Warning: this post contains graphic images.
The report confirmed the world’s worst fears about the devastating starvation, malnutrition and torture that the people of North Korea have been subjected to under the leadership of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un.
Although it borders South Korea and China, North Korea is practically shut off from the world. Only information that’s been approved by the North Korean regime is shared with the rest of the world. Citizens of the country do not have access to the internet and if they talk to the Western media, they risk punishment – (and possible death) for themselves and their families.
So how did the UN get an insight to create their report? A handful of people who have escaped North Korea risked their lives to tell their stories. Here are just 5 of the (very scary) stories they had to tell.
1. Life in a forced labour camp
Jee Heon was one of those refugees who made it to China, only to be dragged back and thrown in one of the many forced-labour camps for those who rebel against the regime.
At the hearing, Jee explained that any woman who was pregnant when she arrived back in North Korea was forced to abort their pregnancy (often with rusty instruments, no anaesthetics or very late term) because of the country’s strict rules over racial purity (meaning North Koreans should only have children with North Koreans).
Jee described the one occasion where a woman gave birth in the camp, only to be beaten by the prison guard immediately after birth until she submitted to his orders to drown her newborn baby in the bucket of water. Which she eventually did.
She described the horrifying situation, saying: “and the mother, with her shaking hands she picked up the baby and she put the baby face down in the water. The baby stopped crying and we saw this water bubble coming out of the mouth of the baby.”
2. Life in an orphanage
The great famines of the 1990s were apparently worsened by state policies that diverted what limited food there was to North Korean citizens who were considered more loyal to the regime. The famines resulted in wide spread starvation and death.
Kim Hyuk was seven years old when his mother died. He was briefly placed in an orphanage but decided to leave when he witnessed 24 of the 75 children within the orphanage die of starvation. He decided becoming a street child would be better than remaining in the orphanage to starve.