As far as anyone knows, the
gates of North Korea’s notorious gulags, or kwalliso
, do not have the words “Arbeit Macht Frei
” (“Work makes you free”) emblazoned above them,
as the ones to Auschwitz did, or, as did the entrance to hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy
, the admonition, “Abandon
all hope ye who enter here.”
No, the gates of North Korea’s gulag archipelagowhich imprisons an
estimated 200,000 men, women, and children at any given timedon’t have these inscriptions, but they may as
well. For the authorities in the kwalliso
will work you hard, and the “freedom” this brings is almost certain death.
Indeed, for most inmates, there is no hope of seeing the outside ever again.
Percentage-wise, the kwalliso population200,000 people out of a nation of 24 millionamounts
to roughly the same as the percentage of American citizens who are incarcerated,
that is, slightly less than 1 percent.
However, North Korea’s prison population includes
many who have no idea why they are there. Some were taken in the middle of the
night with no explanation, no arraignment, and no trial. It includes people guilty
of crimes such as singing songs they didn’t know are forbidden, or speaking
carelessly in a public place.
It also includes people whose only crime is being
related to an accused criminal, and children who innocently made politically
incorrect remarks in public.
Perhaps the biggest difference, though, is that
our American prison system does not experience an estimated 20-40 percent
annual mortality rate. And yet, even with 40,000-80,000 inmates dying each year
from starvation, physical abuse, disease, and execution, the population in the kwalliso (pronounced “kwah-lee-soh”)
stays steady at 200,000. It has to. These camps are a critical piece in the
totalitarianism puzzle that allows the Kim dynastythe first dynasty in the
history of communismto stay in power.
History of the kwalliso
At the conclusion of the Korean Conflict
(1950-53), Kim Il Sung, founder of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
(DPRK), initiated a series of brutal purges to weed out both potential rivals
and anyone who would actively question his vision or decisions.
By the late 1950s, most of those swept up in
these internecine conflicts were either dead or in concentration camps. These
institutions were not the same as today’s kwalliso,
however. Their purpose simply was to segregate those who could undermine the
regime by “infecting” the general population.
By 1958, however, Kim had decided this was not
enough. So much did he fear any dissent in the “Hermit Kingdom” (so-called
because of its utter isolation), he ordered a complete ideological profile
worked up on every one of his nation’s 9,864,000 people.
Every friend, every family member, ancestry,
family connections, their connections’ connectionseach relationship was
studied. Anything indicating imperialist, reactionary, or counter-revolutionary
relations or tendencies was grounds for torture, and then execution or
To compile these extensive files, Kim’s internal
security apparatus developed an almost unfathomably intricate spy network. The
government assigned one resident spycalled a “guidance worker”to every five
households. The state paid these people to monitor everything their neighbors did,
who they interacted with, their tastes, how they spent their leisure time, and,
most importantly, what they said.
This spy network as it was originally designed by
Kim is still in place today. If a guidance worker detects even the slightest
trace of what might be considered ideological deviance, the suspect then
receives a late-night or early-morning visit from the Ministry of Social
Safety. If guilt is determinedthere is no trial, for the DPRK courts assume
one is guilty unless compelling evidence overturns that foregone conclusionthe
suspect and his entire family are taken away. They take with them only the
clothes they wear.
The gulags have become indispensable to the
regime, says Suzanne Scholte, chairwoman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition
(NKFC). “North Korea can’t exist without the prison camps,” she says. “The most
important thing North Korea needs is a means to frighten its people.”
What it takes to get arrested
Of course, a crime against the proletariat
doesn’t have to be a religious one, or one that is blatantly
counter-revolutionary. In a land where malfeasance is in eye of the
totalitarian beholder, a young lady named Ji Hae-nam received a three-year
sentence after a neighbor reported her for singing a South Korean pop song.
Lee Soon-ok was a procurement specialist. When
she would not put aside extra goods for a manager’s personal use, he framed her
for embezzling state property, and she received a 13-year sentence. Luckily,
she survived, probably because she received one of the surprise amnesties the
government sometimes awards in honor of, say, Kim Il Sung’s birthday.
Starving people who sneak into China simply for
work or food without permission will also serve time if repatriated. And, of
course, the prisons also hold your garden-variety rapists, thieves, murderers,
and other bona fide criminals.
Additionally, the camps contain some who once
counted themselves among the country’s top leadership. Whatever humanitarian
offenses they may have committed for the regime, their more fatal crime was to
come out on the losing side of some governmental power struggle.
There is also the case of the late Hwang Jang
Yop, who served as a top aide to the deceased Kims. When he became North
Korea’s highest-ranking defector ever in 1997, the regime imprisoned his entire
family, even distant relatives.
Then there are those such as Sgt. Son Jang-nam,
who served in the presidential security service. His pregnant wife was arrested
in 1997 for saying Kim Jong Il had caused the famine then rocking the country.
So badly did her interrogators beat her, she miscarried.
The next year, the couple defected across the
northern border into China, where a Protestant group evangelized Jang-nam. After
his wife died from disease, inspired by his newfound faith, Son snuck back into
his native land. However, authorities caught him with 20 Bibles and some tracts
on Christianity. After giving a torture-induced confession, Son was executed
four years ago this November.
After you go through the
tall, electric, barbed-wire-laced gates, and as you get off the bus, the first
thing that is made immediately evident about life in the kwalliso is the absolute power of the guards. There are no limits
on what they can do to you.
From day-one of their training, the guards are
instructed that prisoners no longer qualify as human persons, but are instead
to be considered “just tailless beasts.” After a while, the non-stop violence further
desensitizes the jailers.
“At the beginning I was frightened when I
witnessed [the violence], but it was repeated again and again, so my feelings
were paralyzed,” Ahn Myong Chol, a former guard at Camp No. 22, told reporters
for NBC. Ahn said that beating and killing prisoners was encouraged and
even rewarded by prison authorities.
They trained me not to
treat the prisoners as human beings. If someone is against socialism, if
someone tries to escape from prison, then kill him. If there’s a record of
killing any escapee, then the guard will be entitled to study in the college.
Because of that some guards kill innocent people.
Sometimes, however, the guards’ abuse of power can
backfire. At Onsong, near the Chinese and Russian borders, Camp No. 12one of
the largest kwalliso in the systemhoused
15,000 inmates and spanned an estimated 155 square miles.
Sometime in 1987, a coal miner witnessed one
guard’s particularly egregious abuse of another inmate. The prisoner grew
enraged and killed the guard. Suddenly 200 prisoners were on the offensive,
attacking a guard barracks. Five thousand political prisoners eventually joined
in the uprising.
Guards from a neighboring camp soon gathered at the
perimeter of Camp No. 12 with machine guns, and within a short while, more than
5,000 prisoners were dead. Soon thereafter, the camp was leveled to the ground,
and all further mention of it prohibited.
In the kwalliso,
camp officials will house anywhere from 30 to 100 individuals toe-to-toe in a
room that can range in size from 10” x 15.5” to 18” x 30”the latter being about
the size of a two-and-a-half-car garage.
An inmate’s bed is the floor covered with straw or
a bamboo mat, or perhaps a wood board with both straw and a mat. Few of the
rooms have heating, and temperatures in the region can drop as low as -10° F.
The question quickly becomes, how does one get used to frostbite?
Families sentenced together often receive small,
ramshackle houses if sent to camps where separation of the sexes is not
mandatory. However, it is just as true that in some cases, prisoners are
required to dig holes in the cold, wet ground for shelter.
In addition to the brutal living conditions, prisoners
also have to get used to something else: any number of their roommates and
workmates may be spies. Reports have indicated that roughly a third of each
camp’s inmates are compelled by the guards to snoop on their fellow prisoners.
These spies must report everything, or else. If
you complain, they report. If you grumble, they report. If you express a
counter-revolutionary thoughtprobably not hard to do when the “revolution” has
been anything but kind to youthey report.
The work day
After inmates receive their work assignmentstimber
harvesting, coal mining, shoe makingofficials then place them in a first,
second, or third degree facility. In third degree facilities, one can marry and
have children, although the odds of a child surviving toddlerhood are not good.
Second and first degree facilities, for the most part, are segregated by gender.
In some prisons, inmates only work 12 hours per
day. In others, the average work day can extend to as long as 18 hours. An
Amnesty International report on conditions in the Yodok camp described days
of hard labor beginning at 4 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m., followed by two more
hours of daily “ideology education.” Need it be said that there is no Sabbath
day laid aside for rest?
The days are so long because the quotas each
prisoner and their groups have to fill are so large. The inmates give the
regime a source of the cheapest labor one can getslave laborand since it
doesn’t value any one of their lives, it will squeeze as much out of each
person as they can.
Labor camp officials do not adjust the quotas for
the very young, either. Four, five, seven, ten years oldage does not matter. Journalist Kang Chol Hwan, who wrote
the book The Aquariums of Pyongyang
about his 10 years as a prisoner at Yodok, arrived at the camp at age 9 because
the government accused his grandfather of being a Japanese spy. He recounts the
When I was 10 years old, we were put to work digging clay and constructing
a building. And there were dozens of kids, and while digging the ground, it
collapsed. And they died. And the bodies were crushed flat. And they buried the
kids secretly, without showing their parents, even though the parents came.
Labor camp officials do not adjust the quotas for
the aged or chronically ill, either. As one report put it, you must “work until
[you] dropdeath is [your] only escape.”
And at the end of the work day, prisoners cannot
count on returning to the barracks for some well-deserved slumber.
As former prisoner and defector Lee M. reported,
“Once their arduous 12 hours have been worked, the children are allowed a one-hour
break before being herded, along with adult prisoners, into re-education
classes where [everyone] sit[s] from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. listening to
‘instructors’ lecture them on the compassion and benevolence of their ‘beloved
and radiant Kim Jong Il.’”
According to the Amnesty International report on
conditions in the kwalliso, the
average meal for prisoners consists of 200 grams of corn gruel. To this may be
added some salty water, and, if the prisoner is very lucky, a small cabbage
leaf. Former prisoner Kim Hye Sook told BBC
Television in June 2011 that she received “50 grams [of corn] a dayonly
two small cupfuls.”
Starvation causes people to take desperate
measures to survive. There are reports of prisoners capturing snakes, mice,
fleas, and even rats for food, and eating weeds, grasses, roots, and bark. When
times become really desperate and the coast is clear, prisoners might pick corn
and beans out of livestock dung, according
to Human Rights Watch.
We cannot attribute the lack of food to the
famine sweeping North Korea alone, for the starvation rations were a feature of
the penal colonies from the beginning, when North Korea was still a reasonably
When prisoners are malnourished, they are weak.
When they are weak, they are more easily controlled. Add the meager caloric
intake to exhausting work, and you have a very compliant prison population.
Some prisoners in the aforementioned third level
facilities and elsewhere use their limited personal time to attempt to grow
potatoes or corn, which can typically thrive in the worst soil conditions.
However, the soil in the northern and central parts of the country is so bad,
even these crops produce little.
It is true that in some camps, inmates get cornmeal
and a little animal fat with the Korean national dish kimchee (fermented cabbage). They might even get some cabbage soup.
This is still not enough on which to live, and it does not take long for the
workers to look quite skeletal. After six months of interrogation, former
bodyguard to Kim Jong Il and attempted defector Lee Young-kuk dropped from 205
to 120 pounds, according to a Time magazine profile. Upon entering
the camp at Yodok, his 4.5 ounce-per-meal diet took his weight down even more.
After work accidents and starvation, the next
biggest killer in the kwalliso is
disease. Tuberculosis is common, as are a variety of chest conditions such as
pneumonia. Many contract lung diseases from constantly inhaling coal and
limestone dust, as well as diseases rare in the West such as paratyphoid (often
caught from eating or drinking something infected with salmonella) and pellagra
(a disease characterized by skin lesions caused by eating too much
nutrient-deficient corn to which women are particularly prone).
For most of these diseases, cures are readily
available. Pellagra, for instance, merely requires the introduction of fruits
and vegetables into the diet, plus maybe a little brewer’s yeast to make up for
the corn’s lack of niacin.
Even so simple a remedy, however, is too good for
Fortunately for prisoners, though, camp
commandants sometimes grow concerned that they are accruing too many deaths or
executions. They have to slow it down a bit.
Therefore, they will often send a prisoner who
they think is close to death home, believing he cannot possibly recover. Once he
reaches his family, he may regain his health, however. When this happens, many
of these will attempt to defect. It is because so many have achieved success in
this that we know what little we do about the kwalliso. Without their testimonies, all we would know is what we
see from satellite images.
Of course, most inmates aren’t this fortunate. For
most, it would take a miracle for them to leave alive. Most only ever leave by being
carried outside the gates for burial, or to become food for the guards’ dogs or
the birds in the fields.
The dead get buried wearing nothing. According to
one man interviewed by Human Rights Watch, death is so common in the camp that
one of the first things the guards make a new inmate do is bury a corpse. The
prisoner is then compelled to wear the clothing directly off the dead person’s
Combine malnourishment and dangerous occupations
such as coal mining, and it’s easy to see why deaths among laborers are common.
Former prisoner Kim Yong told
the non-governmental organization Freedom House that in his unit of 500
miners, five to six deaths per month were typical.
Another former prisoner estimated that during her
two years of incarceration, 20 percent of the prisoners in her camp perished.
Some say the rate is 20-40 percent per year; another
report published by Freedom House estimates that the annual rate is
one-third to one-half.
A 1997 study by the University of Virginia titled
Statistics of Democide states that in
North Korea from 1950 to the time of the document’s writing, “710,000 to
slightly over 3,500,000 people have been murdered, with a mid-estimate of
almost 1,600,000.” Keep in mind, this was prior to the full effect of the North
Korean famine being known. The true figure would be much higher today.
Death by execution is also common. Some
executions are public. Former prisoner Kang Chul Hwan told
the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof,
Those [escapees] who were
caught easily were shot to death in front of the other inmates.… But those
whose escapes had been troublesome to the guards, or who had beaten guards
during their escape, they were hanged slowly from a gallows so that it took them
a long time to die. And while they were dying, the guards made us inmates line
up and throw stones at them.
Not all executions are public, however. The
public ones happen when someone violates a rule or attempts escape. Secret ones
occur when the person is deemed to have a “bad influence” on the other
prisoners. This would presumably include (although it is impossible to know)
More and more executions are being conducted in
secret. After one public execution in 1990 at Camp No. 14, the inmates rose up
in anger and took the lives of eight guards. Authorities retaliated by killing
1,500 prisoners, but public executions were reportedly less frequent after
While guards can prey upon anyone, conditions are
particularly brutal for female prisoners due to widespread sexual violence. Is
this treatment against the rules? Absolutely. Then again, if the commandant
doesn’t observe the rules, why should the rookie guard? Yes, there have been a
few reported cases of officials being disciplined, but these are in stark
contrast to the many instances where such abuse is just a normal part of life.
There are numerous accounts from escaped
prisoners of female inmates being ordered to completely disrobe and then being beaten
by prison guards. Gang rapes and other forms of abuse are sometimes so extreme,
the women die afterward. It is also common for guards to offer female prisoners
better jobs or more food in exchange for sex.
According to a
Freedom House report, women who conceive after sexual relations with guards
are usually forced to have abortions. Former prisoner Kim Yong told Freedom
House that he was aware of “several women prisoners made pregnant by guards who
were taken away to the fields and never returned.”
Another tactic is to ensure a pregnant woman transfers
to a very strenuous, physical job that will hopefully cause a miscarriage. Or the
guard will simply enjoin his comrades to practice their soccer kicks on her
abdomen, which accomplishes the same end.
After World War II, records revealed that the
Nazis did not confine their atrocities to murdering several million Jews,
Catholics, gypsies, and other groups. The Nazis had also used the concentration
camp prisoners, whom they deemed untermensch
(subhuman), for various experiments with chemical and biological agents.
That frightening legacy lives on in the DPRK, as has
been confirmed by former prisoners, an ex-Camp 22 manager named Kwon Hyok, and
various original documents smuggled out of Camp 22.
Lee Soon Ok, author of Eyes of the Tailless Animals: Prison Memoirs of a North Korean Woman,
was one of an estimated 6,000 political prisoners in Camp No. 1. She reports
that during her captivity, authorities particularly singled out Christians. If
they refused to apostatize, their captors would pour molten metal on them or
down their throats. Christians were especially used for nuclear, biological, or
chemical testing. The North Korean state sees Christians as the lowest of the
Im Chun-yong says the DPRK carries out such
experiments on mentally or physically handicapped children as well. Im was a
captain in the Korean People’s Army’s Special Forces who defected with a
handful of his troops. One of his soldiers told him how he had helped force a
group of people into a glass room that slowly filled with gas. The doctors used
a stopwatch to measure how long it took the agent to kill everyone in the
“If you are born mentally or physically
deficient,” says Im, “the government says your best contribution to society…is
as a guinea pig for biological and chemical weapons testing.”
Kwon Hyuk was head of security at Camp No. 22,
the nation’s largest concentration camp. In a 2004 BBC documentary, he said, “I
witnessed a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas
chamber. The parents, a son, and a daughter. The parents were vomiting and
dying, but till the very last moment they tried to save the kids by doing
mouth-to-mouth breathing. For the first time it hit me that even prisoners are
capable of powerful human affection.”
Did this brutality trouble him in any way? Not at
all, he said. “I felt that they thoroughly deserved such a death. Because all of
us were led to believe that all the bad things that were happening to North
Korea were their fault. It would be a total lie for me to say I [felt]
sympathetic about the children dying such a painful death. Under the society
and the regime I was in at the time, I only felt that they were the enemies. So
I felt no sympathy or pity for them at all.”
Former prison guard Ahn Myong Chol reports that
prisoners provide practice for young surgeons who were learning to operate.
Inmates were not given anesthesia beforehand. Authorities also deliberately
starved inmates in a “deliberate effort to study physical resistance.”
Furthermore, he says:
The people who carry out
these executions and these experiments all drink before they do it. But they
are real experts now; sometimes they hit prisoners with a hammer on the back of
the head. The poor prisoners then lose their memory, and they use them as
zombies for target practice.
In a 2004 article, the British newspaper The Guardian reported:
Defectors have smuggled
out documents that appear to reveal how methodical the chemical experiments
were. One stamped “top secret” and “transfer letter” is dated February 2002.
The name of the victim was Lin Hun-hwa. He was 39. The text reads: “The above
person is transferred from ... camp number 22 for the purpose of human
experimentation of liquid gas for chemical weapons.”
Despite the numerous reports from defectors,
former guards, and former prisoners, the DPRK officially denies the very
existence of the camps, much less what is happening behind their fences.
Ben Rogers is East Asia team leader for Christian
Solidarity Worldwide, a United Kingdom-based non-profit working to heighten
awareness of human rights violations around the world that would otherwise go
In an interview with CWR, he told of a diplomatic trip to North Korea he took with Baroness
Caroline Cox and Lord David Alton. According to Rogers, whenever they met North
Korean officials and the British delegation brought up the subject of the
camps, “[the North Korean officials] listened impassively, the temperature in
the room dropped a bit, their body language dropped a bit, and they silently
received documents we brought.”
“One meeting, however, took on a different nature
when we were in their Supreme Court,” Rogers said. The delegation was being
given a tour of a courtroom by the DPRK’s equivalent of a Supreme Court
Rogers says at one point, Lord Alton, who is Catholic,
seized on something this gentleman said and started to raise issues about the
Our host initially denied
the existence of the camps, but then Lord Alton raised specific examples, such
The man answered, “I’ve
been to Yodok, and we don’t execute anyone there except for crimes like
murders. Where have you got these stories? Did you get them from the Americans?
From the South Koreans?” “No,” Lord Alton answered, “we got them from many
“Oh, well, these people,
they are criminals who’ve escaped from the prison camps.”
At that moment, Alton said
to him, “How can you say they’re criminals when we know the case of Shin Dong-Yuk,
born in prison camp and spent his first 23 years in camps, escaped when 23,
witnessed his mother and brother executed in the camp, witnessed torturehow
can somebody be born a criminal?”
After that, there was this
kind of electrifying silence for probably 30 seconds, although it felt like
longer. And then the law officer simply, “Please kindly, shall we continue with
In the documentary Welcome to North Korea, a former guard reports how one
“concentration camp was moved further inland, [because] in the present
situation [authorities would] rather hide these matters. They’re scared of the
international community. That’s why they lie about how many people are in
Dr. Lee Sung-Yoon, who teaches international politics
at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, tells CWR, “They are quite
sensitive to world public opinion. For instance, when the UN General Assembly
passes a resolution condemning human rights abuses, they don’t like it. North
Korea is the only country in the world that claims it has no human rights
problems at all.”
The situation today
Many had hoped that having spent his adolescence
in the West, Kim Jong EunKim Jong Il’s son and successorwould have eased the
situation in the concentration camps.
If anything, the exact opposite has happened, for
several reasons. To start, he is so young. Some reports put him at 28 or 29, since
no one knows the exact year of his birth. Thus, unlike his father, he had very
little governing experience before assuming power, at most two years. It is
reported that many in the upper echelons are disgusted with the idea that a
socialist country would allow power to pass from father to son, just as in a
monarchy. Because of this, many are hoping Kim will slip and show he is too
weak to handle the job. Then they will pounce.
In order to show he has what it takes, Kim has
actually increased the number of people in the camps, increased public
executions, and increased the manhunt for those who escape to China. In concert
with Chinese police, North Korean security agents have swarmed the cities along
the DPRK-PRC border and remote surrounding countryside looking for defectors.
Tim Peters, a US human-rights activist who
operates along the China-North Korea border, recently told the Los Angeles Times, “We cannot say with
absolute certainty what their fate will be, but definitely, since the death of
Kim Jong Il, the message is that punishment for defectors is extremely harsh.”
“I don’t want to say all will be shot, but the
consequences are graver now than they were three or four years ago,” Peters
This cannot happen without Chinese complicity.
The Chinese, who call these escaped persons “illegal economic migrants,” say
there is no proof that they will face the harsh conditions described in this
piece. Given their unparalleled access to North Korea, however, that claim is
disingenuous at best.
Between January and March of this year,
English-language Korean news outlets have regularly reported on efforts to get
the Chinese to recognize these individuals as refugees, as they most definitely
are under Chinese-signed UN treaties, and to allow them safe passage to South
Korea or any other country that will take them.
The concern for China, however, is two-fold. One,
they do not want a flood of people pouring across their border À la the East Germans in 1989, who came
across the Hungarian border with Austria in huge numbers when given half a
chance to do so.
This leads to their second concern, the
destabilization of the regime. If the DPRK falls, absent China sending its PLA
forces across the Tumen and Yalu Rivers into the peninsula and resurrecting the
Korean Conflict, the Chinese would have an America-friendly neighbor on its
border. It was to prevent this that they became involved in the Korean Conflict
to begin with back in the early 1950s. Clearly, this is not an option with
which they have grown comfortable in the intervening years.
Does anyone have George Clooney’s number?
Furthermore, the South Koreans are not crazy
about more defectors coming into their country. Since life in the south is so
incredibly different from the north, many newcomers have a terribly difficult
time adjusting. Some even find themselves pining for home where, instead of
busing tables at age 67 in some dingy restaurant, they at least had jobs that
carried with them a measure of respect and decent salaries. Also, southerners
consider defectors hicks, in part because even the educated ones generally are
not as well-educated as South Koreans. Another reason for this perception is
that those from the north speak a form of Korean that has none of the English
words the south has adopted since 1950. This initially makes communication very
Additionally, the refugees receive very generous
government-paid job training, housing, and financial assistance to help them
get on their feet. Even so, a good number never quite manage.
Nonetheless, despite South Koreans’ ambivalence
toward the defectors when they actually arrive, many are now taking an active
interest in the plight of refugees in China and in keeping them from being
repatriated back to the DPRK.
A steady series of demonstrations organized by
Scholte’s NKFC and others have taken place outside of Chinese embassies and
consulates around the world since late February, not only in Seoul, but in New
York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC.
Korean film star Cha In-pyo and his wife, actress
Shin Ae-ra, have created a group called “Cry With Us” to help those caught in
China. On March 4, Cha and his wife hosted a concert featuring 50 Korean
musical acts and movie stars. Cha says this is not a one-time effort, and that
he would try to enlist the help of Western artists and celebrities, including Bono,
lead singer of the rock band U2.
The Korean daily Chosun Ilbo reported on March 6, “Opposition is growing [even]
within China against the forced repatriation of North Korean defectors who were
arrested there, with columnists, novelists, and other intellectuals posting
comments on social media criticizing Beijing’s policy.” Furthermore, numerous
recent posts on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, were against the
government’s repatriation policy.
Indeed, movement on this front has recently increased.
Just before the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit in March, unnamed sources said
China would allow those North Korean refugees who had attained asylum in the
South Korean embassy and its consulates in China to discretely leave for South
Korea. Coupled with Chinese President Hu Jintao’s remarkably unusual statement prior
to the DPRK’s failed April missile launch“North Korea would be better off
focusing on improving the lives of its people”this could mark a significant
change in the situation of North Korean defectors. And if that happens, it
could mark a turn for the kwalliso.
Any or all of this, however, may be hoping for too much at present.
A growing number of members of Congress are also taking
up the cause of the North Korean people, as are members of both houses in
Britain’s parliament. The effort is small so far, but perhaps with the additional
attention and God’s grace, these forgotten captives might one day see the
proclamation of their release and liberty from their oppression.
After 60-plus years, that would be a good thing.