It has come to light that political camp prisoners in North Korea
were mobilized for the tunnel excavation and other construction of a nuclear
test site in Punggye-ri, Kilju County, North Hamgyong Province, where
Pyongyang recently carried out its fourth nuclear test.
“My understanding is that the state had mobilized
prisoners from kwanliso [political prison camp] 16 to the Punggye-ri site
for digging purposes,” a source from North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Tuesday.
“Before they carry out the test, everything needs to be done secretly, which is
why they mobilized political prisoners, who are easy to control rather than
members of the general public.”
Daily NK crosschecked this information with
two additional sources in North Hamgyong Province.
He continued, “The state is further abusing those already languishing in dire conditions, subjected to forced labor among a host of other unspeakable human rights violations; on top of all this they’ve been forced to do the debris clean-up following the test without any protective gear, and are like to have been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation.”
North Korea also mobilized political
prisoners for construction work during the past three nuclear tests at the
Punggye-ri site. Camp 16’s close proximity to the test site, roughly 2.5 km
away, and its isolated position amid rugged terrain makes it an ideal location
to work quickly while keeping a lid on the operations.
“Camp 16 prisoners were mobilized from the
very beginning when the test site was created,” according to the source. Much of
the work the prisoners carry out for the state involved digging for coal and gold, so “boring shafts [at the site] wasn’t much of a
leap for the authorities.”
“These prisoners are forced to endure relentless, excruciatingly arduous labor only to eventually die from exposure to
radiation, their bodies dumped in a restricted area as part of nuclear waste
disposal,” he said, lamenting the North’s egregious use of political
prisoners as non-human “production tools and nothing more.”
“The state feels no sense of guilt as it
herds out these prisoners, labeled ‘anti-republic forces,’ to force them to do fulfill is dangerous pursuits,” said the source. “They’re taught that it’s okay to just kill them, and the guards on watch treat them accordingly; they don’t care in the least if and when these helpless souls become paralyzed or worse due to the radiation
exposure [and/or overall deplorable conditions].
In December 2015, concerns that Camp 16
prisoners may be working at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site were first raised
by The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea [HRNK], which works to
document and expose rights violations in the North, based on analysis of
satellite photos of the area.