My prison life: Kim Young Soon on North Korea's secret prison camps

Last week I had the good fortune of meeting and introducing a remarkable woman in her late sixties or early seventies. She has spent 8 years of her life imprisoned in one of the darkest, most secretive prisons in the world today.

But far from being the broken shell ravaged by years of torture and abuse that I’d imagined, I was confronted by a woman of incredible zeal, possessed with a burning desire to share her story with as many as would listen. As I watched her being interviewed, her eyes blazed whenever she made an emphatic point or two to the often bewildered reporters.

This formidable woman is Kim Young Soon, a former detainee in one of the most brutal prison camps, the infamous Camp 15, a North Korean political prison camp otherwise known as Yodok, whose story is recounted in the documentary titled ‘Yodok Stories’.

Kim was imprisoned in Yodok after the authorities realised she knew of her friend’s affair with Kim Jong Il. Her family were imprisoned with her under North Korea’s ‘guilt by association’ laws. Most of them died there.

As part of the 2nd North Korea Freedom week, we hosted a film screening of ‘Yodok Stories’ here at the Amnesty HQ, and were very lucky to have Kim Young Soon providing an, at times animated, personal insight into the film!

Amid the many remarks she made, one stood out above the rest. Responding to a question on how she hoped to improve the plight of her fellow North Koreans, she replied (I paraphrase): ‘Far from being silent, I want the world to know about what is going on in North Korea. Silence and secrecy are the very allies the leadership rely on, granting an excuse to carry on perpetuating its crimes against humanity’.

I share Kim Young Soon’s hope that by sharing her story and speaking out we can shine a light on the most secretive regime in the world and slowly – unfortunately very slowly – improve the lives of everyone living within North Korea’s borders.

You can help by sharing Kim Young Soon’s story, and the Yodok Stories trailer.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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