Waking Up to the Nightmare

The coal-mine shaft was called cutting face no. 2, located deep in the mountains of North Korea, near a town called Kaechon, 200 km north of Pyongyang. Coal mining anywhere is dirty, dangerous work, but this was no ordinary coal mine. It was part of a camp for political prisoners in North Korea where "perceived political wrongdoers," as a recent human-rights report put it, are sent without trial or charge for sentences of unspecified lengths.

Kim Yong, 54, was one of roughly 15,000 prisoners at Kaechon in the late 1990s, and he is one of the lucky ones....

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