Was North Korea's deceased leader Kim Jong Il selling his own people? According to a new VICE documentary, the infamous leader certainly came close, outsourcing North Korean citizens to work at camps in Russia's Siberia.
Accompanied by freelance journalist Simon Ostrovsky, VICE traveled to Siberia in search of North Korea's reported labor camps. There they found North Koreans living in towns that appeared to be miniature North Korean villages transplanted to Russia -- complete with propaganda and photos of their 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong Il.
VICE filmed shocking accounts from the North Koreans living in the camps. "When we finally found the North Korean loggers, their stories were astounding," VICE's Shane Smith writes for CNN; "10-year labor requirements, living and working out in the bush, Dickensian working conditions, squalid living quarters, inedible food and the majority of their wages garnished and sent back to North Korea to 'help the quality of life there improve.'"
According to an article from 1994 in the British newspaper The Independent, the North Korean labor camps in Siberia date back to 1967. Russia's Nikita Krushchev reportedly wanted to make "a special gesture" to then-Korean leader Kim Il Sung. The country therefore allowed North Korea to build labour camps in Siberia where Kim Il Sung safely could send his opponents.
Instead of political dissidents, the camps are now filled with laborers working in slavery-like conditions. According to VICE, many of the workers were around the age of 40. Many had families in North Korea who could be severely punished if they attempted to escape.
Watch the first episode of VICE's documentary below, and find more on the VICE website.