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Watch Former Political Prisoners Detail The Horrors Of North Korea's Prison Camps

A new Human Rights Watch video features rare interviews with former political prisoners who survived years of systematic abuse, torture, and starvation in the country's notorious prisoner camps. A UN report detailing the regime's atrocities also included a letter to Kim Jong-un saying he could face trial for "crimes against humanity."

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International advocacy group, Human Rights Watch, released a video, "North Korea: Tales of Camp Survivors," featuring rare first-person accounts of survivors and former guards in the regime's notorious political prison camps.

View this video on YouTube

The video released on Monday, Feb. 17, coincides with the release of a new United Nations report which found that North Korea is responsible for crimes against humanity and called for an international tribunal to investigate and hold perpetrators accountable for the atrocities committed within the regime's prison camps.

The Kwan-li-so is North Korea's prison system which holds political prisoners in remote areas of the country.

They are contained within extremely secluded settlements that have no contact with the outside world.

In the video, Phil Robertson, Asia Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch, said that the North Korean government not only denies the existence of the kwan-li-so but also denies that human rights abuses are taking place in the country.

The UN commission found: “The unspeakable atrocities that are being committed against inmates of the kwanliso political prison camps resemble the horrors of camps that totalitarian states established during the 20th century.”

There are an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 political prisoners being held in the camps right now, Joanne Hosaniak, the Deputy Director General Citizens Alliance for North Korea Human Rights, said in the HRW video.

The commission's 400-page set of reports and documents, detailed "unspeakable atrocities" committed in the country, "the gravity, scale and nature" of which "does not have any parallel in the contemporary world."

"These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation."

Another section of the report based on first-hand testimonies of victims and witnesses described how political prisoners were forced to catch snakes and mice to feed malnourished babies. Other prisoners spoke of defenseless inmates being used for martial acts practices.

Lee Younk-Kuk, who was Kim Jong-Il's personal bodyguard for 10 years, was held and tortured in a prisoner camp for criticizing the regime.

He described how a prisoner who attempted escape from the camp was caught and dragged behind a truck and then executed.

Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at

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