[imText1]Dukjang Kwan-li-so (gulag: political prison camp, the government of North Korea calls a gulag ”Kwan-li-so”) has evoked much public curiosity since Jeong Ha Cheol, the former Secretary of Public Relations of the Chosun Workers’ Party, was imprisoned there.
The whereabouts and size of Dukjang Kwan-li-so have not been known because nearly no one has been released alive from its Completely Controlled Area.
Kim Tae Jin, the co-president of Democracy Network against North Korean Gulag, had been imprisoned in a gualg before he fled to the South. He testified that Dukjang Kwan-li-so was like Kwan-li-so #15 because it was divided into the Completely Controlled Area and the Revolutionization Area. “The political prisoner is isolated from his family by being imprisoned in the Completely Controlled Area while his family is confined in the Revolutionization Area,” said Mr. Kim.
It has been known that Kwan-li-so #15 (Yodok gulag) is the only gulag where the Completely Controlled Area and Revolutionization Area coexist. However, when testimonies given by those defectors who had been imprisoned in political prison camps were taken into consideration, it seems that Dukjang gulag also contains both of them.
If a family is taken to a gulag that contains both the Completely Controlled Area and Revolutionization Area, the political prisoner cannot ever meet other family members for good. Even when s/he has an accidental chance to see other family members while working for forced labor, s/he is not allowed to speak to them.
Its whereabouts is a mystery. There might have been a merger
Kim Yong Soon, a managerial committee member of the Democracy Network against North Korean Gulag, had been confined in a political prison camp before he escaped from the North. She said, “Dukjang gulag is where Jeong Byeong Gab, the former commander of the first regiment, was imprisoned and died, and those purgees who had been key executives of the central Party or who had been military officers after fighting as anti-Japanese partisans were imprisoned.
Kim Yong Soon also said that members of Yan’an faction and Soviet Union faction such as Kim Kwang Hyeop and Huh Bong Hak had been taken to Dukjang gulag during the 60s and 70s. She added that he had heard in the early 90s from a person who had been released alive from the Revolutionization Area that the Revolutionization Area had been dismantled in the 80s.
Lee Jeong Gil (36, pseudonym for his protection) had worked for the National Security Agency before he fled the North in 2002. He testified that he had seen two political prison camps in the Bukchang area, and Dukjang gulag had once allowed exemplary prisoners to get married.
It is not known whether there are one or two political prison camps in Bukchang for the time being. However, according to Kim Yong Soon’s testimony, it seems that there had been two political prison camps in Bukchang, but they later merged into one due to Kim Jong Il’s instructions that the number of gulags must be reduced. Kim Jong Il was forced to give such instructions because the international societies raised their voices regarding the necessity of inspection of North Korean gulags.
In other words, Dukjang gulag seems to have been merged at nearly the same time as the following five Kwan-li-so were merged; Kwan-li-so #14 in Kaechon of South Pyongan Province, Kwan-li-so #15 in Yodok of South Hamkyeong Province, Kwan-li-so #16 in Hwasung of North Hamkyeong Province, Kwan-li-so #22 in Hoiryeong of North Hamkyeong Province, and Kwan-li-so #25 in Chongjin of North Hamkyeong Province.
North Korea restructured political prison camps in the early 90s. When political prison camps were merged, some prisoners were killed, and some in the Revolutionization Area were released if they were considered to be reformed. The remaining prison facilities were turned to ordinary prisons, or some other uses, which made the whereabouts of the gulag a mystery.