A reader pointed me to these newer images of Camp 22, via HRNK. The images show evidence of the destruction of at least one guard post and one guard tower. I wouldn’t say this has completely changed my mind, but it’s significant and weighs in favor of the camp’s closure, alongside over signs such as the vegetable gardens and the continued reports of the Daily NK.
So if Camp 22 did close, what happened to the tens of thousands of people who were housed there? Not one of the reports I’ve read suggests that they were released.
Premier Choe Yong Rim, member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, learned about the work of various sectors in Hoeryong City, North Hamgyong Province.
Working people of factories and enterprises in Hoeryong City, whose appearance has changed beyond recognition under the great love of leader Kim Jong Il, have achieved successes in production and construction, true to the behests of President Kim Il Sung and the leadership of the dear respected Marshal Kim Jong Un.
He discussed the measures for the operation of factories and enterprises which are conducive to supplying materials needed for sprucing up the city and improving the people’s diet true to the behests of Kim Jong Il.
He looked round the Jungbong Coal Mine.
The premier met miners and encouraged them to boost production, being aware that they are responsible for the lifeline of the national economy.
Now, remember, this is KCNA, the “news” service that has reported that Kim Jong Il was born under a bright star and a double rainbow, that his death affected weather patterns, and that North Korean archeologists had found the ancient lair of a mythical beast. It’s arguably the world’s least credible news service, and in this case, KCNA also has clear motives to lie about Camp 22, so take this report with a barrel of salt. Having said that, they are saying that a senior official went on an inspection visit to Hoeryong and visited the nearby Chungbong Coal Mine (English transliterations vary), which is in the middle of what either was or still is Camp 22.
The mention of the Chungbong Coal Mine by itself is interesting. North Korea hasn’t traditionally talked about places inside prison camps, although by now they must realize that millions of foreigners have seen them on Google Earth, which calls for more sophisticated approaches to global opinion.
[The Chungbong Coal Mine inside Camp 22, via Google Earth]
I see three possibilities: (1) the report is a fabrication; (2) the camp is not closed, and Choe visited it to inspect operations and perhaps help create the impression it is closed; (3) the camp is closed, and Choe was inspecting to ensure that the evidence has been covered up and is being masked.
The mass murder mystery continues.