North Korea has six concentration camps for political prisoners with about 154,000 inmates, a South Korean government source said Tuesday. The number of inmates is a little smaller than the 200,000 estimated by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea in January last year.
"The North once operated 10 such camps," the source added. "But it seems to have closed four near the Chinese border around 1990, when international human rights organizations made an issue of its prison camps and called for a fact-finding mission."
The six camps are No. 14 camp in Kaechon and No. 18 camp in Pukchang, South Pyongan Province; No. 15 camp in Yodok, South Hamgyong Province; and No. 16 camp in Hwasong, No. 22 camp in Hoeryong, and No. 25 camp in Chongjin, North Hamgyong Province.
There are two kinds of political prison camps: permanent camps where inmates are locked up their entire life, and a re-education camp where they can be released after a long stint of forced labor.
No. 15 camp in Yodok is the only re-education camp. In the others, the prisoners are interned with three generations of their family. Forced labor, torture and violence are routine there.
The North denies the existence of the camps, but there is increasing awareness in the international community, the source said.