North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un controls his regime’s political prison camps through a chain of command comprised of entities of the Workers’ Party of Korea, according to a new analysis by a human rights expert.
In an article for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, expert Robert Collins outlined how the Kim regime’s political prison camps are controlled. North Koreans are banished to the camps for violating the so-called Ten Principles of Monolithic Ideology, or TPMI.
“Sympathy and latitude toward the political prisoners is counter to the TPMI and punishable under the same standards that lead to the imprisonment of the camp prisoners,” Collins wrote. “It is imperative for these personnel to punish political prisoners in accordance with the intent of the TPMI. Not do to so would result in the denial of food security, adequate housing, opportunity for professional advancement and, most importantly, family survival.”
Drawing on the U.S. Treasury Department’s July decision to sanction and freeze the assets of several North Korean entities and officials for violating human rights, Collins showed that multiple sanctioned entities connected to the Workers’ Party of Korea have control over the Kim regime’s political prison camps.
The political camps house between 80,000 and 120,000 individuals, according to the State Department, and have been widely denounced for their severe human rights abuses.
Kim is highest in the prisons’ chain of political control. He is among those sanctioned in July for human rights abuses. The Treasury Department also sanctioned officials working for the Ministry of People’s Security and the Ministry of State Security, the latter of which plays a role in the political prison system.
“The Ministry of State Security engages in torture and inhumane treatment of detainees during interrogation and in detention centers. This inhumane treatment includes beatings, forced starvation, sexual assault, forced abortions, and infanticide,” the Treasury Department said in July.
“In addition, the Ministry of State Security’s Prisons Bureau is responsible for the management and control of political prisoners and their confinement facilities throughout North Korea. It operates North Korean political prison camps where serious human rights abuses occur, including those involving torture, execution, sexual assault, starvation, slave labor, and other cruel extrajudicial punishment.”
North Korea’s Organization and Guidance Department (OGD), identified by the Treasury Department as an organ of the Workers’ Party of Korea, is second in the prison chain of command.
Two individuals designated by the Treasury Department as officials in the Workers’ Party of Korea, Cho Yon-jun and Kim Kyong-ok, serve as first vice directors of the political prison system, according to Collins.
“It is the prison’s embedded KWP committee from which the prison takes its overall direction. … The actions and tasks of every leadership position within the political prison camp structure are sanctioned politically by the KWP OGD, which reports directly to the supreme leader,” Collins wrote.
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