North Korea recently created a new camp for violators of COVID-19 quarantine rules in Sungho-ri, North Hwanghae Province, Daily NK has learned. 

Previously, Daily NK reported that North Korean authorities are sending quarantine violators to political prison camps, charging them with violating Workers’ Party policy and treating them as “special criminals” guilty of political crimes.

In a phone conversation with Daily NK on Wednesday, a source in North Korea said with the number of quarantine violators “greatly increasing,” a new political prison camp was opened in Hwachon to accommodate them. According to the source, the new camp “isn’t big, and it is managed by the Ministry of Social Security.”

The Ministry of Social Security currently manages Camp 17 in Kaechon and Camp 18 in Pukchang, both of which are in South Pyongan Province.

The facility may be similar in size to those two camps or slightly smaller.

“[The authorities] opened the facility in one of the coal mines where there used to be a work site for the Hwachon Political Prison Camp,” said the source. “They created the new camp by walling off the mine and using the existing buildings.”

Google Earth image of the general location of the new camp. / Image: Google Earth

Camp 26, which was located in the Sungho district of Hwachon-dong, North Hwanghae Province, was closed down in 1991 after international human rights organizations reported human rights abuse at the facility. After the closure, the facility became Sungho Correctional Labor Facility, and in 2012 it became the Sungho Disciplinary Labor Center, shrinking in size.

According to the source, the new political prison camp was created using one of the facilities of the former Hwachon Political Prison Camp that was not being used by the Sungho Correctional Labor Facility.

However, it is unclear whether the new facility is a temporary one to deal with the skyrocketing number of coronavirus-related prisoners, or one meant for continued use.

Nonetheless, serious human rights abuses are reportedly taking place in the camp, according to the source. 

“Having opened a new prison, the authorities make an example of newly arrived prisoners by making them run in teams of seven after finishing work in the mine,” said the source. “The excuse is to make them reflect on their crimes before the Fatherland.

“If you pass out while running, they make you run more – 10 times the amount of time you were on the ground,” he continued, adding, “In early December, six of 53 new prisoners died a day after entering the camp [from cruel treatment].”

The source also told Daily NK that the authorities are not properly enforcing COVID-19 quarantine protocols in the camp. He noted that people are being sent to the camp for violating quarantine rules, but within the facility, “things are a mess.”

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Mun Dong Hui is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to