A UN working group has concluded that the families of two prominent North Korean defectors are being held in gulags in the North and will urge the regime to treat them humanely.
The two are Kang Chol-hwan, a former staffer with the Chosun Ilbo now at the North Korea Strategy Center, and Shin Dong-hyuk, the only known person born in a North Korean prison camp who managed to escape.
The conclusion was reached by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention under the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees.
It follows a UN finding in May of last year that Shin Suk-ja, the ex-wife of the prominent South Korean activist Oh Kil-nam, was also being held in a North Korean gulag.
WGAD is to consider a dozen cases of arbitrary detention in North Korea, including a South Korean who was kidnapped during the North’s hijacking of a Korean Air passenger plane in 1969.
Kang, who was born in Pyongyang, was sent to the notorious Yodok political prison camp in South Hamgyong Province when his grandfather was accused of treason in 1977. He escaped from the camp 10 years later and has published a book, "The Aquariums of Pyongyang," detailing his horrific experiences in the gulag
In 2005, he visited the White House at the invitation of then U.S. president George W. Bush.
Kang submitted a petition to the WGAD last year via the International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea, after learning that his 44-year-old sister and her son were taken off to a gulag around May 2011, apparently in retaliation for his activism.
Shin, who was born and raised in the gulag, came to prominence when told American journalist Blaine Harden told his story in the book "Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West."
Shin turned to the UN to seek his father's release from a prison camp.