120 Prisoners Escape a North Korean Political Concentration Camp

[imText1]Numerous sources have alerted that 120 prisoners escaped a political concentration camp, the Camp 16 in Hwasung, North Hamkyung province in which North Korean authorities responded by mobilizing the National Safety Agency, the People’s Protection Agency and military in a madhunt to search out the fugutives.

Sources residing in the district of Chongjin, North Hamkyung informed on the 1st and 5th “On December 20th, a mass group of 120 prisoners from the camp in Hwasung escaped and so the National Safety Agency and the People’s Protection Agency are in a state of emergency” and said “Lately, additional checkpoints have been established at various locations in North Hamkyung inspecting permits for both vehicle and personal travel.”

This case is unprecedented as it is a well known fact that any prisoner attempting escape will be sentenced to severe punishment. Also, North Korean concentration camps are well established with hindering obstacles and neighboring residents are strictly trained to alert any escape of prisoners.

One source said “A close acquaintance and officer from the Safety Agency told me that some prisoners had ran away from a political concentration camp in Hwasung.” The source informed “The figure seems to exceed 120 people” and “since the end of last year, the atmosphere in North Hamkyung has been tense and the province has been in a state of emergency.”

The source added that an outsider had proactively assisted the escape. It seems that the outsider had made preparations earlier, by cutting the barbed wire with a saw and striking the guard with the back of a club.

“In order to assist the escape, the outside collaborator not only provided the metal saw but also had a vehicle on standby” said the source and added “Most of the people that escaped were defectors were caught in China while attempting to flee to South Korea and then forcibly repatriated back to North Korea. They were in the midst of awaiting a trial.”

People who have survived concentration camps say that North Korean political concentration camps are completely different to the average prison. Concentration camps are set up deep in the mountains like a small village. Also, in order to prevent prisoners from escaping, 2~3m of barbed wire surrounds the camp and guards observe the camp grounds from watchtowers 24 hours a day.

In addition to the guards, investigation teams control nearby areas inhibiting contact, and residents who live in close proximity are encouraged to report any suspicious persons and are rewarded for this act.

Some observe that the success of this escape will depend on how far the outsider’s cooperation and vehicle will take the prisoners from the camp.

21 escapees caught during residential investigations

[imText2]According to yet another source “North Korean authorities have invested in sending investigation teams to Hoiryeong and even Musan to arrest the prisoners. So far (Feb 1st), 21 people have been arrested.”

This source said “To catch the fugitives, authorities have tightened residential control in the vicinity of North Hamkyung” and “The issue could become really complicated if the prisoners managed to cross the border, so they are making sure the border guards are secure.”

“Authorities are conducting residence investigations and safety agents are going directly to the homes of the escapees” said the source and added “The safety agents found 21 fugitives by probing family members of the whereabouts of the fugitives and whether they had made any contact.”

Further, on the day of escape, one prisoner visited his home in Chongjin, North Hamkyung to escape with his family but was arrested by border guards while in attempt.

Recently, investigation teams bordering North Korea and China strongly tightened their control. However, these investigation teams which in order to dig out the root of border guards assisting citizens defect has become more strict, seems to be related to the intensified search of fugitives.

Another source in North Korea supports the claim that the prisoners are on the run. This source said “Lately, an order to report any suspicious persons is advocated at the People’s Unit meetings” and “I heard a story where people escaped a prison.”

The source informed “While traveling from Haesan to Chongjin transporting wholesale goods, my travel permit was inspected at various checkpoints” and said “I asked what the problem was and the inspector said ‘it’s because some people have escaped from a prison.’”

The source said “In the past if a person was caught without a travel permit he/she would be escorted back to his/her hometown and be investigated there. However, now people are taken to the Safety Agency in Chongjin to clarify their birth origin. Undoubtedly, something big has occurred.”

The Hwasung concentration camp 16 in Kochang-li is known to be detaining 10,000 people.

Contrastingly, it was confirmed that many of the prisoners from this escape were caught in China while attempting to defect to South Korea and ultimately dragged back to the concentration camps. The focus now lies on the response of the South Korean government.

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