North Korea’s Camp 22 inmates have disappeared. The establishment is a reportedly shuttered labor camp that used to be larger than Los Angeles, housing between 30,000 and 50,000 prisoners.
The majority of those held in Camp 22 were suspected of either being disloyal to the regime or were related to people who were disloyal.
A series of bad harvests in the area created a food shortage, which likely forced the camp to close last year, reports The Huffington Post.
When it was closed, between 7,000 and 8,000 prisoners were transferred from the gulag’s compound to other prison camps. The country reportedly used trains to move them.
However, the remaining Camp 22 inmates disappeared. Satellite photos of the area obtained by Human Rights In North Korea (HRNK) show that several buildings have been razed, including guard towers and ones thought to be prisoner barracks and interrogation areas.
Because of food shortages in the area, NBC News notes that it is possible the prisoners starved to death before the camp closed. The deaths likely began in 2010 after North Korea’s currency devaluated in 2009. The low currency didn’t allow camp authorities to purchase food in markets to supplement what was grown on the site.
The HRNK, which gets its information from defectors, including prison camp survivors and former guards, is demanding more information on what happened to the Camp 22 inmates who seemed to disappear.
HRNK co-chair Roberta Cohen released a statement about the prisoners, saying that the United Nations should hold an inquiry to find out the prisoners’ fate, the whereabouts of other political prisoners in the nation and what happened to those who died in detention.
While they lived at Camp 22, prisoners would mine coal for a thermal plant that would provide electricity for the Kimchaek steel mills. The camp also had several farm areas used for growing corn, potatoes, beans, and several vegetables. Satellite images show that farming still goes on, but on a much smaller scale.
North Korea’s leaders have never acknowledged that the prison camps even exist. Despite this, up to 200,000 people are thought to be suffering inside them. They are reportedly subjected to long hours of forced labor, malnutrition, rape, beatings, and executions. It will likely remain a mystery what happened to the inmates who disappeared from Camp 22.
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