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North Korean Defector Unveils Details of Prison Camp

The Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea — A former North Korean political prisoner unveiled a list Tuesday of fellow former inmates believed still confined by the communist regime, calling for more attention to alleged human rights abuses in the North.

Kim Chol-soo, who survived the prison camp at Yodok, about 110 kilometers northwest of Pyongyang, said he witnessed the deaths of many inmates due to hard labor and lack of food, and also saw a former defector beaten to death for contacting Christian representatives in China.

“Most people died of malnutrition and its complications,” Kim told a news conference, using a pseudonym to protect from possible repercussions against relatives still in the North, also wearing a dark hat and hospital mask to hide his face. He said prisoners received just received 600 grams of food a day – much less than daily requirements.

The list was released by Kim in conjunction with the activist group Democracy Network against North Korea Gulag. The group’s members include prominent defector Kang Chol Hwan, author of a memoir about his decade of detention at the Yodok camp, who met this year with U.S. President George W. Bush.

The list of inmates includes 34 North Koreans who attempted to defect and 82 others, among them a diplomat, senior bureaucrats and security officials. The identiies of the prisoners weren’t independently confirmed, but Kim said he remembered personal details of the inmates on the list because he was in charge of supervising his fellow prisoners at the camp.

Kim noted some inmates didn’t feel sad upon the death of fellow prisoners, because they could get more food rations if they buried the deceased.

“I once buried a man and it was good as I ate fully that day,” Kim said.

The North claims it doesn’t abuse human rights despite widespread accusations of torture, public executions and other atrocities. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people are believed to be held in prison camps there for political reasons, the U.S. State Department said in a report earlier this year.