Family commits suicide in Yodok prison camp

Yoduk concentration camp
A scene from the movie “Crossing” / Image: Screen capture from film

A family of four imprisoned at the Yodok prison camp (Kwan-li-so Camp 15) in South Hamgyong Province has committed group suicide, Daily NK has learned.

“The family committed suicide in early August after having been at the prison for around half a year,” a South Hamgyong Province-based source told Daily NK on September 3. “I heard about the incident from regime security officials, which is why it hasn’t been more widely known up until this point.”

At the prison, families are typically forced to live separately from each other. The parents of the family in question received permission to spend the night together after receiving a “commendation,” which is when the suicide took place, the source said.

North Korea’s camps for political prisoners generally separate families at the beginning of their sentences. Prisoners who receive commendations from prison camp authorities are allowed to spend a night together as a reward.

According to the source, the family had been in the camp for just six months and were model prisoners, so the camp authorities believed they wouldn’t cause any problems. The family members, however, appear to have been extremely disheartened by their lives in the camp and the parents ultimately decided to end their lives.

When the family failed to show their faces in the morning after spending the night together, camp authorities entered their house and discovered their bodies, another South Hamgyong Province-based source said.

According to the source, the father of the family strangled everyone else before using a dagger to cut his own throat.

“Camp officials think that they committed suicide because they had no hope of ever being released from the camp due to their political status,” the source added.

It appears unlikely that the outside world will ever find out the specific details of their identities and crimes. The Daily NK has reported on cases of entire families being sent to prison camps, sometimes for reasons unclear to even them.

“Camp authorities are saying that the family committed an act of treason against the state. In short, the family ignored the kindness the party bestowed on them that allowed the family to stay alive despite their criminal acts,” the source said. “A criticism session was held in the camp before the bodies were quickly dealt with.”

For the past several years, satellite photography and North Korean sources have confirmed that the number of prisoners at Yodok is falling and various facilities are being torn down. The recent suicide suggests that the camp is still being used to imprison political criminals.

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