Posts Tagged ‘gulags’

North Korea: Dire human rights remain ‘unchanged’ despite Kim Jong-un’s promised reforms

January 11, 2019

Is North Korea always going to follow the “China Model”?

Investigators reveal attempts to improve living conditions have not helped most people

Despite more than a year of international engagement and promises of economic reform by North Korea‘s leaders, the human rights situation in the isolated country remains dire, a top UN rights official said on Friday.

Blocked by the government from visiting North Korea, UN special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea Tomas Quintana visited South Korea this week as part of an investigation that will be provided to the UN Human Rights Council in March.

Image result for xi jinping, Kim Jong Un, Great Hall of the people, january 2019, pictures
Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Tuesday. PHOTO: SHEN HONG/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Noting that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has embarked on an effort to improve living conditions by focusing on economic development, Mr Quintana said his preliminary findings showed those efforts had not translated into improvements in the lives of most people.

Related image

Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping met in China’s in Dalian, northeast China’s Liaoning Province, on May 7-8, 2018

“The fact is, that with all the positive developments the world has witnessed in the last year, it is all the more regrettable that the reality for human rights on the ground remains unchanged, and continues to be extremely serious,” he told reporters at a briefing in Seoul.

“In all areas related to the enjoyment of economic and social rights, including health, housing, education, social security, employment, food, water and sanitation, much of the country’s population is being left behind.”

North Korea denies human rights abuses and says the issue is used by the international community as a political ploy to isolate it.

Human rights were noticeably absent from talks between Mr Kim and the leaders of South Korea and the United States last year, over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.

But in December, the United States imposed sanctions on an additional three North Korean officials, including a top aide to Mr Kim, for serious rights abuses and censorship.

North Korea’s foreign ministry warned in a statement after the December sanctions were announced, that the measures could lead to a return to “exchanges of fire” and North Korea’s disarming could be blocked forever.

While noting he had “no specific information” on whether international sanctions were hurting ordinary North Koreans, Mr Quintana said the sanctions targeted the economy as a whole and “raised questions” about the possible impact on the public.

He cited a reference by Mr Kim in his New Year message to the need to improve living standards, saying it was a rare acknowledgement of the economic and social hardships faced by many North Koreans.

Still, the United Nations has confirmed the continued use of political prison camps housing “thousands” of inmates, Mr Quintana said, quoting one source as saying “the whole country is a prison”.

He said witnesses who recently left North Korea reported facing widespread discrimination, labour exploitation and corruption in daily life.

There is also a “continuing pattern of ill-treatment and torture” of defectors who escaped to China only to be returned to North Korea by Chinese authorities, Mr Quintana said.



The cone of silence around China’s Muslim ‘gulags’

January 9, 2019

China believed that law and order can be restored by eradicating enemies of the government

It’s unclear how many people are living in some sort of detention in Xinjiang, the restive region in China’s far west.

Last month, a State Department official testified before a Senate committee that Chinese authorities have “indefinitely detained at least 800,000 and possibly more than 2 million Uighurs, ethnic Khazaks and other members of Muslim minorities in internment camps” since April 2017. What foreign reporting has been possible in Xinjiang — which Beijing has subjected to a draconian lockdown — has revealed a vast network of “reeducation centers,” barbed-wire-ringed compounds and factories that have housed possibly more than a tenth of the region’s population of Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim minority.

By Ishaan Tharoor
The Washington Post

(Ng Han Guan)

Chinese authorities wave away the “fake” reports as “hearsay,” arguing that the measures are necessary to curb Islamist extremism among Uighurs and relieve many in the population of their “backwardness.” Last week, in a bid to dispel negative headlines, local officials took a handful of journalists on a tour of three facilities in Xinjiang where interned locals were receiving “vocational training” after falling afoul of Chinese authorities.

“In one class reporters were allowed to briefly visit,” noted Reuters, “a teacher explained in Mandarin that not allowing singing or dancing at a wedding or crying at a funeral are signs of extremist thought.” In another, the detained “students” were compelled to sing “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands” in English for the gathered journalists. According to Reuters, inmates are allowed to leave these facilities only when they “have reached a certain level with their Mandarin, de-radicalization and legal knowledge.”

Such facilities are part of an apparatus of control Beijing was building over its minorities, forcing them to turn away from their native languages and religious beliefs. “Witnesses underscored that what is happening to Turkic Muslims is unprecedented in its scale, technological sophistication and in the level of economic resources attributed by the state to the project,” said a report put out by a Canadian parliamentary committee last month.

This week, the government also passed a law to “Sinicize” Islam within the next five years. Government officials, said the state-run Global Times, have “agreed to guide Islam to be compatible with socialism.” Critics say such guidance is simply a project of ethnic cleansing, carried out through all-encompassing surveillance and strict laws against Muslim practices such as the wearing of face veils or refusing to eat pork.

In the West, such acts have provoked months of media outrage — but little else. American and European officials have criticized Beijing for its mass detentions and its attacks on religious freedom, to minimal effect. More troubling has been the relative silence of dozens of Muslim-majority countries, many of which have looked away as China cracks down. The reluctance of these countries — including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan — to speak out in defense of the Uighurs is particularly conspicuous when set against their routine protestations on behalf of Palestinians, Kashmiris and the Rohingya of Myanmar.

On one level, this is a clear reflection of China’s growing geopolitical clout. Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged some $20 billion in loans to Arab countries — as well as $100 million in financial aid to nations such as Syria and Yemen. Xi’s announcement coincided with the 70th anniversary of the unveiling of the U.S. Marshall Plan for war-torn Europe.

Take Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who as prime minister a decade ago blasted China’s “genocide” of the Uighurs during a spike in violence. He was a far more circumspect figure last year when he secured considerable Chinese investment for Turkey’s faltering economy. Erdogan, never shy to criticize foreign powers, suggested that China was possibly a victim of “fabrications” in the media.

Similar noises were made last month by Mohammad Faisal, the spokesman for Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who told reporters that “some section of foreign media are trying to sensationalize the [Uighur] matter by spreading false information.” Pakistan has spent decades stirring international grievances about the plight of Kashmiris living under military occupation in India, but its shielding of Beijing should be no surprise: Pakistan is saddled with debt and is ever more beholden to China as its chief financier.

Observers also suggest that authoritarians in the Muslim world have some sympathy for Beijing’s methods. “The Chinese government crackdown on Uighurs is based on a premise that law and order can be restored by eradicating enemies of the government and traitors within a society,” wrote Turkish scholar and columnist Mustafa Akyol. “This is authoritarian language that most Muslim leaders understand well. It is their own language.”

Akyol suggested that Islamists and Muslim autocrats may be drawn to the idea of a “Confucian-Islamic alliance,” even as they seek to still challenge the West. “China can look like a great model, in which the economy grows without Western nuisances like human rights, free speech or limited government,” he wrote.

All the while, the noose keeps tightening around the Uighurs. A recent report in the New York Times described how dozens of prominent Uighur intellectuals have been rounded up by Chinese authorities.

“Chinese spokesmen sometimes describe Uighur detainees as actual or potential terrorists,” noted a Tuesday editorial in The Washington Post. “But the intellectuals the Chinese government has swept up include figures who openly supported the communist regime, such as Abdulqadir Jalaleddin, an expert on medieval poetry at Xinjiang Normal University. Like other scholars, he wrote an open letter declaring his loyalty to the state but was detained anyway.”

They are hardly dissidents, but their work still makes them suspect in the eyes of Beijing. “As the guardians of Uighur traditions, chroniclers of their history and creators of their art, the intellectuals were building the Central Asian, Turkic-speaking society’s reservoir of collective memory within the narrow limits of authoritarian rule,” the Times’ Austin Ramzy wrote.

Speaking to Reuters, Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for a leading German-based Uighur exile group, was blunt about what he saw was taking place: “What they are trying to do is destroy Uighur identity.”

Human Rights: U.S. downplayed evidence of abuses in Chinese detention camps — Obama Administration rewarded China for false human rights gains

December 30, 2015

World | Wed Dec 30, 2015 1:20pm EST


After China abolished a notorious penal system based on forced labor in December 2013, the United States rewarded Beijing by removing the world’s most populous country from a global blacklist of countries that are failing to combat modern-day slavery.

Shutting the detention camps had been a U.S. priority for more than a decade, according to a previously unreleased U.S. State Department memo seen by Reuters.

But two years after China announced it was ending the “re-education through labor” system, extrajudicial networks of detention facilities featuring torture and forced labor thrive in its place, according to former detainees, their lawyers and people with knowledge of the facilities.

Between February and April this year, State Department human rights experts cited these facilities as reason to downgrade China to the blacklist again, according to documents reviewed by Reuters and not previously made public.

The downgrade would have placed China on the lowest Tier 3 of an annual evaluation of how 188 countries deal with modern slavery, a status shared by serial abusers of forced labor or trafficking including North Korea, Russia and Thailand.

The experts were overruled by senior American diplomats in the final report on July 27. It was one of more than a dozen decisions on country rankings documented by Reuters that have raised questions over whether the Obama administration placed diplomatic priorities over human rights in the congressionally mandated report that can incur sanctions. The report came at a time of sensitive U.S. diplomatic issues with China, ranging from cybersecurity to tensions in the South China Sea.

In all, the experts in the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons disagreed with U.S. diplomatic bureaus on ratings for 17 countries including China in this year’s Trafficking in Persons report, a Reuters story on Aug. 3 showed. The experts won only three of those battles, the worst ratio in the 15-year history of the unit.

“Trafficking and human rights fall into the basket of things we’d like to make progress on but probably won’t,” said one congressional aide with knowledge of the back and forth over China’s trafficking ranking.

In this year’s trafficking report, the State Department acknowledged that China converted the nearly six-decade-old labor camps into other detention facilities but decided a downgrade was unjustified, citing a rise in arrests and convictions of suspected human traffickers and better international cooperation to fight modern slavery.

The Trafficking in Persons report, meant to independently grade countries on trafficking and forced labor, calls itself the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts. Rights groups generally agree. Countries often lobby the State Department to stay off Tier 3, which can trigger the withholding of aid.

In response to questions from Reuters, a State Department official said it stands behind “the integrity” of the report, including China’s ranking, which was kept on a “Tier 2 Watch List” for a second straight year. Asked whether the United States was aware of forced labor in the detention centers, the official said, “we are not able to quantify the extent of forced labor that occurs in these centers at this time.”

Chinese government authorities did not respond to requests for comment on any of the detention facilities mentioned in this article.

A general view is seen outside a labour camp in Kunming, Yunnan province, November 22, 2013. REUTERS/John Ruwitch


Colloquially known as “laojiao”, China’s gulag-like re-education through labor camps drew domestic and international condemnation by empowering police to detain people for up to four years without trial, often forcing them to work in mines, factories or farms, according to rights groups.

A Human Rights Watch researcher estimated in 2013 that about 160,000 people, including drug addicts and members of banned religious groups, were held at about 350 laojiao camps before they were abolished.

Lawyers of detainees say that while China may have shut down the camps, similar abuses – including forced labor – continue in other types of detention centers.

Some people who might once have been sent to laojiao are disappearing into a secretive, illegal network of “education” facilities that sometimes employ torture techniques, according to former detainees and their lawyers.

Reuters was unable to independently verify conditions inside the detention centers now operating in China, or confirm the specific mistreatment described by the detainees.

Many of the laojiao camps have been turned into compulsory drug rehabilitation centers, where people considered addicts can be incarcerated for up to three years without trial, according to Chinese regulations and state media. In June, Chinese vice justice minister Zhang Sujun was quoted in state media as saying there were 334 compulsory drug rehab centers holding almost 240,000 people.

China has been reforming its rehabilitation system for drug users and some activists report improvements in conditions, including compensating inmates, if only with token amounts, for their work, and less use of violence.

A 2011 measure allowed addicts to work as part of their recovery for up to six hours a day but forbid forced labor in compulsory rehab centers.

Still, forced labor is common in the centers, said an activist with direct knowledge of the facilities who asked not to be identified for fear of punishment by authorities.

Inmates made lights, electronic parts and other products, he said. Pay is typically between 30-50 yuan ($4.62-$7.70) a month — around two percent of the average monthly wage in China, according to this person. Another person who has worked closely with drug addicts confirmed the existence of forced labor.

Another extrajudicial detention system, called “custody and education,” focuses on suspected prostitutes and their clients, holding them for up to two years without trial.

It shares traits of laojiao, including forced labor, say human rights advocates. China’s government has acknowledged that labor is a central component of this system. But the number of custody and education centers has shrunk in recent years, say lawyers and activists.


Yet another type of facility the government calls “legal education centers” is among the most secretive.

Detainees at these centers are illegally held without trial, four lawyers told Reuters. They are not formally charged, have no right of appeal and are not allowed access to lawyers or family members, lawyers said.

Many detainees are members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement that was outlawed in 1999 after seeking official legitimacy, say the lawyers. Others include victims of injustice who make personal appeals to the government for intervention in their case.

Reuters obtained written and video statements from nine former detainees of one such center in Jiansanjiang, in northeast Heilongjiang province. Five of them made allegations of torture in what they said those held there sometimes call “brainwashing classes”.

Meng Xianjie, 67, said her arms were strapped to wooden boards and she was injected with an “unknown medicine” that caused her to cough up blood, according to her written statement about her detention from January 2010.

Shi Mengchang described being forced to squat while handcuffed in a T-position for about five hours once during his detention from September 2013 to March 2014. Shi and Meng are both followers of Falun Gong, according to a fellow believer and a lawyer with direct knowledge of their situations.

In Washington, some lawmakers have questioned whether China’s dodging of a downgrade in the 2015 Trafficking in Persons report suggests geopolitics and the need to protect Washington’s delicate relationship with Beijing trumped human rights.

“China continues to force and detain its citizens to perform manual labor,” Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who authored a 2000 law that led to the creation of the trafficking report, told a Nov. 4 hearing. “How can a country that systematically traffics his own people be anything but Tier 3?”

(Editing by Stuart Grudgings)

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power describes life in North Korea as a “living nightmare” — “Crimes against humanity” detailed

December 23, 2014

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power speaks at the Center for American Progress’ 2014 Making Progress Policy Conference in Washington November 19, 2014.  Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

UNITED NATIONS Mon Dec 22, 2014 6:32pm EST

(Reuters) – The United States and other Western members of the U.N. Security Council on Monday slammed North Korea’s human rights record after voting to overrule China’s objections and add alleged grave abuses by the hermit state to the council’s agenda.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power described life in North Korea as a “living nightmare” and dismissed as absurd Pyongyang’s demand for a joint U.S.-North Korean investigation of the hacking of Sony Pictures and threats of retaliation if the United States refused.

North Korea rejected the council move and warned that decisions on how to respond would be made in Pyongyang.

The council meeting on North Korea came after a rare procedural vote sparked by China’s objections to the inclusion of North Korea on the council’s agenda.

There were 11 votes in favor, two against and two abstentions. Russia and China voted against the inclusion of North Korea on the council’s agenda, but as there are no vetoes in procedural votes of the council, the Chinese attempt to defeat the measure failed.

The last time the council held a procedural vote was in 2006, when it added Myanmar to its agenda. Until now, the council’s discussions of North Korea have been limited to its nuclear weapons program. But with Monday’s vote, all aspects of the country can now be scrutinized by the 15-nation body.

Before the vote, China U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi said “the Security Council is not the forum to get involved in human rights issues” and it “should refrain from doing anything that might cause an escalation.”

China U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi

After the vote, a formal meeting on North Korea began immediately, as requested by Australian Ambassador Gary Quinlan and nine other mostly Western ambassadors. He described the council move as “an historic step.”

“The DPRK (North Korea) is in effect a totalitarian state which uses violence and repression against its own citizens to maintain itself and its threatening military apparatus in power,” Quinlan said. “The regime’s atrocities against its own people have created an inherently unstable state.”


Monday’s meeting comes after the General Assembly on Friday urged the council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity as alleged in a U.N. inquiry report released in February.

North Korean diplomats did not participate in the meeting. Pyongyang says the rights criticism is based on lies. A North Korean diplomat warned that a decision on how to respond to the Security Council move on Monday, which he blamed on the United States, will come from Pyongyang.

“We totally reject the decision to bring DPRK (North Korea’s) human rights record to the U.N. Security Council,” North Korean diplomat Kim Song told Reuters. “The United States always uses the issue of human rights as a political weapon to bring pressure on our country.”

Power cited horrific accounts from defectors who fled North Korean prison camps – accounts Pyongyang has dismissed as fabricated.

Kim Jong-Un inspects the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Air and Anti-Air Force Unit 458, Pyongyang, North Korea Photo: Rex Features

“Ahn Myong Chul, a former guard at Prison Camp 22, spoke of guards routinely raping prisoners,” she said. “In one case in which a victim became pregnant and gave birth, the former guard reported, prison officials cooked her baby and fed it to their dogs.”

Power also touched on the hacking of Sony Pictures, which Washington has blamed on North Korea. She dismissed as “absurd” North Korea’s calls for a joint investigation of the incident with the United States and threats of retaliation if it refused.

“It is exactly the kind of behavior we have come to expect from a regime that threatened to take ‘merciless countermeasures’ against the U.S. over a Hollywood comedy, and has no qualms about holding tens of thousands of people in harrowing gulags,” Power said.

North Korea diplomat Kim Song reiterated that his country has “no relation” to the hacking incident.

She urged the council to heed recommendations of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry that North Korea be referred to the ICC.

Other council members gave similar speeches.

The Commission of Inquiry report details wide-ranging abuses in North Korea, including prison camps, systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.

“Rarely has such an extensive charge-sheet of international crimes been brought to this council’s attention,” Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic told the council.

“It documents a totalitarian system that is characterized by brutally enforced denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, information and association,” he added.

Council scrutiny is unlikely to land North Korea at the ICC, which looks at genocide and other crimes against humanity, as China could veto a council referral to the ICC.

China is Pyongyang’s principal ally and protector.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli, Dan Grebler and Lisa Shumaker)

North Korea’s crimes against humanity, atrocities, should be a “shock to the conscience of humanity”

February 19, 2014

North Korea: It has taken a retired Australian judge to show us how to deal with Kim Jong-un over the country’s crimes against humanity

Too often we focus on Kim Jong-un’s mistresses and his dreadful haircut, on his dad’s fondness for fortune tellers and funding North Korean Godzilla-type films, rather than the cold-blooded killing they have both ordered

Too often we focus on Kim Jong-un’s mistresses and his dreadful haircut, on his dad’s fondness for fortune tellers and funding North Korean Godzilla-type films, rather than the cold-blooded killing they have both ordered Photo: EPA

How do you deal with someone you suspect of being one of the most evil leaders   ever to have stalked the earth? Do you brand them a tyrant and then order in   the tanks? Do you post them a pack of exploding cigars?

Or do you send them a polite letter, respectfully reminding them of their   responsibilities as head of state, and pointing out that at some future   date, they could be rendering themselves liable to prosecution?

That appears to have been the approach of Michael Kirby, the retired   Australian judge who has just delivered a detailed report on the appalling   human rights abuses committed in Kim Jong-un’s North   Korea. It reveals how, during the 66 miserable years of the   Democratic People’s Republic, hundreds of thousands of people have died as a   result of “unspeakable atrocities” – a record that Mr Kirby compares to that   of Nazi Germany.

Testimonies gathered from defectors included an account of a woman forced to   drown her own babies, and of Gulag inmates deliberately starved to death.   Their fellow prisoners were then forced to burn their bodies and use the   ashes as fertiliser.

Well aware of the practical difficulties of ever getting Kim Jong-un into any   international criminal court, Mr Kirby did, none the less, decide to drop   the Supreme Leader a line to set out his concerns.

The tone of his letter is pretty gentle, given that Kirby is accusing Kim of   crimes against humanity. He starts off by reminding North Korea’s Supreme   Leader that even if he isn’t committing them in person, anyone with that   title may later find it hard to claim that they weren’t high in the chain of   command. He then politely warns that a prosecution could “render accountable   all those, including possibly yourself, who may be responsible for crimes   against humanity”.

Given its slightly bureaucratic language, you might think that Mr Kirby was   taking Kim to task over a minor violation of planning law, rather than the   wholesale slaughter and torture of his own people.

As such, his missive attracted a few sarcastic jokes yesterday, which pointed   out that, as long as North Korea has nuclear weapons and Chinese support, a    “strongly worded letter of complaint” was not going to change much.

But by the UN’s standards, this is pretty good stuff. Too often, the   organisation’s envoys waste time on ill-disguised political attacks, as did   Raquel Rolnik, the UN special rapporteur on housing, whose recent report   calling for the suspension of Britain’s so-called bedroom tax was described   as a “misleading Marxist diatribe” by the Government. At other times, they   come across as simply hamstrung, avoiding direct criticism for fear of   upsetting China or Russia.

But Mr Kirby has at least gone for a bit of Aussie plain speaking, and in the   process reminded everyone that Kim’s disgusting gangster state – a “shock to   the conscience of humanity” – should be a matter of concern to us all.

Too often, North Korea’s hereditary tyrants have been seen as just cartoon   crackpots, people too mad to be taken seriously. Instead, we focus on Kim   Jong-un’s mistresses and his dreadful haircut, on his dad’s fondness for   fortune tellers and funding North Korean Godzilla-type films, rather than   the cold-blooded killing they have both ordered.

This is, after all, a regime that keeps 120,000 political prisoners in its   Gulags. This is the land where a man was thrown in jail for wiping up a   spilt drink with an old newspaper featuring Kim Jong-il. This is a country   where, during the famine of the Nineties, hundreds of thousands of families   were starved to death to ensure that the army, police and trusted cadres   could fill their stomachs. Those children who didn’t starve outright   suffered serious malnutrition, creating entire generations of   developmentally stunted people.

This is also the land of Jee Heon-a, a woman whose testimony to the UN panel   could have come from Buchenwald or Auschwitz. Ms Jee told how, in one camp   where she was held, a fellow female inmate who had been repatriated after   escaping to neighbouring China was told that she could not keep her baby   because there was a chance it had been conceived with a Chinese father. That   would contravene North Korea’s strict racial purity laws, and so it was that   she was ordered by a prison guard to drown the new-born child herself in a   bucket of water.

Mr Kirby may not be able to stop North Korea’s atrocities. But he has done the   world a favour in reminding us that when we talk about Kim Jong-un, the best   comparisons are Hitler and Stalin, not some Thunderbirds villain   whose eccentricities belie the snuff movie he is starring in.


Dennis Rodman’s North Korea trip trivialises the horrors in the country

December 20, 2013

North Korea: What is frustrating is how the spectacle of Dennis Rodman in North Korea has   again trivialised the ongoing horrors in the country, bending the narrative   towards comedy once more.

Dennis Rodman


“Yes it is all very WTF!?”

That is how Paddy   Power accurately describes an event that the Irish bookmaker has   chosen to name “The Bang in Pyongyang”.

On Friday, Dennis “The Worm” Rodman, a 52-year-old former NBA   basketball star with a flair for drawing attention to himself, brought his   money-spinning carnival back to North   Korea.

Sponsored by Paddy Power, he   is trying to organise a match in January between NBA stars and North   Korean basketball players. It has not been an easy sell.

“You know, they’re still afraid to come here,” Mr Rodman said,   explaining the difficulties of persuading more level-headed athletes to fly   to the rogue state.

“But I’m just telling them, you know, don’t be afraid man, it’s all love,   it’s all love here.”

Paddy Power, which is advertising the contest with the catchline “Hoops, not nukes”, is spinning a line that sport can “rise above the news agenda and current affairs”.

Just look, said Rory Scott, the company’s spokesman, at how ping pong helped   break the detente between China and the United States, how Nelson Mandela   united South Africa for the 1995 Rugby World cup and how British and German   troops laid down their weapons for a game of football on Christmas Day   during the First World War.

He did not mention the Nazi Olympics in 1936.

More appropriately, he also compared the “Bang in Pyongyang”, as he   hopes the game will be known, with the Rumble in the Jungle between Muhammad   Ali and George Foreman in Zaire in 1975, paid for by President Mobutu, “The   Helmsman, the Redeemer, the Father of the Revolution and the Perpetual   Defender of Property and People”.

Mobutu, according to Norman Mailer’s account, rounded up 300 of the worst   criminals he could find ahead of the fight, imprisoned them in cells   underneath the stadium and executed 50 of them in order to scare everyone   into good behaviour for the bout.

Dictators love to use sport for propaganda, and in this instance, it has   proven an excellent publicity vehicle for Paddy Power, Koryo Tours (which   has sold out its near £5,500 tour package to see the match, at quadruple the   price of a regular tour), and for Mr Rodman himself. It has also helped   newspapers generate a wave of clicks on the internet, as they scramble to   hype up the trip and win money from advertising.

Kim Jong-un may win some popular support at home, though I do not think he has   much to gain, in terms of improving his international image, by associating   with Mr Rodman.

All of which seems to me to be reasonable, if distasteful in a country where a   bloodthirsty regime executes people at whim and keeps 80 per cent of its   population underfed. As Paddy Power points out, there are certainly   precedents.

But what is frustrating is how the spectacle has again trivialised the ongoing   horrors in North Korea, bending the narrative towards comedy once more.

It is not right for Mr Rodman to declare that a country whose labour camps are   expanding and where the majority of children are desperately undernourished   is “all love”.

We belittle and laugh at the Kim family, and see the regime as eccentric and   ridiculous rather than as a six-decade-long nightmare, to absolve ourselves   of having to think seriously about a solution.

Shin Donghyuk, who was born into a North Korean labour camp and who saw his   mother, brother and indeed his six-year-old classmate killed in front of   him, has made the most sense this week.

Writing   an open letter to Mr Rodman, he said: “It is your right to   drink fancy wines and enjoy yourself in luxurious parties, as you reportedly   did in your previous trips to Pyongyang. But as you have a fun time with the   dictator, please try to think about what he and his family have done and   continue to do.

“I want Kim Jong Un to hear the cries of his people. Maybe you could use   your friendship and your time together to help him understand that he has   the power to close the camps and rebuild the country’s economy so everyone   can afford to eat.”

Includes video:

North Korea Expanding Gulags; Growing its Network of Camps for Political Prisoners

February 26, 2013

North Korea is expanding its network of camps for political prisoners, apparently to meet demand for a growing gulag population, according to new satellite images.

North Korea is expanding its network of camps for political prisoners, apparently to meed demand for a growing gulag population, according to new satellite images.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and a close up photograph of Camp No. 25 taken by a satellite in 2010 Photo: AFP/Getty Images/Digital Globe

<!– remove the whitespace added by escenic before end of tag –>

By Julian Ryall, Tokyo

The Telegraph 

Read the full report below

Analysis of images by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea indicates that the size of Camp No. 25 alone has increased 72 per cent and perimeter guard posts, which numbered 20 in 2003, had increased to 43 in 2010.

The camp is believed to house some 5,000 prisoners, in conditions that human rights groups have described as “deplorable.”

The perimeter fence of Camp No. 25 in 2005 (DigitalGlobe)

The detailed pictures, provided by DigitalGlobe, a US-based commercial satellite image company, also show the perimeter fence has been extended by around 4,600 feet, agricultural plots have been rearranged and a new gateway has been constructed.

Based on the images and information from defectors, the human rights group believes North Korea is being forced to expand its prison network for a number of reasons, one being the purges conducted by Kim Jong-un of senior members of his father’s administration out of concern that they pose a threat to his power base.

The perimeter fence of Camp No. 25 in 2009 (DigitalGlobe)

As well as these individuals, their families and bureaucrats that supported their roles in the previous administration are being sent to prison camps.

In addition, patrols have been stepped up along North Korea’s border with China to capture defectors, while Chinese authorities are also cooperating in returning North Koreans who make it over the border but are caught in China.

A third explanation that is being put forward is a consolidation of the regime’s gulag system.

“If a dismantling of some of North Korea’s political prisoner camps and prisoner transfers to expanded facilities are in progress, it is essential to ensure that the North Korean regime does not attempt to erase evidence of atrocities committed at the camps, including the starving prisoners,” said Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the committee.

The perimeter fence of Camp No. 25 in 2011 (DigitalGlobe)

North Korea remains defiant in the face of international criticism of its human rights record, as well as of its ongoing efforts to develop ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads.

On Monday, as Park Guen-hye was being sworn into office as president of South Korea, Kim Jong-un attended a live-fire artillery practice.

North Korean state media reported that Kim told his entourage that if the exercise had been an actual combat situation, then the enemy “would have been hit so hard that they would not have been able to raise their heads.”




An official in Seoul told Yonhap News that, “The leader’s moves are not the kind of ‘right action’ urged by the international community, yet they are not unexpected either.”

The new South Korean government is also likely to be disappointed at the news that Dennis Rodman, the retired US basketball player, is to arrive in Pyongyang to film a television documentary.

Kim is reported to be a huge basketball fan and contrived to have his picture taken with players from the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers when he was a student at a private school in Switzerland.