North Korean Death Camps Shown in Unprecedented Detail by Google Earth

Illustration for article titled North Korean Death Camps Shown in Unprecedented Detail by Google Earth

We've all made jokes—probably too many—about the totalitarian reign of Kim Jong Il in North Korea, but this the actual face of his regime. These are the most detailed images we've ever seen of the concentration camps that hold over 200,000 North Korean citizens.


The stories to come out of the camps are horrifying. Inmates regularly die from torture, and are executed by firing squad and public stoning. The ones who survive that are malnourished and diseased, but still forced into slave labor seven days a week, while subsisting on a diet of "rats, snakes, frogs, insects," and even feces, according to former prisoners.

Yet North Korea continues to deny the existence of the camps. But these new satellite images are identified by the South Korean Unification Ministry as sites of these concentration camps, including the infamous Camp 22 and Yodok, which holds as many as 50,000 prisoners, and make non-existence an increasingly difficult sell. Previous satellite images have been blurry and harder to decipher, but these new images are far more detailed. And according to Amnesty International, they appear to be growing when compared to images taken 10 years ago.

There's no reason to think that near-incontrovertible evidence will do anything to deter the North Korean government from kidnapping and interring its citizens. They've shown time and again that they're willing to shout down plainly apparent facts. But the public being able to look in with such clarity and definition on the camps where hundreds of thousands of innocent people and political prisoners are being held might—just might—move the needle a bit to the side of humanity. [Daily Mail, Guardian, Washington Post]


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While one can point fingers a lot of directions, the bulk of the blame for this has to be laid at the feet of China. The Chinese government knows damn well what is going on in there, but they have propped up the Kim regime for decades because a collapse would send hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into China, something they cannot handle and that could destabilize their own country (and goal #1 of the CCP is maintaining its own existence).

Because of the Chinese backing, the rest of the world has kept things at arm's length.

There are no easy solutions here. Even if we cut off all aid, China would do whatever it took to maintain the status quo—and they can afford to do it.