February 15, 2014 4:19 pm -

The year-long UN report recommends that North Korea be referred to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

The ICC describes crimes against humanity as any widespread or systematic attack — using extermination, torture or rape, for instance — carried out against civilians.

Within the last century, the North’s abuses stand apart not necessarily because of their viciousness, but because of their duration. Rwanda’s genocide lasted less than a year, Cambodia’s lasted about four, and Nazi Germany was toppled after more than a decade. But North Korean founder Kim Il Sung set up the camps in the 1950s, and they’ve since been used as a way to purge real and imagined political enemies, as well as their children and parents.

The North holds an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners in its camps, which are sealed off in mountainous areas of the countryside and have been documented primarily through satellite imagery and testimony from survivors.

“What you have in North Korea is a stable state system where they’ve had these terrible labor camps and they’re going on for 60 years,” said David Hawk, a researcher who has been at the forefront of documenting the gulags. “Even Stalin’s camps didn’t last that long.”

D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.