Thu, Oct 23, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Rights organization details N Korean infanticide program

AFP , WASHINGTON

North Korea kills the babies of pregnant women forcibly repatriated from China, according to a report released by a rights group yesterday which details the brutal treatment of people who try to flee the last Stalinist bastion.

The camps where North Koreans sent back across the border are locked away justified the infanticide by the need to stop the birth of babies that might have Chinese fathers, according to harrowing witness accounts compiled by the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

Women who had been in the camps told how some mothers to be were forced to have abortions while others watched in desolation while their new-born children were killed before them.

Accounts of the killings were included in The Hidden Gulag -- Exposing North Korea's Prison Camps by David Hawk, a former UN human rights investigator.

Hawk estimates there are between 150,000 and 200,000 people in "slave" camps in North Korea where torture and executions are routine and many other inmates die of starvation.

A second category of camps has been set up for people sent back from China where, according to some rights groups, up to 300,000 people have fled from North Korea's chronic food shortages and repression.

The report said the North's authorities practice a "particularly reprehensible phenomena of repression" against forcibly repatriated pregnant women.

Among the accounts was one given by Choi Yong-hwa, a young woman who was sent to a provincial detention center in South Sinuiju, near the Chinese frontier.

The report said Choi and two other women were assigned to help pregnant women to get to a military hospital.

"The woman assisted by Choi was given a labor-inducing injection and shortly thereafter gave birth. While Choi watched in horror the baby was suffocated with a wet towel in front of the mother who passed out in distress."

The report said "the explanation provided was that no half-Han [Chinese] babies would be tolerated."

A 66-year-old grandmother held in the border city of Sinuiju also helped pregnant detainees at the center where she was held.

The woman, whose name was withheld to protect her family still in North Korea, said she helped deliver seven babies "some of which were full term, some of which were injection-induced abortions. All of the babies were killed."

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