Speculation time: A new kwan-li-so?

UPDATE: Thanks to the Daily NK and Wall Street Journal for helping to reach out to others who may know about this facility. Here is an interview I did for NPR.

ORIGINAL POST: Today (Friday) Google Earth was updated with new satellite imagery (dated 2011-9-21) of the area around Camps 14 and 18 (Kwan-li-so 14). Camp 18 is said to have been closed for a few years and the area has even been featured on North Korean television (See Pongchang District Coal Mine, 봉창지구탄광, here and here).

While updating my Google Earth file to match the new satellite imagery, however, I noticed the addition of a new area that bears striking similarity to other known “kwan-li-so (관리소)” or prison camps. This area was built sometime between 2006-12-17 and 2011-9-21. It is surrounded by a very visible security perimeter. It is also placed right next to Camp 14– even sharing 3kms of border.

Camp14-logo

New-camp-logo

Pictured Above (Google Earth): The location of interest next to Camp 14 in Kaechon County

Let’s look at this new area more closely. The security perimeter is approximately 20km in circumference  There are two entrances on the northwestern edge of the fence:

new-camp-entrance-2006-12-17 new-camp-entrance-2011-9-21-logo

Pictured above is the northern most entrance. The picture on the left is dated 2006-12-17. The picture on the right is dated 2011-9-21.

new-camp-entrance-2-2006 new-camp-entrance-2-2011-logo

Pictured above is the southern entrance.  This appears to more of a staff or auxiliary entrance.

There appear to be six new buildings constructed around the perimeter that could serve as guard posts/facilities. Three of them are identical:

new-camp-guard-posts

There has been some new residential and administrative units added to the interior as well:

new-camp-interior-2006 new-camp-interiot-2011-logo

Pictured above (Google Earth): Residential and administrative construction within the perimeter fence. This village does not appear on any North Korean atlas that I have seen.

There is an old coal mine inside the perimeter fence, but it does not appear to be operational.  Comparisons of debris show that coal piles have become overgrown with trees since 2004. In addition, the electrical substation that was located here to power the mine (before the fence was built)  has been removed:

new-camp-substation-2004 GoogleEarth_Image

So I don’t want to jump to any conclusions here, but this facility certainly raises flags.  I look forward to hearing opinions and information/criticism from the wider North Korea-watching community.

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