PYONGYANG, North Korea, July 20 (UPI) -- About 200,000 political prisoners are held in North Korea's prison camps but the outside world knows little about their deplorable condition, survivors say.
A Korean Bar Association account of testimony from the survivors and former guards indicates the prisoners get a diet of mostly corn and salt which causes them to loose their teeth, the Washington Post reported. Most of these prisoners are made to work 12 to 15 hours a day until they die of malnutrition-related Illnesses, the report said.
They live with one set of clothes and get no soap, socks or underclothes and usually die by the age of 50.
The Post report said no outsiders have visited these camps and hence the accounts cannot be independently verified. However, it said high resolution satellite photographs available on the Internet show vast labor camps in the mountains of North Korea. They seem to support the stories of survivors.
"We have this system of slavery right under our nose," said An Myeong Chul, a camp guard who defected to South Korea, the Post report said. "Human rights groups can't stop it. South Korea can't stop it. The United States will have to take up this issue at the negotiating table."
However, the Post reported talks about the prisoners do not come up in meetings between U.S. diplomats and North Korean officials because of issues relating to North Korea's nuclear tests and other acts of provocation.
Officially, North Korea has claimed such camps do not exist.