North Korean Gulag


North Korea is a land we need to love and pray for. Absolutely no attempt is being made to defame or deride a person or a nation by the following descriptions. But the story must be told by a free people. Holding our mouths shut may be “wise” but for the victims it is fatal.

Mr. David Hawk describes the entire hierarchy of prisons to be found in North Korea as a “gulag” reminding us of the terminology tossed around decades ago when even at that time we humans thought we had come of age. But the problem persists.

If you have a problem with claustrophobia as do I, the subject matter here may be difficult.The thought of going to an enclosure where I will be locked in for an unknown period of time is pure torment. Add to it that I go there because I was hungry and looking for food, or because I am a Christian, or because I accidentally crumpled a newspaper with a picture of my government’s leader on it… unspeakable horror.

Hawk divides the NK prison system like this:

First there are the Kwan-li-so, to which a prisoner is banished for life with his entire family. It is run by the federal government. It is huge, covering as much as four or five hundred square miles! Tens of thousands of prisoners can be in such a place. The prisoners are “politicals” , that is, persons who said or thought something against the government.

The Kyo-hwa-so is smaller. There is much hard labor. It is for those who commit “normal” crimes, but some political prisoners are mixed in. Sentences are set. But many persons die due to the hard work expected of them before their sentence is up. The true “penitentiary.”

Then there is the Ka-mok or Ku-ryu-jang. These are along the northern border, where escapees can get to China. When it is their misfortune to be returned to their home country, it is here that they are interrogated and punished. We’d call this a “jail.”

The jip-kyul-so is for low-level crimes and for repatriated refugees. They can stay here for up to six months of hard labor. Here there is a high death rate because of the nature of the work and the serious lack of food.

And then there is the ro-dong-dan-ryeon-dae, where sentences are even shorter, created by locals to deal with the over-flow of famine-related cases.

Odd. Here we say that misfortunes such as hunger are worthy of compassion, aid, support. We may nopt agree with “religious” people but we have a certain respect for them. And one may speak against leadership freely here, even try, using the system available, to replace that leader. All these things are worth of imprisonment and death “over there.”

Continued tip of the day, and the only real reason I share all of this: Prayer really does change things, people, and situations. So pray!