The internment camps are located in central and northeastern North Korea. They comprise many prison labor colonies in secluded mountain valleys, completely isolated from the outside world. The total number of prisoners is estimated to be 150,000 to 200,000. Yodok camp
and Bukchang camp
are separated into two sections: One section for political prisoners in lifelong detention, another part similar to re-education camps with prisoners sentenced to long-term imprisonment with the vague hope of eventual release.
The prisoners are forced to perform hard and dangerous slave work with primitive means in mining and agriculture. The food rations are very small, so that the prisoners are constantly on the brink of starvation. In combination with the hard work this leads to huge numbers of prisoners dying. An estimated 40% of prisoners die from malnutrition.
Moreover many prisoners are crippled from work accidents, frostbite or torture. There is a rigid punishment in the camp. Prisoners that work too slow or do not obey an order are beaten or tortured.
In case of stealing food or attempting to escape, the prisoners are publicly executed.