An American college student, Otto Warmbier, has been sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean labor camp. The student is currently holding charges for “crimes against the state.” Warmbier faces years of hard labor and imprisonment in North Korea for trying to drunkenly steal a political propaganda poster from a hotel in Pyongyang. The details of the crime are petty by definition, according to western ideas. Once again, a string of events present the distressing realities within the totalitarian dictatorship of North Korea.

 

The student from the University of Virginia went to an hour long trial in North Korea’s Supreme Court, and according to the Associated Press:

“He was charged with subversion under Article 60 of North Korea’s criminal code. The court held that he had committed a crime ‘pursuant to the U.S. government’s hostile policy toward (the North), in a bid to impair the unity of its people after entering it as a tourist.’”

 

Tensions are particularly high between Pyongyang and Washington, potentially due to recently imposed U.S. sanctions against North Korea, which could hurt Warmbier’s chances of being released after his sentence.

 

The existence of North Korean labor camps has been known for years. Stories of disturbingly harsh conditions are being spread and millions of people are suffering. Some Koreans spend their entire lives in imprisonment, from childhood. Today, there are people in these existing camps because their grandparents sympathized with South Korea during the Korean War — three generations of people residing in labor camps for these acts.

 

(North Korea Now)

(North Korea Now)

The Kaechon internment camp, is known to be the worst camp for North Korean political prisoners. “Escape from Camp 14” is Shin Dong-hyuk’s true story of life inside Kaechon. Inside the book, the reader is told a multitude of harrowing events, such as how a six-year-old girl was beaten to death for stealing five kernels of corn, or Shin’s personal story of when he was 14 years old and subject to solitary confinement. For eight months, he was unable to stand and was beaten heavily everyday.

 

The reality is an unpleasant and a painful thought that should not be ignored. An excerpt from “Escape from Camp 14” reads:

“High school students in America debate why President Roosevelt didn’t bomb the rail lines to Hitler’s camps. Their children may ask, a generation from now, why the West stared at far clearer satellite images of Kim Jong Il’s camps, and did nothing.”

What do you think the West, if anything, should do about these labor camps? Tweet me at @julimiller97 or comment below.