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Satellite images show North Korea may be expanding its prison camp system

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un claps as he attends the unveiling ceremony of two statues of former leaders Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang on April 13, 2012. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Satellite images show North Korea may be expanding its political prison camp system, according to the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, an organization that seeks to draw attention to human rights abuses in the communist country.

The group partnered with AllSource Analysis to take high-resolution satellite images of Camp No. 25 on the northeast coast of the country. They estimate that the camp contains approximately 5,000 prisoners.

According to the organizations, the camp increased in size by 72 percent between 2009 and 2010 and had continued its operations since it grew.

The committee's executive director, Greg Scarlatoiu, said in a statement:

It continues to be difficult to quantify the precise economic importance of the slave labor provided by North Korea’s political prison camps. That said, our satellite imagery analysis of Camp No. 25 and other such unlawful detention facilities appears to confirm the sustained, if not increased importance of the use of forced labor under Kim Jong-un.

“Due to an intensified crackdown on attempted defections, the imprisonment of forcibly repatriated refugees, the purging of senior officials, together with associates and family members, and the possible transfer of prisoners from camps in the border areas that are now closed, Camp No. 25 underwent a twofold expansion in 2009-2010," Scarlatoiu added. "Recent satellite imagery analysis indicates that Camp No. 25 continues to be fully operational at the expanded scale.”

The United Nations estimates that up to 120,000 people — men, women and children — are currently imprisoned in North Korean gulags and that hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have died in such camps. Pyongyang denies the existence of the camps.

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