Amnesty reacts to North Korea's first ever statement on prison camps

Reacting to comments made by North Korea at a rare UN briefing to discuss its recent report on North Korea’s abysmal human rights situation, Amnesty said the country’s comments would be laughable if the truth weren’t so chilling.

At the briefing a North Korean official acknowledged the country runs labour camps to "reform" detainees, but dismissed criticism of its rights record as "wild rumours".

The UN released a damning report in February which found that North Korea was committing "unspeakable atrocities" against its own people on a vast scale.

Official Choe Myong Nam told the briefing - which was open to reporters and foreign diplomats - that there were "no prison camps" operating in North Korea but there were "detention centres where people are improved through their mentality and look on their wrongdoings".

Kate Allen UK Director of Amnesty International said:

“North Korea’s comments would be laughable if the truth weren’t so chilling.

“The suggestion that the hellish prison camps ‘improve’ inmates is a new type of double-speak.

“The camps condemn thousands to a life beyond nightmares. People are worked to death, starved to death, beaten to death. Some are sent there just for knowing someone who has fallen out of favour.

“The North Korean government has denied the existence of these camps for years, while Amnesty has been documenting their expansion via satellite images and recording the testimony of the traumatised few who escape to tell of the horror.

“If  North Korea has nothing to hide, they should let Amnesty, the UN and other human rights monitors in immediately so that we can confirm all is as they say.”

Amnesty’s powerful video ‘Life in the Camps’ featuring testimony from prisoners and guards from the camp is available at

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