Prisoners incarcerated in a notorious North Korean gulag camp have been forced to drink river water tainted with the ashes of their dead fellow inmates, according to a report.
Those who survived the Chongori concentration camp in the northeastern reaches of the Hermit Kingdom exposed the nightmarish realities of being locked up under the repressive regime of Kim Jong Un, the Mirror reported.
North Koreans can land in the hellhole for transgressions including watching South Korean TV and practicing Christianity, according to the outlet, which cited a new report by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.
Chongori has a high mortality rate due to “injury, illness, or physical and mental abuse by prison officials,” according to the report.
“Every Monday, we burned the corpses… there’s a place that looked like a house, and we piled the corpses in the round tank in it,” a former prisoner said.
“The facility was drenched in the smell of blood and rotting or burning corpses. After burning the corpses, they stacked up ashes next to the cremation site. The ashes were used as a compost for farming,” the person recalled.
“When it rained, the ashes flowed into the river, and the prisoners drank the river water and used it to shower.”
The former prisoners also recounted how they would trip over body parts in the facility.
“I fell on something. At first, I thought I was stuck on a tree, but when I looked closer, it was a toe,” one escapee said in the HRNK report. “I climbed the mountain following the ash and there were five toes right in front of me. I was so surprised.”
The report also described how rats would consume decaying bodies piled in a storeroom prior to cremation.
“We know people are suffering beyond imagination,” said Joseph Bermudez Jr, the lead author of the report. “The atrocities committed throughout North Korea’s vast system of unlawful imprisonment require the immediate attention of the international community.”
Co-author Amanda Mortwedt Oh added: “The lack of human dignity afforded to prisoners is beyond repugnant, and the Kim regime must be held to account for such actions.”
HRNK Executive Director Greg Scarlatoiu said that “behavior that is perfectly normal in most other countries is criminalized in North Korea.
“This includes practicing religion, especially Christianity, and possessing a Bible, and accessing information from the outside world, in particular any South Korean material like soap operas,” he said.
“It even includes ‘mishandling’ or ‘disrespecting’ a newspaper page containing the picture of the North Korean leader or his father or grandfather,” Scarlatoiu added.
“Anything along those lines results in imprisonment at a North Korean detention facility.”
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