How is life in a NKorean prison, former detainee recalls

15 Jun 2017 | By Abheet Sethi
Life in a North Korean prison

In Dec'12, Korean-American Kenneth Bae was convicted by North Korea to 15-years of hard labor.

His crime: Officials discovered Christian material on his hard-drive during a visit to NKorea.

He was released after 735 days, when his health deteriorated seriously.

Bae's case mirrors that of an American student Otto Warmbier, who NKorea released on June 13.

We explore the life in a NKorean prison.

In context: Life in a North Korean prison

15 Jun 2017US student released by North Korea is in a coma

The parents of Otto Warmbier, the American student released by North Korea on June 13, said he's in coma and has reportedly been in such a condition since March 2016.

His parents said Warmbier was "brutalized" by a "pariah regime."

North Korean authorities said Warmbier was given a sleeping pill after he became ill following his trial last year and didn't wake up.

15 Jun 2017How is life in a NKorean prison, former detainee recalls

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Bae wrote book on how guards mistreated him

In December 2012 Bae was charged with "hostile to the republic." Following his release, Bae released a memoir titled: 'Not Forgotten: The True Story of My Imprisonment in North Korea.' In the book, Bae highlighted how he physically and mentally broken life in prison.
Bae forced to make confessions, do backbreaking manual labor

OrdealBae forced to make confessions, do backbreaking manual labor

During his first month, Bae claims he was interrogated everyday from 8am to 10-11pm.

He was coerced into writing hundreds of pages of confessions.

After this, he was given a bible and allowed to view emails and messages for people back home.

He was subsequently forced to carry rocks and shovel coal on a farm for 10-hours a day, six days a week.

ForeignerBae wasn't treated as roughly as North Korean prisoners

During his 735 days of captivity, Bae lost an estimated 27kgs.

Bae's daily regime caused him to lose weight drastically, causing his health to fail. He had to undergo repeated medical treatment.

Since Bae is an American citizen, his treatment wasn't as tough as North Korean prisoners.

Unlike other prisoners, he was given his own cell, a bed and a toilet.

IsolationBesides physical toll, Bae was also broken down psychologically

Bae said an interrogator repeatedly told him: "No-one remembers you. You have been forgotten by people, your government. You're not going home anytime soon. You'll be here for 15 years. You'll be 60 before you go home".

Bae said: "I felt like an insect, tangled in the spider web. Every time I moved it got messier, with no way out."

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ReleaseFearing diplomatic implications, authorities arranged release of seriously ill Bae

Bae wasn't physically beaten or tortured physically but the harsh prison conditions worsened his diabetes, blood pressure and a kidney condition.

North Korean authorities became concerned when Bae became seriously ill.

His case had already attracted worldwide attention. Authorities feared the diplomatic outcry that could be caused by his death.

Hence, Bae's release was arranged, much like what happened with Warmbier.

HarshAmnesty: North Korean prisoners forced to dig their own graves

Amnesty International has described life in North Korean prison camps as harsh beyond endurance.

"Hundreds of thousands of people - including children - are detained in political prison camps and other detention facilities in North Korea," said Amnesty.

"Many of those have not committed any crime," it added.

A former official told Amnesty that prisoners were made to dig their own graves.