With the support of Transitional Justice Working Group, a South Korean organization based in Seoul, North Korean defectors are using Google Earth to document decades of horror in the north.
375 North Korean defectors were interviewed over a period of two years to identify the locations of murder, cremation, and burial sites.
Most of the sites identified are in North Korea’s North Hamgyong Province, bordering China.
According to the TJWG, “It is our intention to provide our data to the relevant legal authorities at a time when we expect the necessary criminal investigation to take place.”
Fox News reports:
North Korean defectors identified 47 “body sites.”
The researchers used this term because, they said, “While the majority of these sites are burial sites, some of those identified by interviewees were sites where the bodies were not buried but rather abandoned, dumped, hidden without burial, or were storage sites for bodies yet to be buried or cremated.”
According to the organization, data was collected during interviews with the hundreds of North Korean defectors – 100 informants at first, and then another 275 in the second year. They were shown satellite imagery with basic landmark information such as rail lines, to initially orient themselves. Defectors would describe atrocities they had knowledge of, allowing the researchers to note the locations. They also categorized the source’s relationship to the location or the event, indicating if they were physically present, heard or saw directly, heard straight from a victim or heard only as a rumor. The data collected spans decades – not just Kim Jong Un’s current bloody reign, but that of his father Kim Jong Il, the former Supreme Leader, as well.
The report, “Mapping Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea,” is intended to “expose in a transparent manner the extent of the violations committed and their systematic nature.”
Google Maps has allowed a grim view into the world’s most secretive state, including the location of several prison camps.
It’s been nearly a decade since Shin Dong-hyuk, an ex-prisoner of North Korea’s Camp 14, crawled over the electrocuted body of a friend lying dead on a fence, a boundary he was born inside of and lived within for 23 years. He made his way across the Chinese border on foot and was granted political asylum and citizenship in Seoul. Now, thanks to updated Google maps of the region, you can actually (if somewhat loosely) retrace the steps of his incredible escape.
Recent missile tests and the North’s ongoing development of their nuclear weapons program has caused much concern about North Korea’s hostility in light of technological advancements, including the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile this July.
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