Here is an eyewitness account of a North Korean former prison guard. His name is Ahn Myong Chol, and he served at Hoeryong Concentration Camp, among other places. He and his story are described by David Hawk in online materials free to all.

Ahn, born in 1969 to a “good” (Party Member) family in Hangwon, did his compulsory military service in four consecutive prisons from 1978-1994. His last assignment was Hoeryong, the only one of the four that is still operational.

Ahn’s father was a good man in other ways. He actually was caught doing something good. He gave food to one of his neighbors without authorization. This is reactionary and subversive by NK government standards. Knowing that his father was facing trouble, and that the whole family would therefore be dragged into it, Ahn took his wife across the Tumen into China. Eventually he reached Seoul, where he began telling his story. This developed into a book, and even testimony before the U.S. Congress.

In 2002, when technology allowed us to see certain truths about Hoeryong by satellite, Ahn was there to identify what we were seeing. We now know the location and purpose of every building in the prison complex. Ahn was able to be so conversant about these things because of his position as truck driver.

Ahn confirms the shock one experiences upon the first arrival at camp. Walking skeletons. Dwarfs. Cripples in rags. It doesn’t get better with time. He was aware that as many as 2,000 people died in the camp of malnutrition every year. Most of these were children. Perhaps ten executions per year, of people who had been caught eating from the harvest food. More deaths, by beating, of prisoners who had not been meeting production quotas.

The only meat people ate was from rats, snakes, and frogs caught.

Marriage nearly totally forbidden.

One pregnant woman was executed because of her pregnancy.

I do not intend to “defame” North Korea or its government. The stories I tell come from credible eyewitnesses whose books are widely published. The idea is compassion. And much prayer. God may tell you more that you can do, but I think this is a good start.

By Papa

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