North Korea’s Horrors, as Shown by One Defector’s Drawings

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On Monday, the United Nations’ Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea published a wide-ranging report on what it described as “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations [that] have been and are being committed by [North Korea], its institutions and officials.” The panel recommended that North Korea and its leader, 31-year-old Kim Jong Un, be referred to the International Criminal Court by the UN Security Council. Michael Kirby, the panel’s chairman, said that the atrocities taking place in North Korea were “strikingly similar” to the crimes of Nazi Germany during World War II.

Among the 300 North Koreans who testified about regime abuses was Kim Kwang-Il, a 48-year-old defector who spent almost three years in a North Korean gulag for smuggling pine nuts across the border. After escaping to South Korea, Kim published a book about his experiences that included professional illustrations of the crimes he witnessed. The drawings provide a rare look into a vast constellation of prisons and concentration camps in which more than 200,000 North Koreans languish, according to Amnesty International.