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Oh Gyeung Seob, a research fellow at the Sejong Institute, was just one of the speakers in a symposium, “Anti-Human Rights in North Korean Political Prison Camps,” hosted by Korean Peninsula Forum and sponsored by the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights (NKNet) at the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. According to Oh, North Korean prison camps are “the core institution in the reign of terror which maintains totalitarian social control”.
Oh continued, “Violence is the method North Korean regime mostly depends on to maintain its power. They use the National Security Agency and prison camps to create a climate of fear among the governing elite and citizens, and to induce obedience through that fear.”
“The National Security Agency conducts surveillance to generate fear during the process of uncovering, investigating, punishing and purging political prisoners. Prison camps create more fear by treating existing political prisoners inhumanly,” he explained, connecting the security forces and prison camp roles in totalitarian North Korea.
Particularly, he explained, “The North Korean system is structured around the fear spread by the existence of political prison camps, meaning that public political opposition from citizens is impossible. Every person and the people around them are harmed by the system of guilt by association; therefore they suppress their political opposition of their own accord.”
Jang Bok Hee, a professor in the School of Law at Sunmoon University, added, “North Korea’s political prison camps are categorized as the most inhumane and anti-humanitarian in socialism. The North Korean authorities run the political prison camps only for the purposes of isolating prisoners from society without any other rationale of punishment, correction or rehabilitation through education or economic activities using their labor.”
Also, Jang explained, “North Korean political prison camps are a threat to the most basic human rights like the right to life and personal freedom. Standards enforced elsewhere by international law against things like enslavement and torture are taking place as well.”
Speakers in the symposium were Park Young Ho, a senior fellow at the Korean Institute for National Unification, Secretary-General of the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights Hu Sun Hang, Kim Tae Hoon, a lawyer, and Choi Tae Hyun, a professor in the Law School at Hanyang University. Chairwoman of North Korea Freedom Coalition Suzanne Scholte, Kim Suk Woo of the National Development Institute and Nam Joo Hong, the MOFAT International Security Ambassador, delivered congratulatory addresses.