SEOUL, April 18 (UPI) -- Roughly half of human rights abuses North Korean defectors experienced involve arbitrary arrest and detention, according to a survey from a North Korea human rights organization.
The abuses also include restrictions on freedom of movement and proper access to food, according to North Korea Human Rights Database Center, a nongovernmental organization.
The findings include estimates of the number of North Koreans – about 80,000 – being held in political prison camps, Yonhap news agency reported.
The information from NKDB released Monday is the result of 13 years of interviews with North Korean defectors in the South. In total, 52,735 instances of human rights abuses were reported, and of those cases, 25,437 involved arrest and arbitrary detention.
Imprisonment often involved "guilt-by-association" sentences, according to Yoon Yeo-sang, the South Korean founder of NKDB.
It's a reference to prison terms that extend to the family members of the individual charged with a crime.
Guilt by association crimes make up about 50 percent of prison sentences since the United Nations issued its Commission of Inquiry human rights reports in 2013 and 2014, Yoon said.
But the number of prisoners in political prison camps, 80,000, showed a decline from past figures, including the estimate of 200,000 that was issued by South Korea's National Intelligence Service, Yoon said.
Yoon's organization has played an active role in gathering data and interviews from North Korean defectors in the South, but a new law on North Korea human rights that passed in Seoul could ban NGOs from accessing North Korean defectors in South Korean custody, South Korean newspaper Donga Ilbo reported.
South Korea plans to establish a Human Rights Foundation Archive or a human rights record center by September, and based on refugee testimonies, the database would chronicle the list of crimes the North Korean state has committed against the population.
Once the government database is established, NGOs may not be granted access to defectors at Hanawon, the South Korean detention center.
Yoon told the Donga the move is trying to put an end to the record-collecting efforts of NKDB, and called it a "retrogressive motion."