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Here are just some of North Korea's human rights abuses

The UN has released this infographic that outlines the scale of torture in North Korean camps.

DEFECTORS AND ACTIVISTS welcomed a UN-mandated inquiry’s searing indictment of gross human rights abuses in North Korea, but analysts questioned the international community’s ability to act on its recommendations.

Pyongyang’s grim rights record has already been well documented by specialist monitors. But the size, breadth and detail of the report compiled by the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on North Korea — and the UN imprimatur it carries — set it apart.

Kim Young-Soon, one of the many defectors who provided harrowing testimony to the COI, said she was grateful to it for recording the “nightmares we went through” for posterity.

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(Graphic: UN. Click here for a bigger version.)

“North Korea has not and will never admit the existence of prison camps and this report won’t change anything overnight,” Kim told AFP.

“But that does not mean sitting back and doing nothing. We need to keep collecting testimony so that someday it can be used as undisputed evidence to punish those behind the atrocities,” she added.

Now 77, Kim was a well-connected member of the North Korean elite in 1970, when she was suddenly dragged off to a labour camp as part of a purge of people who knew about the then-future leader Kim Jong-Il’s affair with a married actress.

So began a nine-year ordeal in what Kim described to the COI as “the most hellish place in the world” where inmates worked from dawn to dusk, supplementing starvation rations with anything they could catch, including snakes, salamanders and rats.

‘My heart still aches’

Family contacts managed to get Kim released in 1979. In 2001, she bribed her way across the border with China and eventually made it to Seoul in 2003, where she works as a dance teacher and lectures on life in North Korea.

“My heart still aches and I still wake up at night sweating just thinking about the prison camp I was in and family members I lost,” she said Tuesday.

The COI report detailed murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence in North Korea, which chairman Michael Kirby said carried echoes of the Nazi Holocaust.

A key conclusion was that many of the violations “constitute crimes against humanity”.

Hong Soon-Kyung, a defector who now heads the Seoul-based Committee for the Democratization of North Korea, told AFP that no report could truly reflect the brutality of the regime in the North.

Although the COI’s findings were nothing new to those working on North Korean rights issues, Hong said their publication was a “very meaningful step” with a UN mandate that would help pressure Pyongyang and its few backers.

North Korea refused to cooperate with the commission, claiming its evidence was “fabricated” by “hostile” forces.

- © AFP, 2014

Read: Starvation, enslaving and exterminating: that’s what the UN found in North Korea

Read: Whoops… Media outlets duped by North Korea ‘rocket to the sun’ story

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