150,000 to 200,000 people are believed to be imprisoned in government-run concentration camps–called gulags–in North Korea for criticizing the government or practicing Christianity. Not only are these “offenders” sent to the gulags, but the next two generations of their family as well, in order to “root out the bad blood and seed of dissent.” There is no judicial process and many are tortured into “confessing” their crimes (which could be something as small as using “newspapers with a picture of the Dear Leader for toilet paper“).
The North Korean government denies the existence of these camps, but as reported by the U.S. Department of State, North Korea’s regime subjects its people to poor human rights conditions.
The conditions of these prison camps are terrible, as described in a Washington Post article: “[They eat] a diet of mostly corn and salt, they lose their teeth, their gums turn black, their bones weaken and, as they age, they hunch over at the waist. Most work 12- to 15-hour days until they die of malnutrition-related illnesses, usually around the age of 50. Allowed just one set of clothes, they live and die in rags, without soap, socks, underclothes or sanitary napkins.” Babies born in the detention facilities are stamped to death by guards and unethical chemical experiments are conducted on the detainees.
Many people at risk for being sent to these camps try to escape North Korea by entering into China, only to be sent back. Those who aren’t sent back are often “treated as ‘livestock’ in China.”
China has plenty of its own human rights issues, but as North Korea’s closest ally and biggest trading partner, it is the one nation with the most power to influence North Korea. It is possible that if China is pressured enough, it could influence North Korea to shut down the concentration camps.
Although I was absolutely shocked to read about the horrific conditions being forced upon too many North Korean people, I was even more shocked to read that some are apathetic. It is all too easy to ignore the reality that people are suffering, especially when the situation seems hopeless and compassion is just too painful. However, as the great Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Take action today by signing this petition and help stop North Korea’s operation of these concentration camps.
Photo Courtesy of Istockphoto.com
By Erika Oglesby