Now, the death of Otto Warmbier has brought fresh scrutiny to the regime’s brutal torture camps under leader Kim Jong Un. The 22-year-old student passed away from mysterious brain damage he suffered while a prisoner in the isolated state. He succumbed to his horrifying injuries just six days after he was released from North Korea back to his parents in a vegetative state following 17 months in custody. Its believed he spent some of that time in one of Kim’s prison camps, where thousands of his citizens are believed to have died.
Warmbier’s doctors in Cincinnati said that the student had suffered ‘extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of his brain’ consistent with oxygen deprivation for a prolonged period. The isolated North Korean regime is believed to have as many 120,000 political prisoners in its harsh labor camps. Grotesque stories of torture offer among the few clues to Warmbier’s fate.
In a 2014 report, the United Nations Human Rights Commission called North Korea ‘a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world’ due to the country’s ‘systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations’. Beatings are widespread in the camps, in which guards are given near-absolute authority to abuse and kill prisoners, according to survivors who have survived to speak out.Escapees have said that the sounds of beatings were so extreme each night that it was impossible to sleep.
One woman interviewed for the UN report, who had been imprisoned for practicing Christianity, told of a torture room with a water tank in which suspects could be immersed to simulate drowning. ‘She indicated that she was fully immersed in cold water for hours,’ the report said. ‘Only when she stood on her tip-toes would her nose be barely above the water level. She could hardly breathe. She was gripped by panic, fearing that she might drown.’ Other baroque torture methods of the North Korean regime have come to light as well.
One Ministry of People’s Security official who defected revealed that the agency made use of small metal cages in the Pyongyang offices of its pre-trial investigative bureau.
‘Victims would be crammed into the cage for several hours so that the circulation of blood to extremities becomes interrupted and other parts of the body swell up,’ according to the UN report. ‘The victim turns into a rusty brown color. After removal from the cage, the victim is abruptly “unfolded” causing further excruciating pain,’ the report said. The same witness recalled receiving formal training on torture techniques, including ‘how to cut off a suspect’s blood circulation using straps, while simultaneously placing the suspect in physical stress positions in order to inflict the maximum level of pain.’