North Korea expands prison camps for women, human rights group says

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) — North Korea has been expanding its prison camp facilities for women as more flee the country to earn a living in China or South Korea.

Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, told Radio Free Asia analysis of satellite imagery indicates Pyongyang has been building more sites where women are detained.

Prisoners are also playing a key role as laborers in nearby copper mines, Scarlatoiu said.

One of the sites, Jeongeori prison, was built between 1980 and 1983, and between February and August 2009 North Korea built a new facility exclusively for women prisoners, according to Scarlatoiu.

North Korean defectors in South Korea are overwhelmingly women and women participate in North Korea’s unofficial economy at higher rates.

North Korean women also cross the China-North Korea border in larger numbers.

But in recent years the North Korean state has been responding with an increase in detention centers, according to HRNK, signs that Pyongyang is engaging in the “disproportionate oppression of women, who have assumed primary responsibility for the survival of their families; thus, women represent the majority of those arrested for perceived wrongdoing at the ‘jangmadang’ markets, or for ‘illegally’ crossing the border.”

Scarlatoiu also said the forcible repatriation of North Korean defectors increased in 2008, the year the Beijing Olympics were held. North Korean authorities needed to build a prison near the North Korean city of Hoeryong shortly after the Olympics, he added.

According to the report from HRNK, the Jeongori prison, also known as Prison No. 12, has increased its population of detainees. Prisoners ranged between 1,300 and 1,500 in the late ’90s, but in recent years the population has expanded to 5,000.

Former prisoner testimonies indicate the women’s section of the prison is divided into work units for lumber production, animal husbandry and cooking.

There is also a wig-making and eyelash-making unit, the report stated.

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