A Terrifying Look Inside the Nightmarish World Of North Korea’s Prison Camps

Growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee believed her life — witnessing public executions, studying the history of Kim Il-Sung with vigor — was totally normal.Lee had no idea that people were suffering, until one day when she walked past a train station.

From TED:

I saw something terrible that I can’t erase from my memory. A lifeless woman was lying on the ground, while an emaciated child in her arms just stared helplessly at his mother’s face. But nobody helped them, because they were so focused on taking care of themselves and their families.

At the age of 14, she was able to escape and became a refugee in China. But her life there was not easy. She had no family, and at one point, she was picked up for a harsh interrogation by Chinese police — and if it was found she was North Korean, she would’ve been sent back.

She gave a TED Talk about her incredible experience, which was published online March 20.

You can watch the video below:

Rumors of North Korea’s allegedly Holocaust-style concentration camps have long been the source of concern and outrage for some in the West.

Indeed, between firsthand accounts from supposed escapees and disturbing satellite photos that seem to prove the existence of labor camps, it appears North Korea has a terrifying amount of control over its people. And now, a collection of drawings that has seen a recent surge in Internet traffic is drawing attention to the issue once again.

Alleged Firsthand Accounts of North Koreas Prison Camps

As reports of torture and unspeakable inhumanities continue to leak out of the Hermit Kingdom, a portrait of murder and suppression has slowly emerged — one that has the United Nations Human Rights Council considering an inquiry into possible crimes against humanity.

But although an “inquiry” sounds like a good first step, it may not be enough. If reports from those who say they managed to escape North Korea’s prison system prove accurate, perhaps something stronger than an “inquiry” will be required from the international community.

Alleged Firsthand Accounts of North Koreas Prison Camps

And speaking of supposed first-hand accounts, CBS News’ “60 Minutes” in December sat down with Shin Dong-hyuk, an escapee who claims he was born, raised, tortured, and starved in Camp 14, the most notorious of North Korea’s “political prisons.”

Alleged Firsthand Accounts of North Koreas Prison Camps

His story is terrifying:

In case you don’t have time to watch Dong-hyuk recount his life as a prisoner, here are some illustrations from another ​alleged escapee that seem to corroborate his claims (note: the source of these drawings has not yet been confirmed):

Alleged Firsthand Accounts of North Koreas Prison Camps

Alleged Firsthand Accounts of North Koreas Prison Camps

Alleged Firsthand Accounts of North Koreas Prison Camps

Alleged Firsthand Accounts of North Koreas Prison Camps

Alleged Firsthand Accounts of North Koreas Prison Camps

Alleged Firsthand Accounts of North Koreas Prison Camps

Alleged Firsthand Accounts of North Koreas Prison Camps

Alleged Firsthand Accounts of North Koreas Prison Camps

Meanwhile, Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s new ruler, lives a life of splendor, apparently unmoved by the alleged campaign of brutality and “thought correction” waged against his people.

Alleged Firsthand Accounts of North Koreas Prison Camps

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