WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump on Friday said his administration is working closely with North Korean officials to arrange an exclusive tour of the hermit kingdom’s notorious political prison system during an upcoming state visit to Pyongyang next year.
“They have a very good system over there,” President Trump told reporters during a brief exchange on the South Lawn on Friday. “They put the whole family in there and if you look at the situation they’ve done a tremendous job in terms of dealing with dissent.” Mr. Trump, who has made criminal-justice reform a top priority since taking office in January 2017, called the North Korean model “one of the best in the world.”
A senior White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press told The Washington Examiner that in a recent letter to the president, North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un suggested three possible prison camp locations for Mr. Trump’s highly anticipated trip to Pyongyang in 2020. “Given its close proximity to the capital, the Kaechon internment camp was the obvious choice,” the official told The Examiner.
Located approximately forty miles north of Pyongyang, Kaechon –otherwise known as Camp 14– is a sixty-square-mile forced labor camp housing some 15,000 individuals deemed “politically unreliable” by the state. Prisoners of all ages –including women and children– work from 5:30 a.m. until midnight seven days a week mining coal – a major selling point for President Trump, who campaigned on the promise of reviving the ailing U.S. coal industry. “We’ll have to look at it very carefully, but I will tell you if we end up doing something like that here it will be very good for the economy,” the president said.
One of thirteen active political prison camps in North Korea, Kaechon is often referred to as a “total control zone,” meaning those imprisoned within its walls will remain there for life. For more heinous crimes such as openly criticizing the government or illegally possessing a Bible, convicts are subjected to the “three generations of punishment” rule, a form of kin punishment whereby immediate family members of the condemned are also handed a life sentence.
Citing security concerns, President Donald J. Trump on Friday said only a handful of “vetted” journalists will be allowed to accompany him on his visit to the North Korean labor camp. “We’re definitely bringing Jim Acosta,” the president said moments before boarding Marine One, adding, “We may even leave him there, I don’t know, we’ll see what happens.”