September 01, 2016 12:28
North Korea has been expanding concentration camps for women near the border with China as a growing number are forcibly repatriated.
The information comes from a report released Tuesday by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, a U.S. activist group, on the Chongori reeducation camp, also known as Camp No. 12.
The camp is in Hoeryong near the North Korea-China border in North Hamgyong Province.
The group tracked changes in the reeducation camp from the 1960s until May last year in cooperation with AllSource Analysis, a commercial intelligence firm that specializes in satellite images, and based on defectors' testimony.
Twenty percent of the inmates are women, the vast majority of them sent back from China.
"The prison was expanded between February and August 2009 with the addition of a rectangular walled annex for female prisoners," the report said.
The camp was originally built for men, but the regime started incarcerating women there in 2007 as more of them fled the country and were repatriated.
The number of inmates has roughly quadrupled from some 1,300 in the 1990s to 5,000, and another building is reportedly under construction as the camp exceeds its capacity.
"Male inmates are digging mines in search of copper and female inmates are forced into labor at a wig factory or on a farm," said a former inmate who escaped. "Brutality, including torture and beatings, is routine there."
The activists called on the North Korean regime to improve conditions for the inmates, who often suffer malnutrition, improve the environment at worksites like the copper mine, solve water pollution near the copper mine, and allow the international Red Cross to access the site.
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