The hidden horrors of North Korea

The Hidden Horrors of a Holocaust

Melanie Kirkpatrick‘s book,  “Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad,” relates the experiences of North Koreans who have fled the country.  Through them, we now are now coming to know a great deal about a regime that is worse than can be imagined.

An event hosted by the Hudson Institute in New York City, in which Ms. Kirkpatrick and a panel of experts discussed the topic was featured on CSpan’s Book TV. The clip is 1 hr, 40 minutes, and worth every second. It features compelling accounts by foreign policy expert Jay Lefkowitz, Joseph Kim, who escaped at the age of 13, and Korean American Stephen Kim, who, while working for Walmart in China, became involved in the New Underground Railroad, and spent 3 years imprisoned there.


Too Much New Information To Continue Ignoring

Linda Chavez, discussing the plight of those who have survived the terror of North Korean concentration camps writes:

 While much of the world’s attention is focused on the Assad regime’s appalling assaults against Syrian citizens…another human rights atrocity occurring on a much larger scale garners far less attention.

North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-Eun, has done what few expected when he assumed power after his father’s death last December. Instead of loosening control in the most totalitarian nation in the world, Kim Jong-Eun has actually expanded the number of North Koreans subject to forced labor, torture, starvation and death in the totalitarian nation’s prison camps.

The camps, known as kwan-li-so, form a hidden gulag where those accused of crimes against the state are imprisoned. An estimated 200,000 people serve in these camps…Although the sentences may be for ten years or less, most prisoners die in the kwan-li-so before completing their terms.

Prisoners work 12-18 hours a day under inhumane and dangerous conditions in mines, quarries, and factories. Accidents maim and kill many, but more often starvation takes an unimaginable toll. The average prisoner receives only 100-200 grams of food a day — the equivalent of about one cup of white rice — with virtually no protein. But even rice, a staple of the Asian diet, is often unavailable. Corn is the usual substitute, which leads to pellagra, a disease that brings on skin lesions, mental confusion and eventually dementia.

But perhaps the most heinous aspect of the camps is that not only are those accused of “crimes” but their entire families imprisoned…Now Kim Jong-Eun, the latest in the Kim dynasty that has ruled the DPRK since 1948, has expanded this barbaric practice. The young Kim has now instructed that both older and younger relatives of anyone caught trying to flee the country will be sent to the kwan-li-so.

Even knowing the horrific consequences, North Koreans will continue to try to leave. Since the devastating famine in the mid-’90s when as many as 2.5 million people starved to death, some 15,000 North Koreans have reached safety in South Korea or third countries.

Many more live secretly in China, where their plight is not much better than in the DPRK. These refugees are under constant threat of being turned over to North Korean authorities by the Chinese government or even being kidnapped and forcibly returned by DPRK agents who cross the border for that purpose.

Yet most people in the West either are unaware of what is going on in North Korea or choose to ignore it. And the U.S. government reserves what little outrage it displays on the rogue nation’s nuclear program.

It may become more difficult to avert our gaze, however, as new information leaks out about exactly how bad conditions are in the kwan-li-so. An updated report of the Committee for Human Rights in Korea, “The Hidden Gulag: The Lives and Voices of Those Who Are Sent to the Mountains,” now includes eyewitness testimony from 60 former prisoners along with 30 pages of satellite images of the camps.

Unless that changes, North Korea will continue to starve, torture, and kill its people while we look the other way.

What if There Were a Holocaust and Everyone Just Ignored it?

Thanks to thousands of defections of people fleeing the country, including some high-level individuals, despite the fear of torture and imprisonment for themselves and their families if caught, we now know how inconceivably bad things are.

  • 33% are undernourished, with an entire generation of children physically and mentally impaired.
  • For over a decade, up to 300,000 have fled seeking basic necessities such as food and medicine.
  • More than 200,000 “violators” are overworked, tortured, raped or executed in five political prison camps.
  • The majority are women, and more than 80% of those who have fled become sexually trafficked.
  • Chinese authorities hunt them and send back hundreds to punishment or execution each week.
  • An estimated 300,000 are hiding in the underground today.
  • Between 1 to 2 million died in the devastating famine in the mid-1990s due to natural disasters, the collapse of the PDS (Public Distribution System) and government neglect and mismanagement.

Here’s How to Get Involved:

Like the Underground Railroad of the 1800s that saved more than 30,000 slaves, the current underground railroad is a network of safe houses and escape routes from North Korea to China, Mongolia, Russia and Southeast Asia. LINK (Liberty in North Korea) is involved in rescuing. protecting and resettling the refugees:

  • Rescue Refugees: “TheHundred” campaign, rescues North Korean refugees hiding in China to shelter in Southeast Asia, to be resettled  to South Korea and the United States.
  • Support a Shelter: LiNK supports orphaned North Korean and stateless children in China with education, food, transportation and protection. Their shelter in Southeast Asia assists refugees in their processing for resettlement and prepares and educates them during their wait.
  • Resettlement: The “Liberty House” program provides educational and financial assistance and case management services to North Korean refugees we have resettled in the United States and South Korea through LiNK’s communities and networks.
  • Awareness: LiNK raises awareness of the North Korean human rights and refugee crisis and provides opportunities for you to directly participate in local chapters, which focus on raising awareness in local communities, advocating and fundraising for LiNK’s programs.

Visit for information and to donate.