Present Day Detention Camps: North Korea Vs. The United States
The purpose of this research was to determine how similar detention facilities run by the
U.S. government are to the gulags of North Korea. The research spanned many different media
sources from online news articles to reports in scholarly journals to an anthology of memoirs
and articles concerning the treatment of prisoners in U.S. detention facilities. Although some
of the specific details of the camps were inconsistent across sources, this can be attributed to
the secret nature of the prison system. However, despite those inconsistencies, an overall
theme present in all the sources was the secret nature of the camps as well as U.S. lack of
cooperation with human rights standards presented by the United Nations. The research also
showed that the U.S. in fact had imprisoned innocent persons. Because of the similarities to
North Korea camps in terms of secrecy, the incarceration of innocent people and the deliberate
avoidance of compliance with human rights laws, it is possible to compare the U.S.
“democratic” government with North Korea’s communist regime.
Review of the Literature
Kang Chol-Hwan’s The Aquariums of Pyongyang, a memoir of life in a North Korean gulag,
presents the stark reality that concentration camps do still exist to this day. However, the existence of
these camps alone is not the only harsh reality. Not only do these detention camps exist under the
communist regime of North Korea, but such camps are also present under the supervision of the
democratic United States government. Therefore I wonder: how do the U.S. detention camps
compare to North Korean gulags? The research of information on U.S. camps included a variety of
sources from scholarly articles to online news to an anthology of essays and analyses of secret
imprisonment by the U.S. government. In the end, the sources of interest on U.S. detention camps
revealed frightening similarities in the structure and nature of the camps to those of North Korean
There were some inconsistencies among the research sources. Although the existence of a
secret prison system operated by the U.S. throughout the world was acknowledged by most sources
(Grooms; Margolis; Meeropol; Priest; Reuters), the number and locations of these detention centers
varied. ABC’s online news article “US has secret prisons: rights groups” claims, according to a
Human Rights First report, that the U.S. is holding prisoners in more than two dozen facilities spread
throughout the world (Reuters 1). Among these the locations mentioned in the article were Pakistan,
Diego Garcia, and Jordan along with the more famous centers of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.
However, in another similar report on the secret prison system, the Washington Post article “CIA
Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons” claims an undetermined amount of “black sites,” as the
White House refers to the secret prisons, to have...