FILE PHOTO: A photograph showing a part of Hyesan, Yanggang Province. (Daily NK)

North Koreans were shocked to hear that a guidance officer at a forced labor camp in Yanggang Province recently beat up an inmate old enough to be his father.

“In mid-May, a male inmate in his 50s at a forced labor camp in Hyesan was mercilessly beaten by a guidance officer in his 30s,” a source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on June 5, speaking on condition of anonymity. “He was beaten to a pulp after protesting against the officer’s verbal abuse.”

Labor camps typically hold inmates who have committed relatively minor crimes, such as leaving their registered residence, missing work, or theft. Inmates are required to perform forced labor during their detention.

Guidance officers, who supervise and manage labor camp inmates, are notorious for verbally and physically abusing inmates. In fact, the inmate at Hyesan camp was severely beaten after standing up to a guidance officer who habitually cursed at him.

The prisoner entered the camp in February after being sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for being absent from his workplace for two months on account of hardship. After three months of forced labor, he told the guidance officer one day in mid-May that he could not work because he was not feeling well. The guidance officer responded by verbally abusing him.

“A criminal? Saying he can’t work because he’s unwell?” said the guidance officer, a man in his 30s. Letting fly with invective, he said, “You must have come here despite your age because you’re so stupid. As long as you are here, you must work, even if you collapse or die.”

“How could you say something like that to a man old enough to be your father,” the inmate protested. “I’m a human being, too. I didn’t stop being a person just because I’m here, did I? I have a son just like you. Don’t talk to me however you like.”

The guard immediately responded by punching and kicking the detainee, even hitting his head with nearby rocks.

The beating continued for dozens of minutes until other guards intervened.

“The guidance officer who beat him was a discharged soldier, and it seems he was influenced by the widespread verbal and physical abuse by guidance officers in the labor camp,” the source said. “Inmates are treated like dogs and subjected to terrible verbal abuse if they make even a single mistake, and the guidance officers sometimes vent their anger on them.”

“The inmate in his 50s who was assaulted was beaten to a pulp when he was already unwell, suffering bruises all over his body and a lacerated head, but he’s still in the camp – all he received was a bandage for his wounds,” the source said. “He gave up on getting proper treatment because you have to get money from your family to go to the hospital.”

Inmates in North Korean labor camps rarely respond to verbal or physical abuse from guards because they risk even worse punishment if they protest.

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