Chongori concentration camp
Tucked away in a secluded valley in rural North Korea lies one of the country’s infamous labor camps, formally known as Kyo-hwa-so No. 12, but more commonly called Chongori concentration camp. This prison compound forces its inmates to endure back-breaking work, starvation rations, disease and rampant abuse, all hidden from outside eyes under threats of execution for speaking about the conditions.
Chongori serves the Kim regime both as punishment for alleged wrongdoers and as a source of productivity. The following guide looks at life inside its walls and fences.
Location of Chongori Camp
Chongori sits about halfway between the cities of Hoeryong and Chongjin in North Hamgyong province, near the village that shares its name. Located at the end of a small valley branching off from the main one, its exact coordinates have been identified through satellite imagery analyzed by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.
Physical Description and Layout
Walls and fencing
The camp occupies a large, rectangular compound approximately 350 meters long by 150 meters wide. The main section stands surrounded by a concrete or brick wall rising 8 meters high. Guard posts sit at two corners and a pair of gates control access.
Size and area
With 13 guard towers spaced along the exterior, the inner camp area takes up over 50,000 square meters. Various factory and prison buildings as well as open yards fill the space inside.
An electrified barbed wire fence and a second wall surround branches extending outside the main compound. These offshoots contain lumber and mining operations worked by prisoners.
Prisoners in Chongori
Number and type of prisoners
As of 2005, Chongori held an estimated 2,000 inmates. Rather than high-level political prisoners, most were common criminals convicted of theft and other property offenses.
Treatment of prisoners
They live crowded together in unsanitary conditions with inadequate food or healthcare. Prison officials arbitrarily abuse the prisoners at will, subjecting them to beatings, torture and execution.
Purpose and Function
North Korea utilizes Chongori to imprison those who break the law. Harsh treatment and back-breaking labor serve to punish inmates.
The camp also provides workers for various industries. Prisoners toil unlimited hours in dangerous copper mines, forest logging, furniture manufacturing and agriculture.
Human Rights Abuses
If one word could encapsulate Chongori camp, it would be brutality.
Up to 70 prisoners cram together in tiny rooms suited for just 20 people without proper bedding. Sanitation is nonexistent and disease runs rampant.
Food and malnutrition
Meager rations of 140 grams of rice per prisoner lead to severe malnutrition or starvation.
Abuse and torture
Guards arbitrarily beat, torture and kill inmates at the slightest provocation or none at all. Solitary confinement cells provide additional punishment.
Harsh rules and failed escape attempts result in routine public executions.
In essence, the North Korean regime sentences criminals and political detainees to slow death sentences in Chongori concentration camp. Whether through executions, accidents, disease or starvation, few survive their full prison terms under such deplorable conditions. Chongori offers a sobering reminder of man’s capacity for inhumanity against fellow man when unchecked by oversight or conscience.
Where is Chongori concentration camp located?
Chongori lies tucked away in a valley between the cities of Hoeryong and Chongjin in North Korea’s North Hamgyong province.
What kind of prisoners are held at Chongori?
Mostly common criminals convicted of non-political offenses as well as repatriated defectors.
What are living conditions like at the camp?
Prisoners are crowded together in unsanitary, insect-infested rooms with no heating or bedding. Disease is rampant.
How many people died at Chongori camp?
Estimates range from 30-40 deaths per month from malnutrition, torture, accidents and executions.
What happens to the bodies of those who die at the camp?
Reports indicate corpses are burned on a mountainside outside the camp.