February 12, 2010 07:18
South Koreans are largely indifferent to human rights abuses in the North such as labor camps, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported Tuesday.
In an article titled, "Facing Apathy and Gulags: Ex-North Korean Inmates Struggle to Raise Concern in South," the U.S. daily cites a former prisoner and erstwhile soldier, Jung Kyoung-il, who said he was stunned by questions from a group of young South Korean soldiers when he spoke to them about the North Korean gulag.
One soldier asked, "How many days of leave are North Korean soldiers given?" Another asked, "Are North Korean soldiers allowed to visit their girlfriends?" But none seemed interested in the brutal reality of the camps.
The daily pointed out that Seoul in a rare report recently acknowledged that hundreds of thousands of North Koreans are languishing in the camps but has made no public effort to pressure the Kim Jong-il regime. It said many South Koreans hold "deeply conflicted" feelings toward the North and are uncomfortable admitting that the camps exist.
Jung said many students sleep through his lectures, an indifference that still shocks him five years after he defected following three years in the notorious Yoduk camp, where he was subjected to back-breaking labor, a sparse diet and long nights of forced study of nation founder Kim Il-sung's philosophies, the paper said.
About 200,000 North Koreans are presumed to be languishing in six concentration camps, and of 18,000 defectors in the South, 32 are former inmates, according to the article, often for trivial offenses.
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