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North Korean Prisons Accused of Forced Abortions and Infanticide

Despite repeated denials by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, criticism continues to mount amidst accusations that North Korean prisons are conducting forced abortions and infanticide. According to Ahn Myung Chul, a former guard who worked in four North Korean prison camps from 1987 to 1994, these operations are nothing new: as early as the 1980s, “if babies have to be delivered, babies have to be killed this is the procedure.” In recent years, the frequency of such practices has increased, largely due to higher instances of prison pregnancies. For example, in 2000 and 2001, China deported thousands of illegal North Korean migrants many of whom were women working in prostitution or forced into marriage. Upon their return to North Korea, they were labeled as traitors and those impregnated by Chinese men were especially brutalized. One deportee recalled, “The guards would scream at us:  You are carrying Chinese sperm, from foreign countries. We Koreans are one people, how dare you bring this foreign sperm here.'”

Willy Fautre, director of the Belgium-based Human Rights without Frontiers, said 31 of 35 recent escapees interviewed by his organization witnessed prison babies killed by abandonment or asphyxiation with plastic sheets. According to Fautre, “There is a systematic procedure carried out by guards, and the people in charge of the prisons these are not isolated cases.” Guards also forced prisoners to kill babies born alive.

There are currently 200,000 people detained in North Korea’s prison camp system. According to the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, 400,000 people have died since 1972. Allegations of forced abortions and infanticide in North Korea prisons have been presented at a human rights conference on North Korea in Tokyo last February, in the US State Department’s annual human rights report on North Korea, and at the UN Commission on Human Rights in April.

Sources:

Kyodo News Service 6/10/02Õ New York Times 6/10/02; US State Department 3/4/02