Detainees in North Korea reveal they're tortured with stress positions

‘Human punchbag’ detainees in North Korea reveal they are tortured with stress positions, beatings – and cellmates were forced to do 1,000 squats because one of them was snoring

  • UN report claims North Korea mistreatment of detainees may ‘constitute torture’
  • Accounts from escaped camp inmates detail beatings and stress positions used
  • One woman described feeling like ‘punching bag’ for guards overseeing camps

North Korea may be submitting its detainees to a form of torture by enforcing stress positions, beatings and hard manual labour on them, according to a report by the UN.

The report, which is due to be presented at the UN general assembly in September, analysed intelligence reports and first hand accounts to evaluate human rights concerns within the country.

Focusing on the period between August 2020 to July 2021, the report also includes accounts recorded between 2010 and 2019.

North Korea had been approached to contribute to the findings in the report, but the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had not received a reply when the report was produced.

North Korea tortures its detainees by exerting them to stress positions, beatings and hard manual labour, according to a report by the UN. Pictured: King Jong Un

UN secretary general António Guterres, who compiled the document, says in it that the North Korean’s treatment of detainees may ‘constitute torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’.

One account recorded from a former detainee alleges that guards beat her with a stick, chair and a leather belt.

She said: ‘Some detainees were asked to place their heads on the bars [of the cell] and the guards would beat us with a club… we were just like punching bags to them.’

The report that other punishments handed out to inmates for minor rule infractions included ordering cellmates to perform 1,000 squats after one of them was caught snoring in their sleep, with more elderly residents ending up fainting from the effort.

UN secretary general António Guterres, who compiled the document, says in it that the North Korean’s treatment of detainees may ‘constitute torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’

While another former inmate said that security personnel utilised stress positions.

Speaking in the report, they said: ‘In the fixed position, you had to be on your knees with the rest of your body off the ground, with your hands extended forward; you had to stay like that for hours. If you moved, they made you stick your hands out and hit them with a cane.’ 

The report also includes a gruesome account from one woman who claims that ‘the skin on my face tore open, my chin became dislocated and four of my teeth were knocked out’ after being hit with firewood.

One of the main challenges facing North Korea, and the world during August 2020 to July 2021 was the coronavirus pandemic, which caused a reduction in the nation’s trading with China – sparking a difficult economic situation.

The UN report writes that food supplied to detainees was inadequate and of low quality, with two separate former inmates claiming to know of others who had perished from malnutrition. 

The substandard food supplied only exacerbated the situation for many, who were then also forced to carry out labour – and were punished for missing targets by having rations cut or with beatings.

North Korea has long denied the existence of forced labour camps, but the UN writes in its report that the threat of being sent to a ‘kwanliso’, or political prison camp, is well known throughout the country. 

The report comes after earlier this year, when North Korea banned citizens from discussing Kim Jong UN’s weight loss and told people that gossip is a ‘reactionary act’. 

Recent pictures from show Kim Jong Un waving to a crowd of enthusiastic military officers looking noticeably slimmer in his trademark Mao suit

Government authorities have insisted the despot is eating less ‘for the sake of the country’ as it grapples with severe food shortages and claimed Kim is healthy.  

Speculation about Kim’s health started after photos showed the despot looking increasingly thin after he apparently shed up to 44 pounds earlier this year.  

But efforts to stifle gossip about Kim’s weight have failed, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA).  

Sources said neighbourhood watch units had made official statements warning people discussions about Kim’s health were banned. 

‘The neighbourhood watch unit also said the sudden weight loss is not due to a health problem, but rather that he is suffering in solitude for the sake of the country and people in crisis’, the anonymous source said. 

South Korea’s spy agency reported Kim (pictured in 2018) had bulked up to 285 pounds, having piled on around 90 pounds since taking power in 2011, ‘bingeing on food and drink’

It was reportedly the first time officials in North Korea have addressed speculation around Kim’s weight loss or heath as it is usually considered a taboo topic. 

But some residents told RFA they were pleased to see their leader slim down ‘as the way he appeared before he lost weight seemed to be more dangerous to his health’.  

Another source said North Koreans were pleased at Kim’s weight loss because he was so large ‘it had become difficult for him to walk’. 

Some observers say Kim – who is about 5ft8in tall and has previously weighed 308 pounds may have lost between 22 and 44 pounds.   

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