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What is your first memory? For Shin In Geun it was an execution. That's because he was born in a North Korean labour camp, the son of political prisoners.

At the age of 23, he escaped, which is why his story can be told in Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harnden. The Guardian carries an edited extract, but be warned: it is difficult to get through – such are the brutalities described.

Even the bare statistics are horrifying, speaking, as they do, of the sheer scale of the North Korean gulag:

  • "The South Korean government estimates there are about 154,000 prisoners in North Korea's labour camps, while the US state department puts the number as high as 200,000. The biggest is 31 miles long and 25 miles wide, an area larger than the city of Los Angeles. Numbers 15 and 18 have re-education zones where detainees receive remedial instruction in the teachings of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung, and are sometimes released. The remaining camps are "complete control districts" where "irredeemables" are worked to death."

What can be done? North Korea's Communist regime clearly doesn't care about western opinion. However, the Chinese government does. People should therefore know that China's official policy is to forcibly return North Korean refugees to their tormentors. Tell someone.

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