A North Korean prison escapee says the American student imprisoned by the regime faces 15 years in a labour camp similar to Auschwitz.
Kang Chol-hwan was nine years old when he was sent to the Yodok political prison camp after his grandfather was accused of treason by the Kim dynasty in 1977. He managed to escape through China in 1992, and has compared the horrors of the dictatorship’s prisons to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.
His comments, although a personal account, will make grim reading for those concerned for the American student, Otto Warmbier, in North Korea, who faces a similar sentencing of 15 years hard labour for stealing a sign.
In a live Q&A on Reddit, Chol-hwan described how prisoners are woken up at 5am and are forced to work until sunset.
We are forced to watch public executions. We are physically abused – hit and tortured. I think of it as another form of Auschwitz. These work camps are like products of Nazism, and an abusive government needs elements such as Nazi concentration camps.
Malnutrition was also rife in the camps, the Daily Mail reports, with prisoners resorting to eating worms and rats to survive. Inmates were also made to give thanks to the ‘supreme leader’ rather than God or leaders of other religious beliefs.
Mr Warmbier, a 21-year-old undergraduate at the University of Virginia, was first detained by the DPRK on January 2nd of this year.
In a confession on live television, Warmbier confessed to removing a sign with a political slogan from the Yanggakdo International Hotel – foreigners in North Korea are regularly forced to make televised confessions for relatively minor crimes.
In his confession, he claims his actions were backed by the Friendship United Methodist Church, as well as a UVA-affiliated philanthropic organization known as the Z Society, and had ‘the connivance of the United States Administration’.
Warmbier said: “The aim of this crime was to harm the work ethic and motivation of the Korean people. This was a very foolish aim.”
We hope that he doesn’t face the same circumstances that Chol-hwan did.
Watch his full confession here: