Disturbing Illustrations Of Conditions In North Korean Prison Camps Made By A Survivor

Kim Kwang-Il created these illustrations depicting conditions of torture and starvation that he both witnessed and endured to accompany his UN testimony. Warning: these images are graphic.

Knowledge of the horrors that people have gone through in North Korean prison camps is coming more and more to light, and now the UN is calling for North Korean leaders to stand trial for crimes comparable to those of the Nazis.

Denis Balibouse / Reuters

Michael Kirby, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea.

Kim Kwang-Il is a 48-year-old survivor of the prison camps. He spent nearly three years in torturous conditions for smuggling nuts across the border. Along with his testimony to the UN, he's provided these illustrations depicting the camp's conditions.

1. The caption indicates that the prisoners are enduring something referred to as "pigeon torture."

2. In his testimony, Kwang-Il describes the torture where prisoners were "supposed to think there’s an imaginary motorcycle and we are supposed to be in this position as if we are riding the motorcycle."


"And for this, we pose as if we are airplanes ourselves. We are flying. And if we stand like this there’s no way that you can hold that position for a long time. You are bound to fall forward."

3. The caption for this picture indicates that prisoners are being put in some kind of confinement.

4. Prisoners went so hungry that they were forced to eat snakes and rats.

5. Prisoners endure a "pump" torture where they are forced to sit and stand several hundred times.

6. Prisoners stored in an area where rats would eat them.

7. Prisoners take bodies to a crematorium.

8. The illustration describes the dimensions of a cage that prisoners spent solitary confinement in and how they would attempt to catch and eat rats.

You can watch Kim Kwang-Il's long public testimony in this video, read a selection of it here, or read the transcript in full here.



A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.