Report: North Korea Expanding Perimeter Around Infamous Camp 14 by 20km
Image Credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)

Report: North Korea Expanding Perimeter Around Infamous Camp 14 by 20km


North Korea has expanded the perimeter around one of its infamous prison camps by 20 km, enclosing the surrounding non-prisoner population, according to a new report by the New York-based human rights organization Amnesty International.

Based on satellite imagery of the area that Amnesty International’s Science for Human Rights program commissioned between 2006 and February 2013, the group concluded that the perimeter around prison camp No. 14 had been expanded by 20 km, enclosing the local non-prisoner population and in effect “muddling the line” between the prison camp and surrounding villages.

“North Korea constructed 20km of perimeter around the Ch'oma-Bong valley – located 70km north-northeast of Pyongyang – and its inhabitants, new controlled access points and a number of probable guard towers,” Amnesty International said in a press release.

In the report the group added that analysts reviewing the satellite imagery found that the new guard posts “are concentrated toward the populated area of the valley and the controlled access points, rather than toward the shared perimeter with political prison camp No. 14, indicating their use is more likely for confinement or monitoring of the population within the valley, rather than for security purposes related to prison camp No 14.”

The report notes that mining in the area had increased marginally in recent years, which may explain why the North Korean regime is enclosing the non-prisoner population.

The satellite imagery was originally commissioned by Amnesty International back in 2006 in response to “speculation” that the North Korean regime was building a new prison camp adjacent to Camp 14, which is believed to house around 100,000 people. Camp 14 is a “no-exit” camp meaning that all prisoners are serving life sentences.

Beyond sending individuals it suspects of various crimes to forced labor camps, the North Korean regime often sentences suspects’ relatives to the camps as well. In many cases families are sentenced to the camps for three generations, leading many individuals born in the camp to spend their entire lives in the prisons over crimes their parents or grandparents allegedly committed.

The North Korean regime denies the existence of the forced labor camps in the country, which are believed to hold 200,000 people altogether.

Based on the dates given in the report construction of the new perimeter appears to have begun shortly after Shin Dong-hyuk escaped from Prison Camp No. 14 in 2005.

After being born in the prison camp in 1982, Shin managed to escape from the camp. Shin eventually made it to South Korea after crossing the border into China. He is the only known person to be born in a forced labor camp in North Korea and escaped to tell about it.

The Diplomat cannot confirm whether Shin’s escape and the expansion of the camp’s perimeter are in any way related.

After arriving in South Korea Shin’s story received a lot of attention in the South Korean press and he later wrote a Korean-language memoir about the first twenty three years of his life inside the camp.

In December 2008 Washington Post reporter, Blaine Harden, profiled Shin in a piece for the publication.

After much prodding from Harden, Shin agreed to collaborate with Harden on an English-language memoir on his time in the camp, which ultimately was published in 2012 under the title, Escape From Camp 14. The book received tremendous attention in the U.S. and other parts of the West, and Shin frequently appeared on mainstream media outlets including being interviewed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper for the popular TV show 60 minutes.

Harden published a link to the Amnesty International report on his personal website, along with a caption reading, “Could Shin Dong-hyuk’s account of what goes on inside Camp 14 be causing jitters in Pyongyang?”


May 20, 2013 at 12:07

South Korea will not allow it's people to travel to North Korea? What about the factories they built in N. Korea and and people travelled there dailey until a few months ago when the N. korean government stopped them?

Robert Bennett
March 29, 2013 at 09:02

The US would not allow elections in Korea after the Second World War, as Kim Il Dung would have won (similar to Ho Chi Min in Vietnam). Instead , the US backed Syngman Rhee in the South. Syngman executed hundreds of thoudands of likely supporters of a unified Korea. The North attacked so as to unify all of Korea. When the US intervened to support Syngman it started a war in whuich it used germ warfare using plague infected fleas etc. adopted from the Japanese techniques against the Chinese in Manchuria. etc. As President Eisenhower said to Richard Nixon "we bombed North Korea back to the Stone Age". North Korea had to settle for a ceasefire-which is what exists today. The US is still at war with North Korea. What we have is a very frightened, proud and stuborn people who desparety need peace with the US and Japan. The Japanese should pay war reparations on a large scale. The South Korean government does not allow it's citizend to travel to the North, similar perhaps to the US citizens not being allowed by their government to travel to Cuba. Peace is not profitable for capitalism.

March 9, 2013 at 07:29

You know the best way to deal with a tyrant? just ignore them until he is disposed or he attacks you (and commit suicide, with a few million lives). For long I haven't had any interst in stuff in North Korea, knowing that nothing is gonna change. They make nukes? yes, they are already a nuke country. They enslave their people? yes, won't affect me. Did they do really nasty stuffsto the world? not quiet, except a few minor incidents. Can we (US, Japan, South Korea) risk a full scale war with North Korea just to remove that potential regime destroying us? no. If they are mad enough, they will attack us now or latter. It has not happened. So what else is available on the table? nothing, practically. Just live your life and ignore them until they blow themselves up.

March 8, 2013 at 18:29

This the problem between IL and UN the DPRK was given space during the transition to prevent over escalation or accident which would lead to an out of control conflict. That space has been abused. You have a kid and a bunch of old men living in the 50s in an isolated introspective environment, it could have been dangerous, so give them some space. This time Kim will get a dose back.

John Christopher Sunol
March 8, 2013 at 07:35

to me this is like Stalin has his gulags and Hitler had his concentrtion camps, we fought these two tirants to stop this and now nother Korea is doing just as we did not want and fought to stop

Kim's Uncle
March 8, 2013 at 06:47

China is North Korea’s all weather best friend in the entire world! What does that say about china? Apparently not much because china was the only friend to the Khmer Rouge in the entire world! Being friends to thuggish regimes is a natural order of things for the biggest thuggish regime in the world! Clearly china is not a normal country!

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