6

In Joe Rogan's podcast #1691, North Korean defector Yeonmi Park said there are types of camps where people are considered so below human that the regime don't even bother to subject them to the same level of propaganda as the rest of the population. She alleged that they don't even know who Kim Jong-un is, or basically anything about the outside world.

  • Is giving birth in camps common?
  • Is such a claim within the realm of possibility in line with what we know of North Korea?
  • Did something like this happen in other camps in history?

I couldn't find any references to such a claim by reading mostly Wikipedia pages about known camps and testimonies of former guards or prisoners.

Transcript (starts at 47:05):

Yeonmi: There are prison camps, concentration camps and labor camps

Joe: And some people are born into these camps?

Yeonmi: Yeah those are people in concentration camps and they don't even get to know name of Kim Il-sung or Kim Jong Un they are too below level to tell them who the leader of the country is

6
  • She might be talking about the miner camps where South Koreans and their descendants are held, but I doubt the actual claim (regarding Kim) is true.
    – Fizz
    Sep 16 at 14:01
  • 1
    @Hnus: Please find a link to the podcast and a timestamp, and ideally, a transcript. Until we have that, we don't know what claim we are answering, and I imagine many readers, like me, are unwilling to listen to 3 hours of Joe Rogan to find it.
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 17 at 4:38
  • 1
    @Oddthinking 47:05 my transcript: Yeonmi: There are prison camps, concentration camps and labor camps Joe: And some people are born into these camps? Yeonmi: Yeah those are people in concentration camps and they don't even get to know name of Kim Il-sung or Kim Jong Un they are too below level to tell them who the leader of the country is. open.spotify.com/episode/…
    – Hnus
    Sep 17 at 19:22
  • @Hnus Can you edit that transcript and timestamp into the actual question?
    – F1Krazy
    Sep 17 at 19:24
  • Both my transcript and link to podcast are part of the question. Unfortunately I think you need spotify subscription to be able to access the podcast.
    – Hnus
    Sep 17 at 19:31
8

This was a story told by a single escapee from a prison camp who has since recanted some of his story.

Shin Dong-hyuk, who apparently spent some time in Camp 14, made the claim in an interview:

Shin was ignorant of everyday life in North Korea. He knew nothing about Kim Jong Il. Instead, he told a story that his American debriefer found to be credible and utterly astounding.

Blaine Harden, Escape from Camp 14 (2013), p.161

The author of this book added an apologetic foreword following the revelation that much of Shin's timeline was false:

Shin now claims that "Escape from Camp 14" is a "sanitized" version of his life, one he created out of a mixture of shame, confusion and the impulse to avoid the most brutal of his memories. In an apology posted to Facebook, he said, "Every one of us have stories, or things we'd like to hide."

He maintains that he was born in Camp 14, but now says that he was transferred to the lighter-security Camp 18 at age 6. He lived there with his father after his mother and brother were executed. After a previously undisclosed escape to China, he was recaptured and transferred back to Camp 14. There he was tortured, to lengths he never admitted before. This torture took place at age 21, not 13, as he originally claimed.

In previous memoir scandals, these kinds of revisions have led publishers to pull books from the shelves or heavily revise them. But for "Escape from Camp 14," no details will be updated. Instead, Penguin will add a new foreword to future printings and e-book copies.

Harden made the new foreword available online, and in it he explains how Shin revised his story. He also acknowledges that he still has doubts about Shin's account of his life in North Korea.

"Shin told me he is now determined to tell the truth," Harden wrote. "Regrettably, he has told me this before. It seems prudent to expect more revisions."

North Korea's most famous defector changes his story, MPR News, 2015

This is not to detract from the fact that we know of over a dozen North Korean prison escapees who attest to extensive use of torture and frequent deaths in their prisons.

2
  • 2
    The claim in the question quotes a completely different defector, though. Can it be proven that she's just regurgitating Shin's story?
    – F1Krazy
    Sep 18 at 11:33
  • 2
    I don't have irrefutable proof that this is Park's source, but as far as I know Shin is the only one who has claimed to have had this experience personally. I hope this answer is helpful regardless
    – Avery
    Sep 18 at 22:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .