(Used with permission from the Laogai Research Foundation.)
All photos by Elizabeth Chu. © Committee for Human Rights in North Korea 2017.
During my summer in Washington, DC, I had the opportunity to visit the Laogai Museum on the corner of 18th Street and T Street. It offers a one-of-a-kind exhibition showcasing the history and abuses of China’s vast network of prisons. I was appalled at the similarities of camp conditions between the Chinese laogai and the North Korean political prison camps. Derived from the Soviet gulag system in the 1950s, the political prison camps in North Korea and China were established for the purpose of containing political dissidence against their respective totalitarian governments. Over the last six decades, both systems have grossly perpetuated human rights abuses through the lack of due process, arbitrary detention, re-education, forced starvation and labor, torture, deaths in detention, and execution. The parallel between these two systems is undeniable. However, the North Korean and Chinese prison systems have evolved to possess several distinct characteristics. This article will focus on the implications of these key differences.