North Korea labor camps overcrowded, dangerous, report says

SEOUL, Sept. 16 (UPI) — North Korea‘s labor camps are overcrowded and the number of deaths in the camps is soaring, according to former detainees in the country.

The labor camps, which are used as short-term facilities for prisoners, are overflowing as more arrests are taking place under Kim Jong Un, Japanese news service Asia Press reported.

A North Korean woman who was recently released after being detained at a labor camp said the prisons are so packed “there is no place to sit down.”

The woman told Asia Press people in the camps were arrested for attempted defections, smuggling, or not showing up at their workplaces.

“Death and malnutrition among prisoners have increased due to forced labor and harsh conditions…I risked death many times due to beatings, forced labor and hunger,” the woman said, according to the report.

Asia Press founder Ishimaru Jiro said the North Koreans in labor camps have been targeted for “violating the social order,” including those who took unauthorized leaves of absence from mass mobilization movements like the “200-day battle,” smuggling goods across the China border, or using a Chinese mobile phone to make calls.

Inside the prisons, North Korean guards do not provide enough food and deaths are being reported, Jiro added.

North Korea’s treatment of defectors is at the center of a U.N. query into cases of missing persons in the country.

The U.N.’s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances stated it has requested North Korea answer questions regarding 41 cases of forced disappearances.

Pyongyang has yet to provide a response, Voice of America reported Friday.

The cases include defectors and South Korean citizens who were kidnapped to the North during the 1950-53 Korean War.

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