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Report: N. Korean Prisons Starve Inmates

October 23, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Between 150,000 and 200,000 political prisoners are confined to camps in North Korea, subjected to starvation diets, inhumane conditions and torture, according to a report by a human rights group that collected satellite photographs and accounts from former prisoners.

The report by the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea concerned prison camps known as kwan-li-so.

Three generations of family members are sometimes given life terms along with family members charged with political crimes, said David Hawk, a longtime human rights advocate and author of the report who interviewed more than 30 former prisoners and guards.

One former prisoner, Kim Yong, told Hawk he was 7 years old in 1957 when his father and his father’s brother were executed on spy charges. To spare the boy the collective guilt attributed to families of political wrongdoers, Kim’s mother placed him in an orphanage under a false name.

Kim’s true parentage was discovered years later by accident. He then was sent to a detention facility in Pyongyang, where he was forced to kneel for long periods with a wooden bar placed between his knees and calves.

He was suspended by his handcuffed wrists from his prison cell bars, and he was submerged up to his waist for long periods in tanks filled with cold water, the report says.

He then spent two years working in a coal mine, then was transferred in 1996 to an adjacent camp, where he repaired coal trolleys.

Kim told Hawk that daily meals were limited to 20-30 kernels of corn and watery cabbage soup.

According to Kim, many prisoners died of malnutrition and disease. He reported that one inmate was executed for collecting, without authorization, ripe chestnuts that had fallen to the ground.

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On the Net:

U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea: http://www.hrnk.org/

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