An orphan who was caught trying to escape from north Korea told exactly how he was "treated prefer an animal" in one of the country's labor camps.

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SEOUL, south Korea -- one orphan that was captured trying to escape from phibìc Korea told NBC News how he to be "treated prefer an animal" in one of the country"s well known labor camps.

The head the a United nations panel top top Monday said atrocities committed by phibìc Korea versus its own human being were "strikingly similar" to those perpetrated through the Nazis during world War II and also released a 400-page report i m sorry shed new light top top the camps. American missionary Kenneth Bae is at this time imprisoned in north Korea after gift sentenced come 15 years of tough labor on dues of do the efforts to fall the state. The conditions he is being hosted in stay unclear.

The U.N. Report came as no shock for Hyuk Kim, who was a homeless 16-year-old as soon as he to be arrested by state protection in 1998 do the efforts to overcome the border right into China searching for food. That was sent to phibìc Korea"s Jungeori labor Camp after being ordered jailed for three years.

“At Jungeori, there to be no feeling of gift human, if you assumed you to be a human being being, you couldn"t live there,” said Kim, who is now aged 33. “You were prefer an animal. You perform the difficult labor you to be ordered to do, it is it. No thinking. No cost-free will. Just fear.”

Hyuk Kim to be arrested at the age of 16 once he make the efforts to overcome the border into China.Courtesy Hyuk Kim

As his 4-foot, 9-inch frame withered away, Kim ended up being obsessed with simply one thing: food.

“Because you to be so hungry, girlfriend thought about food and how to get an ext of it every the time,” Kim recalled. “Sometimes you acquired lucky and also you were able to capture a rat or 2 as a snack, i m sorry you"d skin, dried the meat out and also eat, normally raw. If friend tried to chef the rats, the guards would smell the meat or fire, catch you and beat friend mercilessly.”

In Jungeori, breakfast was served at 7 a.m. And consisted commonly of a grasp of cornmeal and also 50-90 soya beans.

Inmates would certainly toil till noon, when they were offered lunch of more soya beans and also cornmeal, before working again until 6 p.m. Or 7p.m. However, some groups would be supposed to job-related as late as 9 p.m. Every day.

Dinner was typically served at 7:30 p.m. And also the remainder of the evening would then be specialized to what qualified as the just entertainment easily accessible to prisoners: learning and also memorizing the rules and also regulations the the camp.

“If one prisoner gained one word wrong, the whole team had actually to stay up until everybody gained it all correct,” Kim said. If night study went well, detainees would walk to sleep each night at 10 p.m.

Conditions were horrific with as many as 50 human being crammed into one room, every one having actually just enough an are to lie huddled together, person-to-person inside.

One way to secure extra food was through barter. Cigarettes in Jungeori to be the most beneficial item to trade, with prisoners scrapping them with each other by surreptitiously lifting half-smoked butts belonging to the prison guards off the ground and also consolidating the staying tobacco into brand-new cigarettes.

The profession was fraught with danger though, as being captured making or cigarette smoking these contraband cigarettes would additionally lead to severe beatings native the guards.


Kim recalled the did not dare come look front to a day when he would walk totally free from the camp. To think that far ahead to be to invite death.

“If you thought around when you"d leaving the camp every day, you to be usually among the first to die,” Kim said. “Psychologically, you cannot completely adapt come camp life if her thoughts are stuck just on your release.

Jobs at the labor camp to be assigned by the prison guards based off of an opaque rubric that had your hometown, physical health, occupation external of the camp and also whatever influential connections you may have exterior the camp.

Truckers and also drivers in the real civilization were assigned to the auto mechanic team, home builders would it is in assigned to building and construction units inside the camp, if stout men from mountain regions were assigned to logging units. Farmers would be sent to till the harsh floor of adjacent fields if others choose Kim were assigned to a unit that moved packages and supplies to and also from the Jungeori railway terminal to the prison.

The lucky couple of managed to uncover their method onto kitchen duty, where they could sneak in extra bits of food throughout their shifts.

During his time in ~ Jungeori, Kim and also his fellow prisoners watched three males be executed because that attempting to escape camp and also a 4th shot because that being recorded eating stolen food. Others simply succumbed come wounds suffered from beatings by the guards.

Kim, that was eventually released after around eight months, arrived in south Korea in September 2001. In recent years, he has served as a lecturer because that a local Unification education Committee in the country’s southern district of Chungnam. Kim is one of the few defectors who will speak publicly around their suffer in the camps.


Although Kim"s stint at Jungeori was over a te ago, recent defectors who’ve left similar labor camps have actually told him that conditions have only worsened. One mrs defector who arrived in southern Korea in 2010 told Kim that the variety of soya beans rationed out each work at her camp has dropped below the paltry amount that received.

Recent images of Bae, who has actually been held by North korean authorities since November 2012 ~ being uncovered guilty that “hostile acts” against the state, also carry out hints of conditions inside the camps.

The Choson Sinbo, a north Korea-friendly newspaper, released photos reflecting Bae’s everyday routine, i m sorry starts every morning in ~ 6 a.m. And also consists the eight hours of “work” damaged up with half-hour “rest” periods. Follow to the schedule, work ends for Bae at 6 p.m., permitting him two hrs at night because that “cultural rest” prior to lights out at 10 p.m.

Previous video clip disseminated out by Choson Sinbo – a publication placed out by a north Korean inhabitants Association in Japan – shows a solitary Bae at job-related hoeing farmland and also conducting interviews native a windowed room with heating and also a pan – comforts the seem in ~ odds with the tough problems described by Bae and also North korean camp escapees.

Kenneth Bae, one American Christian missionary who has actually been detained in phibìc Korea for an ext than a year, meets with journalists in Pyongyang, north Korea, on Jan. 20.KYODO / Reuters file

“There are many species of labor and prison camps in phibìc Korea, but I’ve never heard of any type of that looked together idyllic as this one,” states Barbara Demick, one American journalist based in Beijing and also author the "Nothing come Envy: plain Lives in north Korea." “For many people, time at a North korean labor camp is prefer a death sentence because of short food rations and also extremely harsh functioning conditions.”

Demick added: “I speak to a North korean defector simply last month that came the end of a job camp and she stated her sleeping conditions were so small she can not stretch the end her legs. She was imprisoned for the relatively minor violation of crossing the border into China, not the much an ext serious dues laid versus Bae.”

Amnesty global late last year released satellite imagery the showed increased labor camps in phibìc Korea in i m sorry an escapee asserted prisoners were compelled to destruction their very own graves prior to being killed by guards.


It is likely that Bae is being hosted under special conditions as a result of his American nationality. In a video clip released critical week, Bae notes that he had been cure “fairly” by his guards and also had to be granted time come watch tv each night at the job camp, though its antenna had actually been broken for a couple of weeks.

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The totally free time has likewise given the devout Christian “more time through the Lord, v the Bible.”

Until now, American officials have actually been flummoxed in your attempts to free Bae. A reported 2nd scheduled expedition last week by Ambassador Robert King to secure Bae’s release was scuttled by phibìc Korea ~ it refuse to issue a visa. In ~ the request of Bae’s family, Reverend Jesse Jackson has also offered to travel to north Korea come secure his release.