The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) Launches Report Based on Satellite Imagery of North Korea’s Pokchong-ni Labor Camp
High-security compound constructed during the months prior to Jang Song-thaek’s execution; high-value detainees likely present
The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), a non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C., has launched the report North Korea’s Long-term Re-education through Labor Camp (Kyo-hwa-so) at Pokchong-ni. The report was authored by senior satellite imagery expert Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr. in collaboration with HRNK’s Greg Scarlatoiu, Amanda Mortwedt Oh, and Rosa Park, with the assistance of veteran satellite imagery specialists Bobby Holt and Allen Anderson.
For this report, HRNK analyzed 20 high-resolution pan-sharpened multispectral and pan-chromatic satellite images of the camp and its immediate surroundings. HRNK examined checkpoints, guard positions, security perimeters, housing, and agricultural support facilities and activities. Partly due to the proficiency of North Korean military and security officials in camouflage, concealment, and deception (CCD) procedures, HRNK is presently unable to estimate the number of prisoners currently detained or the focus of economic activity at this forced labor camp.
The Pokchong-ni Kyo-hwa-so is located in Kangdong-gun, Pyongyang-si, about three kilometers southeast of Hwach’on-ni, seven kilometers east of Sungho-ri, and immediately adjacent to the village of Pokchong-ni along the Nam River.
Author Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr. confirmed “the camp was established practically on the outskirts of Pyongyang prior to September 14, 2014 and underwent significant expansion between 2010 and 2013, including the addition in 2013 of a 65 by 45 meter compound and a 33 by 15 meter two- or three-story building inside the compound, whose layout indicates it may hold high-value prisoners.” According to HRNK Executive Director Greg Scarlatoiu, “it is intriguing that a new, smaller internal prisoner housing compound was built from January to October 2013.” Scarlatoiu recalled that associates of Jang Song-thaek “were subjected to intense purging around the same period of time, prior to Jang’s trial and execution in December 2013.”
The report is the latest step in HRNK’s efforts to create a clear picture of the evolution and current state of North Korea’s political prison camps. HRNK is the NGO that put North Korea’s penal labor colonies on the map by publishing Hidden Gulag in 2003.
The report North Korea’s Long-term Re-eduction through Labor Camp (Kyo-hwa-so) at Pokchong-ni is available on HRNK’s website: