What is the North Korean Prison System like?


You’re looking at the Ryugyong Hotel in
Pyongyang. It’s North Korea’s tallest building, standing
105 stories. Construction began on the hotel in 1987, and
had it been completed according to schedule, it would have opened in 1989. It’s been nicknamed “Hotel Doom” and
I think you can see why. But the original idea was pretty cool, I guess. It would have been the world’s tallest hotel
and included 3,000 rooms for guests, for restaurants, for rotating restaurants, for rotating residences…bells
and whistles. But at this point you might be wondering why
I keep using these theoretical phrases, it ‘would have been’, it ‘could have been’. There were some delays. Construction began in 1987, but by 1989 only
the frame was done. After the Soviet Union collapsed, foreign
investment dried up for North Korea, and construction stopped in 1992. In 2008, they tried again, and in three years
the facade was done. They wanted to open the main hotel in 2013,
but that was called off. They reduced the number of guest rooms from
3,000 to 150. Still, nothing. To this day the Ryugyong Hotel remains unfinished-
perhaps based on a nice idea, but ultimately a 105 story, mysterious, authoritarian-looking,
empty construction. Like the rest of North Korea, a source of
endless open questions and peculiarities for people you and me. 6 kilometers, or 3.7 miles away lies an actual
operating hotel, the Yanggakdo International. This one actually has guests, rooms, even
a nameless North Korean Draft Beer you can order. A night here runs about $350 US Dollars. And it was in this hotel that this grainy
footage was purportedly taken. A shadowy figure approaches, takes something
off the wall, and sets it down. If you were to get in the Yanggakdo Hotel
elevator you have access to 47 floors. Well- 46- you can see in this picture the
count goes 1,2,3,4,6- the fifth floor being staff-only and despite having a couple videos
snuck out showing dark hallways with propaganda posters, we don’t know the purpose of any
of it. Supposedly, that’s what is being taken from
the wall is this video: a North Korean propaganda poster from the fifth floor of the Yanggakdo
Hotel. The authorities claim that the shadowy figure
is Otto Warmbier, a visiting American Student from Ohio. He was there with the help of Young Pioneer
Tours, a chinese company which organizes travel to places ‘your mother would rather you
stayed away from’. Though we’re not sure ‘how’, or ‘why’,
or even ‘if’ Warmbier did what they accused him of doing, the story goes like this: during
his winter visit to North Korea in late 2015, Otto Warmbier stayed in the Yanggakdo Hotel
in Pyongyang. While staying there, he made his way to the
staff-only 5th floor, took down a propaganda poster which read, “Let’s arm ourselves
strongly with Kim Jong-il’s patriotism”. He was arrested on January 2nd, 2016 at the
Pyongyang Airport as he tried to leave the country. The evidence of this crime: the grainy, shadowy
video. And something more sinister to go along with
it. I’m going to show you footage from Warmbier’s
press conference 2 months after his arrest in North Korea in which he addresses accusations
that he’s ‘Committed Hostile Acts Against the State’. Now we can doubt the legitimacy of this statement
on a number of grounds. The first being that many foreign detainees
before Warmbier have recounted their statements once released from North Korea. Second, it’s apparent to me that the statement
was written by a non-native speaker of English and given to Warmbier to memorize. I say that because there’s no contractions
in the entire statement, ‘wouldn’t’ becomes ‘would not’,‘can’t’ is always
‘cannot’, and the phrasing and vocabulary are just weird. Take a listen. Add on to the odd phrasing the ludicrous circumstances
Otto describes as his motivations. Namely, that the mother of of a friend of
his from Ohio wanted him to ‘damage the spirit of Korean workers’ by stealing a
sign with a slogan on it and bringing it back to Ohio so they could hang it up in the Methodist
church as an anti-communist trophy. It was a leap year and Warmbier’s trial
was February 29th, 2016 before North Korea’s Supreme Court.That is the topic I want to
go a little bit deeper with: North Korea’s peculiar Judicial System. It was the DPRK’s Supreme Court which tried
Warmbier, and that’s because it is the court of first instance in situations with criminal
acts against the nation, particularly when foreigners are involved. And their decisions are final. There is no appeal process as the Supreme
Court, at certain times called the Central Court, is the highest court of appeals. Below it are 12 provincial courts, usually
paneled by three judges, which have initial jurisdiction for grievous crimes, and which
otherwise serve as the final court of appeal for the 100 People’s Courts which come below. They’re called People’s Court because
they usually are presided over by a single judge with two civilian assessors to oversee
the decisionmaking. They’re organized at the County level and
have jurisdiction over everyday civil disputes and criminal justice (NYU Law). The North Korean state was founded on Marxist-Leninist
ideology with heavy influence from Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China. And as such, a Marxist might see a western
justice system as a repression from the bourgeoisie upon the working proletariat. The North Korean solution to this was to use
law as a hammer to nail state policy into society (Goedde, 2008). The People’s assessors, laymen oversight
in a court of law, is a staple of Communist Justice Systems. Along the same line, judges are able not only
to give punishment to the convicted, but to subject them to ‘reeducation’ programs
highlighting the value of the worker’s party and the dictatorship of the proletariat (Goedde,
2008). Overshadowing these outside influences is
North Korea’s first Supreme Leader Kim Il-Sung’s personal ideology called ‘Juche’. Loosely translated as ‘self-reliance’,
‘Juche’ mixes Nationalism into Communist ideology in order to focus on three things:
National independence, economic self-sustenance, and national defense. Shortly put, this is how the regime aimed
to justify their cult of personality that’s lasted into the present era: follow me so
we can achieve communism in our own Korean way. Juche was first incorporated into the North
Korean Constitution in 1972. In her work, Law “Of Our Own Style”, Dr.
Patricia Goedde describes 5 consequences Juche had for the North Korean Judicial System
“First, the law reflects the wishes and interests of the working people (the dominant
class). Second, the law is a State instrument. Third, citizens and all organizations have
the duty to obey the law (as opposed to having legal rights against the State). Fourth, socialist law shall be perfected (eschewing
bourgeois law), and, lastly, socialist law-abiding life shall be promoted (making the observance
of law a moral obligation).” In this system, national sovereignty is paramount
and the laws are a tool to that effect. Both laws and rights emanate directly from
the state, and by not leading a ‘socialist law-abiding life’, you forfeit your rights. Because the laws exist to protect the state
and not the rights of citizens, the Judiciary is not independent. The Supreme Court of North Korea doesn’t
exercise judicial review over the new laws, it doesn’t provide precedents for constitutionality
of executive actions- rather than acting as a check, it merely serves as an additional
rubber stamp for the regime. The entire court system is accountable to
the Supreme People’s Assembly, the legislature of North Korea. When the Supreme People’s Assembly is in
recess (most of the time), the courts are accountable to the much smaller Presidium
of the Supreme People’s Assembly. Now stay with me, all candidates to the Supreme
People’s Assemblies are pre approved by the Korean Worker’s Party, which is controlled
by the Chairman of the party- who is, you guessed it, Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of
the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Supreme Leader controls the Worker’s Party,
controls the Assembly, controls the courts. Everything from the smallest theft to an Internationally
watched show trial of a foreigner is under direct supervision. This likely explains the speculation that
Otto Warmbier’s arrest was a response to international sanctions against North Korea. By arresting an American citizen, they gained
just the smallest bit of leverage in a geopolitical game stacked heavily against them. Hence, the showmanship and the scripted apology: Now under the auspices of a Supreme Court
Justice and by extension, the entire North Korean power structure, the only thing left
for Otto Warmbier was sentencing. Even with the United States Administration
demanding, “…the North Korean government to pardon [Warmbier] and grant him special
amnesty and immediate release,”, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. But ‘where?’. I’m going to use some subjective terminology
with you in the rest of the video, but I think it’s justified justified: North Korean prison
camps are horrible places full of starvation, inhumane conditions, torture, public executions,
sexual assault, and forced abortions. According to eye-witness testimony from defectors
and satellite imagery, it is estimated that there are between 150,000 and 200,000 political
prisoners in North Korea spread across 6 political prison camps, though this information is always
in flux due to the secrecy of the regime. Another series of 15-20 reeducation camps
are run by by the Ministry of People’s Security. A report by the National Commission of Human
Rights of Korea states that, “[Political Prison Camps] can be generalized into two
types. The first is the ‘maximum security camp’
or ‘total control zone,’ in which prisoners are detained for life. The second category, the ‘high-security
camp,’ or ‘revolutionary zone,’ consists of detention areas from which prisoners are
released after having served a set prison term.” In addition, generational imprisonment, though
less common today than in the past, is still practiced:“The government practices collective
punishment, sending to forced labor camps not only the offender but also their parents,
spouse, children, and even grandchildren.” (2012 Human Rights Report). Amnesty International became aware of a case
in which a child was contained for 243 days inside what they called, “a tiny ‘torture
cell”’ where it is impossible to stand or lie down.” Another common torture is so-called, ‘Pigeon
torture’ in which a detainee is suspended with their arms behind their center and are
then hit repeatedly. Every escapee with whom Amnesty International
spoke “witnessed at least one public execution”. In 2002, the New York Times reported interviews
with 35 escapees, “31 said they had witnessed babies killed by abandonment or being smothered
with plastic sheets. Two defectors later described burying dead
babies, and two said they were mothers who saw their newborns put to death,” A 2014 UN Human Rights Council report stated,
“hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have perished in these camps over the past
five decades. The unspeakable atrocities that are being
committed against inmates of the kwanliso political prison camps resemble the horrors
of camps that totalitarian States established during the twentieth century.” Add to all this the weak North Korean Judiciary
we discussed earlier. According to the US State Department Human
Rights Report, “Members of the security forces arrested and reportedly transported
citizens suspected of committing political crimes to prison camps without trial. The UN Human Rights Report backs this up:
“Persons who are found to have engaged in major political crimes are “disappeared”,
without trial or judicial order, to political prison camps,” In addition, forced confessions are the norm. Preliminary investigations are often full
of torture; false statements of guilt are coerced to stop the violence. And the kind of crimes for which you can thrown
into a political prison camp are very broad. As The Committee for Human Rights in Korea
put it, “…presumed political, ideological, and sociological deviants deported to and
imprisoned in the labor camps include persons suspected of wrong-doing… being on the “wrong”
or losing side of a bureaucratic, factional, or political dispute within the Korean Workers’
Party…wrong-thinking includes expressing or supporting ideas at variance with the official
ideology…wrong-association is being part of a family…whose patriarch was part of
a purged faction of the Korean Worker’s Party….wrong-class,” having anything to
do with private property or land-owning. As you might imagine, a system like this also
leads to the imprisonment of many ‘unwanteds’ from society. Consider then, know what we know about the
conditions of the camps from a variety of sources- consider being sent there guilty
of no real crime. What became of Otto Warmbier? As of the making of this video it remains
unclear. He does have an advantage over native North
Korean prisoners. There’s no incentive for the government
to keep its native prisoners alive, and it’s estimated 40% of inmates die from malnutrition
(Amnesty International). But as an American detainee, he’s a more
valuable bargaining chip for the North Korean government if he’s kept in relatively good
health. This is evidenced by other American detainees
released early after being given heavy and long labor sentences; most after around 150
days. There could be a similar case for Otto Warmbier. But there’s no guarantee. A south Korean-American Kenneth Bae was held
735 days and was sent to a labor camp during that time. Robert Park, a christian minister was arrested
in 2010 and was tortured in 3 different labor camps before being released 43 days later. And if you’re keeping track, Otto Warmbier
was arrested January 2nd, 2016, which means he’s already way beyond the average imprisonment
for American detainees. It’s absolutely possible he’s been sent
to a labor camp, though if Kenneth Bae is any precedent, he’s alone, guarded by a
team and escorted daily for work, as Bae was briefly allowed to explain to CNN
in an interview he gave during his time in guard, and there’s one doctor,”
We can’t know if Warmbier is receiving similar treatment. Since his trial, Otto’s family has received
only one letter from him. “On April 23 Ri Su Yong, North Korea’s foreign
minister, defended jailing Mr Warmbier but suggested that, as with past detainees, he
may not serve his full sentence.” (The Telegraph). And let me pause just for a second to clear
something up with you. I use Warmbier as a way of bringing you into
this story, but don’t think that this is an attempt to micro focus on American victims. All of the thousands of Koreans- real people-
living through excruciating conditions right now in the North Korean detention camps deserve
a fair justice system. While western leaders stress over Pyongyang’s
nuclear program, while South Korea low balls the cost of reunification, while China embarrasses
itself by handing political refugees back to the North Korean authority knowing full
well they’ll end up in these detention centers- while all that’s going on, human crisis
occurs everyday behind the barbed wire of North Korea’s death camps every single day,
and we shouldn’t forget it. I think, however, it’s important to just
take a step back from the geopolitical pressures- to acknowledge the hundreds of thousands of
Korean victims of the broken judicial system, and to recognize that it, like the Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea is ultimately a doomed, mysterious, authoritarian, and empty
construction.




Comments
  1. During WW2 nothing was done about the concentration camps Germany was running due to lack of knowledge or reliable intellegence.. So why is nothing being done about North Korea's prisons and camps? There is strong evidence of terrible human rights crimes being committed by the North Korean authorities.. seems awful hypocritical to me.

  2. I still say we should carpet bomb that entire shit hole country, it really pisses me off Trump is such friends with that fat ass hole

  3. Just to think that the liberals are pushing this same agenda! Bernie Sanders needs to be locked up in one of these prison camps! Beto O’Roark , Nancy pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Obama, Oprah Winfrey , joe Biden all of these liberals and all the ones who vote them into office needs to be put in the North Korean prison camps. If the liberals get the next election look to be rounded up and put into FEMA prison camps! If Trump hadn’t gotten elected this would have already happened! Thank God crooked Hillary didn’t get elected! Thank you Jesus.

  4. Wow this was somewhat …morbid to watch now two years later, in lack of a better term.

    I hadn't noticed the date on this video, and was watching it from curiosity about the Democratic Peoples Republic Korea, and I didn't think much about when you started to talk about Warmbier, and just assumed you would mention his death, so my jaw dropped just a bit when you go on to say something like "we don't know if Wormbier will be released early…" when listing those other people. Eery is maybe the term I'm looking for, rather than morbid. Creepy. I don't know, English isn't my first language and I cannot seem to find the exact term I'm looking for. I would perhaps mention in the about section or maybe the headline / video title that this was done before we knew Wormbiers fate.

  5. The reason why I hate people. Earth would have been better without humans. I can't blame North Korea only cause there's all the countries in East that do similar kinda inhumane shit. No country is perfect, No human is perfect.

  6. Church? Eastern European countries such as the ussr were mostly catholic. North Korea is always right, like my ex-girlfriend; just because I was sending naked pictures doesn't mean I'm cheating.

  7. I heard they killed a guy for carrying a toy gun !! Oh wait that was America and the guy was a 12 year old boy .
    See what I did there ?

  8. I say a bunch of countries pack up. Get word to North Korea people we coming to help don’t fight. Take out rocket man and let those poor people live to their full potential.

  9. It's not just the death camps that dish out cruel and inhuman treatment. It's acutally the entire north korean people that is receiving and being treated like rats. Minimum rations of food and non-existent medical care while working as slaves for purposes of north korean dictator. Why don't they revolt ? you say. Due to fear of death for even thinking that the dictator is anything less than a God and the brain washing that goes on daily basis prevents these poor people from revolting. This is something that rest of the world has difficult time grasping.

  10. Watch that convincing look on this guy while hes explaining how horrible north korean prisons are. Hey dumbass, can you also make a video about the american prison system as well, oh and while you are at it, please explain to us what happened with epstein as well. Thank you!

  11. Informative video this 21st century nationwide concentration camp must be brought down shame on China north Koreans must be set free

  12. He committed a great criminal act against north korea. He knew the laws going in. He broke norh korea law and paid the price.

  13. stupid clickbait motherfuckers. Not a single topic about how north chorea prison looks like. One of the boring video of Youtube.

  14. FUCC NORTH KOREA U NO I FAT PEICE OF SHIT DICTATOR U HATE US BECAUSE WE R ONE UNITED WE DO WHAT WE WANT WE LET OUR MEN BE MEN OUR WOMEN WOMEN INDEPENCE BITCH U GUYS R A JOKE SHIT ON MY BOOT

  15. WHITE PEOPLE enslaved blacks and other cultures. White people like him should be punished. He deserves being punished

  16. They try to make people think that their country is so good and fair but in reality it is the exact opposite and their actions give away their true desires for a better state.
    I heard 1 north Korean man say that the world used to laugh at us now they don't well I am afraid you are wrong about that because if you think that kind of regime is good okay good for the rich and powerful not for 25 million average joes to scared to say anything about the country they live in my g❤oes out to those poor deceived people the current regime could make it better without losing power but they don't care about the general public.

  17. The church thought of the worst thing you can do in NK and told Otto to do it, basically telling him to 'go to hell'. That church deserves all blame for Ottos death.

  18. It’s amazing to me that everyone who lives under this madhouse regime doesn’t kill themselves. I mean America and other places are tough enough for a decent amount of people to kill themselves. But, a horrible torturous country where you can’t turn the endless propaganda tv and radio off in your own house or you can be starved and beaten for not properly cleaning the picture of your dead communist leader that’s forced to be in your house. The United States has some of the most fanatical patriotism on earth but even we aren’t forced to have flags or something like that in our houses. Jesus, North Korea give it a rest. You can get people to fall in line and join your military and pay enormous taxes without starving and beating the crap out of them. Give it a rest. Most over the top country ever. Everywhere else isn’t chaos so obviously all that isn’t necessary.

  19. China can not stay out of it. We can not count on them. They would side with North Korea. This is awful and I pray all get the proper justice.

  20. NORTH KOREA- Kiss my ass. Wish I PERSONALLY could drop bombs on you. Your people ARE even DUMBER than they look. ROT IN HELL

  21. Those dumbasses deserve to die.
    They like playing games. Like shooting missiles into the ocean, the exact distance to Guam.
    Yes, my child IS stationed there.

  22. How the fuck do u know NK prision is inhumane. Dont make videos without the fact. I might as well make video of me landing on the moon. Oh btw I “THINK” I think i can justify my landing. Unsuscribed from your channel for u being too idiot just talking jebrish…

  23. This is so sad
    We need to get him out of there!!

    Omg reading thru comments and he died
    Wtf ? Why hadnt I heard of this till now?
    Sad….just so sad

  24. They didn’t even have 100 percent proof that he was the one who took the poster off the wall and the poor boy was petrified and clearly whatever he was saying was scripted. He was young and curious and this time the saying “ curiosity killed the cat “ is absolutely true.May he rest in peace.

  25. I must say, your narrative is beyond impressive! Crime show host Narrator Bill Kurtis ( which was truy the best
    in his prime in my lame opnion ) has nothing on you my friend! Cheers!

  26. The citizens are being held captive and forced to worship a douchebag.. It's a sad situation and needs to be aggressively addressed 😎

  27. The beer is called Taedonggang. It's named after the Taedong River in Pyeongyang. You can drink this beer in South Korea as well.

  28. Ok let’s not forget how if it’s not your wall you’re not supposed to take stuff down from it. Idk why he did this but he knew he was in North Korea and knew that they are less tolerant to misconduct than the us is. He shouldn’t even spit on the sidewalk. Not just there but any foreign country you visit. Show respect and you’ll be fine anywhere

  29. This video should be updated. Otto went into a coma, was sent back to the states whilst in a vegetative state, he ended up dying a few months later (his parents pulled the plug).

  30. Sounds like AMERIKKKA! Especially, when they're trying and sentencing the 1.2 million people of color to horrid prison conditions.

    AMERIKKKA SHOULD BE QUITE!

  31. Considering the information that was NOT supplied in this video, (ClickBait) I'd hazard a guess that they are pretty good compared to what I have seen, read and told of American Prisons. Now, America is where you have serious human rights violations. But then, where there is a dollar to be made, who cares about human rights, unless of course, it's another countries.. Point the finger and there are three pointing back at you..

  32. That kid was too young and too stupid to go to North Korea ! If you want to go to North Korea , you have to prepare to kill those mother fuckers , but not to pay them money so they can kill you !!! N Korea – This is a war zone country !

  33. Otto should've not stolen a poster. If you go there, you abide by their rules. He did it, he unfortunately died. Trump tried to save him, Obama did fuck all.

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