Human nature, if it changes at all, changes not much faster than the geological face of the earth.

– Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Book II


Camp No. 16 (via:

Tucked away in the mountains of east-central North Korea, roughly 32 nm from the launch pad at Tae po-dong (or Musudan-ri) and 12 nm from the site of North Korea’s nuclear test site, lies another monument to the Power of the State unrestrained — a little piece of Dear Leader’s Heaven on this earth, Re-education Camp No 16.  Here – like its predecessors in Stalinist Russia, guests are invited to spend the remainder of their days in a perpetual state of slavery, of hell on earth.  The camp, measuring some 212 sq miles, is estimated to hold over 10,000 prisoners, but is not the largest, population-wise, in the gulag.  That honor, if you will, is reserved for what is reputed to be the worst of the lot, No. 22 in the far north, only 8 nm from the Chinese border.  There, far from even the most jaded of watchful eyes, the worst indignities, the greatest crimes are reportedly perpetuated by guards encouraged to view the prisoners as mere pigs.

Sing a Korean pop song?  Off you go to the re-education camps.  Falsely accused by a co-worker of being a spy?  You’ll get 9 months of “persuasion” to confess your crime via baseball bat – and then off to the camps.  Perhaps you are truly misfortunate in your selection of friends and happen to have been a friend of the first wife of Dear Leader?  Such poor selection on your part could merit not only you, but your parents and children becoming guests under Dear Leader’s father’s proclamation that evil doers must be rooted-out to the third generation.

The US has, since the Clinton Administration, either focused in multi-party talks on the security threat posed by the regime’s headlong rush into ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, or roundly refused to do anything with or about the DPRK.  At this year’s Remembrance Day, hosted by the National Holocaust Museum, President Obama noted “But we must also remember that bearing witness is not the end of our obligation, it’s just the beginning. We know that evil has yet to run its course on Earth” and went on to properly cite instances of genocide recently conducted and still ongoing – but not a word about the North Korean gulag.  Nevertheless, around the ‘net, the cause and information campaign continues.  As a base reference there is David Hawk’s (U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea)  “The Hidden Gulag” (links directly to full document in PDF form – it’s free) to begin with.  Additionally, there is One Free Korea ( which is rich and deep in background and current information.  And for a quick overview, there is this interactive site via The Washington Post.  Read, remember — write and advocate.  Follow the Google Earth links in the above sources – unlike decades ago when the free had little access to primary source material to view and assess for themselves, there is a wealth of information today from which to view and reflect.

“I didn’t know” is no longer an excuse…

In the meantime, the camps continue in their own hellish circle of life, with about 20-25% of the system’s estimated 200,000+ detainees dying over the course of a year.  And always, there are more coming in the gates:

"All Hope Abandon, Ye Who Enter Here"

"All Hope Abandon, Ye Who Enter Here"

That would be ” 너희 모든 희망을 포기에 들어가는 사람은 여기에 ” in Korean…


  1. It is unfortunate that we are so concerned with the nuclear weapons (that will probably never be used, even by North Korea) that we (by necessity?) overlook the other atrocities.

    This is the kind of stuff that makes the US suspect when it comes to our choices in war. We free some people (Iraq and Afghanistan) while others remain in hostile, backwards countries. It’s hard to read sometimes.

    But like you said, “I didn’t know” is no longer acceptable.

  2. Serena Wood

    “I didn’t know” has never been an acceptable answer to any of life’s tough questions. Knowledge is everyone’s responsiblity and we as human beings have a responsiblity to know what is happening around the world. When will enough be enough? We should not stand by and tolerate this type of action by anyone against another human being.

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