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Life in the Kaechon Indoctrination Camp (1)
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2016-01-20 14:40:43
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Life in the Kaechon Indoctrination Camp (1)


LI Sun Ok (Female, 53)


Place of Birth : 1-ban, Haebang-dong, Chongjin City, 
North Hamgyong Province, North Korea 
Nov. 1987 : Imprisoned in the Kaechon Indoctrination Camp(prison), South Pyongan Province 
Dec. 1992 : Farmer at "April 25" Tobacco Farm, Onsong Country 
Feb. l994 : Escapes ato China 
Dec. 1994 : Defects to South Korea 

'Tailless Beasts' 

I was imprisoned in the Kaechon Indoctrination Camp on November 21, 1987. My prisoner's number was 832. At first, I stayed in newcomer's room for 15 days to be oriented with the regulations inmates must abide by, as follows : First, everyone must exert all efforts to safeguard the dignity of the "Great Leader" (Kim Il Sung) and the "Dear Leader"(Kim Jong Il). Second, everyone must endeavor to expedite his or her own ideological reform through labor, and to do this everyone must complete his or her daily, monthly and quarterly assignments without any conditions or excuses, and must observe daily work hours. Third, all inmates must observe the following rules : 1) perform all camp activities as a member of a team or a sub- team, 2) abide strictly by the sanitary rules of the ward, 3) not talk to other inmates, 4) not bgo to other wards, 5) when called up by the guards, everyone must kneel down and give a clear answer without raising one's head, and 6) not laugh nor sing. 

When any one was found to be violating any of these rules, he or she would be given a severe punishment. The guards of the camp treated all inmates like beasts, calling them by the name of "tailless beasts" and beating them at random. 

In the camp I worked as a laborer in a workshop manufacturing such items as bags, belts, dog leashes and other leather goods, until February 1988, and then as an inspector at a plant manufacturing export goods and as an accountant at a clothes factory untill I was freed in December l992. 

The daily schedule in the camp was as follows. 

05:00 getting up and reporting to work sites 
05:30 - 07:00 work 
07:00 - 07:15 breadfast at work sites 
07:15 - 12:00 work 
12:00 - 12:15 lunch 
12:15 - 19:00 work 
19:00 - 19:15 supper 
19:15 - 22:00 work 
22:00 - 24:00 a review of the day 
24:00 bedtime 

Only 100 Grams of Corn for a Meal 

Each inmate is given a prisoner's uniform, a work suit and a pair of underwear upon entering the camp. The uniforms and work clothes are worn for about 10 years without being washed. Newcomersare usually given old suits worn by former inmatesand soaked with sweat and dirt, and therefore they suffer form various skin diseases. Inmates are told to change their underwear every 15 days, but when changing them they must pick up any one at random because all the washed underwear are mixed together. 

Inmates are given three meals a day. Each meal consists of a corn(maize) ball of 100 grams with cabbage soup only. Every meal is distributed at work sites in order to assure the maximum use of working hours. In fact, no one is allowed to remain idle during working hours, but those who fail to fulfill their work assignments will be given the punishment of receiving a corn ball of only 80 grams. Those who violate the standing regulations will be given a corn ball of only 50 grams, and those who are subject to a heavier punishment, such as the confinement in a solitary cell, will be supplied with a corn ball of 30 grams. Three times a year-on New Year's Day, and on the birthdays of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il the inmates are given a ball of corn mixed with rice. 

The Kaechon Camp was designed to incarcerate about 600 female prisoners , but there were about 1,800 when I was there. The wards were always crowded because in a ward of about 40 square meters, there were some 70-80 inmates.They could not even stretch their legs when they slept. If any one left her place to go to the lavatory, she would hardly find room to lie down again when she came back. 

Each ward had only one window which was only 1 meter in width and 60cm in height. Accordingly, it was too hot to sleep on summer nights. Inmates were ordered to make an hour-long night watch in twos and in turns.