◆Fragility due to malnutrition

"Most of the ex-prisoners are malnourished. On the party’s (Kim Jong-un’s) orders, former coworkers and neighbors of ex-prisoners are being told to give rice and corn. The police want to provide ex-prisoners with jobs but they are too weak and malnourished to go back to work and, for the moment, need time to recuperate.”

The United Nations and several Korean research institutes are also well aware that North Korea's detention facilities are severely inadequate. Malnutition is common as inmates are given insufficient rations and infectious diseases often break out due to the cramped living conditions in shared, narrow cells.

According to a woman who was released two years ago from the 12th Correctional Facility (aka Chongori Concentration Camp) in North Hamgyong province:

"People died from hunger and illness every day. The bodies were carried by prisoners in carts to be buried in the mountain. The cells were so full that you couldn't turn around. Tuberculosis was rampant."

◆Surveillance to prevent released prisoners from fleeing the country

Some prisoners, who are divorced or whose families have fled the country, are released but have nowhere to go. In these cases, they are instructed by the police to live with colleagues from their previous job or with neighbors. Of course, there are many people who do not appreciate it.

In addition to this, the police have to deal with the sticky issue of monitoring released prisoners who may attempt to flee the country. After their release from correctional centers, many ex-prisoners attempt to escape through China, with some being caught and forcibly repatriated. After getting a taste of life in China, however, the ex-prisoners no longer tolerate life in North Korea and will try to escape again.

According to our reporting partner, "In Hoeryong City, the police are looking for jobs and homes for ex-prisoners in order to discourage defecting. Although the police are struggling to care for the lives of ex-prisoners, they are acting on orders from the central government and, therefore, are making an excruciating effort.”

* ASIAPRESS provides its partners in North Korea with Chinese mobile phones to maintain contact.

Editor’s notes on North Korean reporters
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