KINU research fellow Lee Sang-sin said, "North Korea's criminal laws ban torture, but the North's police and judicial system have turned a blind eye to violence taking place in labor camps."

He said police and camp supervisors sometimes even force inmates to participate in torturing their fellow prisoners to dodge responsibility.

Torture conducted on North Korean inmates in labor camps range from kicking and whipping, to thrashing and administering electronic shocks, as well as carrying out sexual assault, forced abortion and water torture, according to the report published by the KINU's Center for North Korean Human Rights Studies.

Reflecting on his sufferings at Hyesan labor camp in the northern part of North Korea in 2013, a North Korean defector said in the report that "their constant kicking and thrashing turned my skin black. But they didn't hit my head so as to make their acts less noticeable."

Another defector testified that a female inmate was sexually assaulted by her male counterparts after she complained about the conditions of the Jeongeori labor camp in northern part of North Korea to which she belonged, KINU reserach fellow Han Dong-ho said.

"The Jeongeori camp, which houses 3,000 to 4,000 inmates, is notorious for its inhumane treatment of inmates by having 35-60 share one room and offering them little food. At least one to two inmates die of malnutrition and diseases per day," Han said.

If an epidemic breaks out, up to 50 inmates die of the disease in a day and their corpses are cremated with their families not being notified, he said.

Among the most painful torture techniques involves guards forcing prisoners to stand still facing the wall all day without budging, or hanging a person on the wall with his or her hands tied behind their backs, according to North Korean defectors from labor camps.

Han said a female inmate forcibly repatriated to the North from China was forced to undergo an abortion operation before she was sent to a labor camp in the communist nation.

Another KINU researcher said North Korean workers sent to countries such as Qatar, Kuwait, Russia and China have also suffered an unfair treatment in terms of wages and working conditions.

He said because their wages are confiscated by executive-level fellow workers, they are not paid properly in those countries.


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