Models of Russian Gulags Continue to Exist

In Melanie Kirkpatrick’s book Escape from North Korea, Kirkpatrick writes of various North Korean defectors and refugees, including those who have escaped from North Korean labor camps in Russia. In 1967, North Korea and the Soviet Union formed an agreement where North Korea would supply workers for the Russian timber industry. In return, the two nations divided the profit from the sold lumber. These labor camps are located in Siberia and eastern Russia, which use to be home to the labor camps of the Soviet gulag. Kirkpatrick writes: “The North Koreans who toil there today have in some locations taken the place of the political prisoners banished to the camps by the old Soviet dictators.” In these labor camps, several journalists who have seen the camps describe long working hours and sever conditions, prompting many Russian human rights activists to protest these conditions the North Korean laborers undergo. Considering the fall of the Soviet Union, it is hard to imagine that such camps continue to exist. The modern existence of these camps is similar to Stalin’s modern popularity in Russia. It is shocking that such a relentless dictator and Soviet gulags continue to exist in a country that endured such pain under Stalin and in Stalin’s gulags. It therefore makes me question to what extent the Soviet Union truly fell. The Soviet government may have fallen, but Stalin popularity in Russia today and the aforementioned labor camps reveal that remnants of Soviet culture continue to live on.

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