In political prison camps, basic household items such as clothes and blankets are rarely supplied, and prisoners split elm trees into soles in winter, catch mice and eat meat, and make ‘Jihwajok’, which is made of arrowroot strings wrapped with skins as soles. We are living in the lowest level of conditions such as wearing shoes.
2. Food situation and health status of prisoners
The prisoners’ daily ration is less than 350g, 3 stalks of salted cabbage, and a little salt. Moreover, during times of food shortage, the amount of rations is reduced, and it is said that less than 200 grams per day. Since the rationed food is not enough, they evade the surveillance of the MSS officers and eat whatever they find, including frogs, snakes, rats, nuts, tree bark, grass roots, and even pig food. Because they receive and eat less than a handful of food, prisoners always suffer from hunger and often die from malnutrition.
3. Residential life
Prisoners in North Korean political prison camps do not live in closed group facilities like South Korean prisons. Prisoners form villages like communal rural villages, and each generation is given a home. For single people, a dormitory type of residence is provided. Even if it is a general house in the village, it is a type of so-called harmonica-type house where 4 to 5 generations live together. When housing is provided, heating and cooking are handled by each household, and the cement houses do not have flooring or glass doors, so they cover the windows with vinyl. Electricity is limited and walls are thin, preventing privacy between generations.