North Korean Prison Camps: 'Crimes Against Humanity'

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A new report from the nonprofit, pro-democracy organization Freedom House examines the testimony of former inmates in North Korea's political penal labor camps and argues that the phenomenon represents "clear and massive crimes against humanity as now defined in law."

The report by human-rights researcher David Hawk, "Concentrations of Inhumanity," provides a rare legal analysis of the North Korean gulag--rare because Pyongyang bars human-rights groups and others who would like to study the prisons firsthand. As many as 200,000 people are believed to be imprisoned in the labor camps--an issue that has captured the attention of President Bush even as he pursues a diplomatic resolution to the standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

Four years ago, U.S. News & World Report ran a cover story, "Gulag Nation: Unseen by the Outside World, North Korea Runs Vast Prison Camps of Unspeakable Cruelty," in its June 23, 2003, issue.

--Thomas Omestad