A horrible account of what it’s like in North Korea’s prison camps was shared by Myong-Chol Ahn during his statement regarding the latest UN-mandated concern about the human rights abuses in North Korea.
Mr. Ahn was a prison camp guard for eight years. He left the country in 1994 because he could not withstand the brutality that is happening inside the camp.
He shared his experiences as a camp guard with rage and disgust. “There were three dogs, and they killed five children,” the 45-year-old said.
“They killed three of the children right away. The two other children were barely breathing and the guards buried them alive,” he said, speaking on the sidelines at a Geneva conference for human rights activists.
The next day, instead of putting down the murderous dogs, the guards pet them and fed them special food “as some kind of reward,” he added. “People in the camps are not treated as human beings… They are like flies that can be crushed.”
During his first few weeks at work, he was asked to practice taekwondo on the prisoners. He also recalls how guards were urged to shoot any prisoner who might try to escape. “We were allowed to kill them, and if we brought back their bodies, they would reward us by letting us go study at college,” he said.
By that condition, guards let prisoners escape only to kill them and bring their bodies back and label them as escapees. They did this to access college education.
As far as Ahn remembers, he hurt people, but he never killed any.
To date, there are about 24 million people living in the North, with 80,000 to 120,000 locked up as political prisoners. Ahn also said that families of many generations were locked up because of guilt-by-association rules.
In 1994, Ahn finally got fed up with what was happening, after spending time transporting prisoners and conversing with them. Many prisoners said they didn’t even know why they were locked up. He then drove his truck to the shores of the Du Man river and swam across to China, leaving his weapons behind for faster travel.
“The difference is that in North Korea we are still talking in the present tense. These horrors are still happening,” he said.
Now married, and a father of two, Ahn Myong-Chol strives his best to let everyone know of the situation in North Korea today. “It’s my life’s mission to spread awareness about what is happening in the camps,” he said.