North Korea Prison Camps Sketches Released By UN, Offer Horrifying Insight Into Torture Of Regime

The experiences of a North Korean defector named Kim Kwang-il, who spent two and a half years in prison camps under Kim Jong-un's totalitarian regime, have been brought to life in disturbing sketches of torture and imprisonment in North Korea. Kim was imprisoned after illegally crossing the border into China to sell pine nuts, and managed to escape to South Korea five years ago. Later, Kim described his experience in vivid detail to professional artists, who produced several sketches. The horrific images have been included in a United Nations report released this week.

Also included in the scathing UN report are testimonies from more than 300 North Koreans, 80 of whom gave their evidence at public hearings held in Seoul, Tokyo, London, and Washington D.C. The report details the hardships and brutalities faced by all citizens of North Korea, and likens the regime to Nazi Germany. It also graphically describes the fate of those arrested for political crimes.

From the report, which was publicly released Monday by the UN's Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights:

In the political prison camps of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the inmate population has been gradually eliminated through deliberate starvation, forced labour, executions, torture, rape and the denial of reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide. The commission estimates that hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have perished in these camps over the past five decades. The unspeakable atrocities that are being committed against inmates of the kwanliso political prison camps resemble the horrors of camps that totalitarian States established during the twentieth century.

In his testimony, former prisoner Kim described some of the torture methods depicted in the horrific sketches.

There is this torture that happens before you come to the prison camp. At the detention center, we are on our knees and there is a glass and we are supposed to be in the same position until the glass is filled. We are supposed to think there’s an imaginary motorcycle and we are supposed to be in this position as if we are riding the motorcycle. And for this, we pose as if we are airplanes ourselves. We are flying. And if we stand like this there’s no way that you can hold that position for a long time. You are bound to fall forward. Everybody in the detention center goes through this kind of this torture.

Kim also mentioned "pigeon torture," depicted in the below image. "Pigeon torture" is an form of torture imposed on North Korea's prisoners, according to the UN report: Prisoners are bound with their arms behind their backs, and tied so that they are neither able to stand nor sit.

Former prisoner Jeong Kwang-il, who was imprisoned for 10 months on suspicion of being a South Korean spy, described hanging in this position for up to four days at a time. Eventually, he said, the torture drove him to a false confession.

"I decided it would be better to die so that’s why I confessed," he said during his testimony. "It was so painful."

The testimonies of several former prisoners in the report describe such crippling malnutrition that inmates were were forced to hunt rats, snakes and other vermin to survive.

China, North Korea's neighbor and ally, has dismissed the 372-page UN report as "unreasonable criticism." China maintains a policy of turning back all North Koreans who cross the border into Chinese territory, labeling them illegal immigrants rather than refugees.

The UN panel who compiled the report recommended that the Security Council refer North Korea, specifically Kim Jong-un and his political leaders, to the International Criminal Court. In a press briefing Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying refused to comment on whether China would veto any further action on the report.

Images: Kim Kwang-il/UN Human Rights Report