North Korea's deadly Camp 22 penal gulag 'still operational'
Satellite images show that Pyongyang's largest labour camp has not been abandoned after all
SATELLITE images have shown that Pyongyang's largest labour prison is still serving as a penal gulag for thousands of inmates.
Last month media reports in South Korea claimed that the camp, officially known as Penal Labour Colony 22, had been abandoned and the inmates dispersed to other prisons.
But satellite images taken by the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) has found nothing to suggest it has been shut down.
Images taken on 11 October show that one building, previously identified as an interrogation centre, has been destroyed. Otherwise, the camp "remains operational", reports The Daily Telegraph.
Former guards who have escaped from North Korea have recounted numerous forms of torture at Camp 22 down the years. They have claimed that medical and weapons experiments were carried out on inmates, including children, and described how the camp has 1,000 guards armed with machine guns.
In 2004, Kwon Hyuk, a former chief of management at Camp 22, said that he saw "a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas chamber" according to The Guardian. He said: "Scientists observe the entire process from above, through the glass."
As many as 50,000 inmates are thought to be held at Camp 22, most of whom are serving life sentences for political crimes, religious beliefs or are purged senior party members.
Donald Kirk, a columnist at The Korea Times, puts the total number of people held in gulags across the country at 200,000. He says: "There is no escape except death - by starvation, disease, overwork, torture or execution - but anyway, death."
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reports that a senior North Korean military officer, Kim Chol, was executed by mortar shell for drinking alcohol during the 100-day mourning period for the late 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong-il.
Chol was reportedly forced to stand on a spot that had been targeted with a mortar on the orders of the country’s leader Kim Jong-un.