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Most N. Korean defectors repatriated last year are still in re-education camps

Most of the North Korean defectors repatriated from China last October remain in re-education camps six months later. However, some have died due to severe human rights violations and malnutrition they suffered in detention.

According to several Daily NK sources in North Korea on Monday, about 200 North Korean defectors who were forcibly repatriated after spending time in Chinese prisons in Liaoning and Jilin provinces were placed in Ministry of State Security detention centers in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, and Onsong, North Hamgyong Province, where they underwent three-month investigations into the circumstances of their defection and their activities and crimes in China.

Local agents of the Ministry of State Security conducted high-intensity interrogations of the defectors, comparing the returnees’ testimony with materials obtained from the Chinese police. During interrogation, agents subjected detainees to serious human rights abuses, including assault, torture, forced labor, sexual harassment, and rape.

In January, a woman detained at the Ministry of State Security Detention Center in Sinuiju took her own life.

The woman, a native of Anju, South Pyongan Province, spent more time in the Sinuiju prison than other detainees because of delays in her transfer to police custody in her hometown. Unable to endure the continued torture, beatings and sexual assault at the prison, she eventually ended her life.

In December, a woman detained at the Ministry of State Security Detention Center in Onsong attempted to defect to China again by crossing the Tumen River. However, guards discovered her and beat her indiscriminately.

They also forced her to strip naked and sit on her knees in the courtyard of the prison in the middle of winter, when the temperature was 20 degrees below zero. She froze to death within five hours.

The woman’s body was cremated in a vacant lot on a hillside behind the facility, and her family was notified of her death.

Three detainees in Sinuiju and two in Onsong also died of malnutrition.

Some of the defectors languish in political prison camps

In all, seven of the approximately 200 repatriated defectors died in the custody of the Ministry of State Security.

Most defectors were taken into police custody in their places of residence before defecting, where they underwent preliminary investigations and trials before being sent to re-education camps. As of early April, fewer than 10 defectors remained in Ministry of State Security detention centers, the source said.

Police are required to come to their pre-defection residences to pick them up, but police have so far refused to take custody of the remaining defectors, citing unclear residency records.

Meanwhile, some of the defectors forcibly repatriated last year have been sent to notorious political prison camps from which few ever emerge alive.

Daily NK reported last October that about 200 North Korean defectors who had been imprisoned in China’s Liaoning and Jilin provinces were repatriated through the Chinese cities of Dandong and Tumen and detained in the Ministry of State Security’s detention centers in North Korea’s border region.

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

Please send any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

Read in Korean

April 17, 2024 at 12:00PM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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