In 1967, the former Soviet Union wanted to make a gesture of friendship to North Korea. They allowed North Korea to build labor camps in Siberia.
Kim Il-sung was delighted at the time, because it was a great way for him to exile his opponents.
The deal was North Korea supplies the muscle, Russia supplies the trees and they split the profit, 65-35.
Since then, the Soviet Union has collapsed, but North Korea is still using these labor camps, which are said to have the same conditions of WWII Russian gulags.
They no longer use prisoners to work in these camps, but instead use regular people.
The unfortunate residents of North Korea have been jumping at the opportunity to get sent to these hell-holes because it offers them the chance of getting away.
A 36- year-old former driver from Pyongyang, he has found shelter and, he hopes, security behind the locked steel door of a flat in southern Moscow. He fled Siberia nearly a year ago but still frets about being shanghaied and taken back to Korea. He never ventures outside his bleak housing estate hideaway. He never uses his real name: he has a wife and two children in Pyongyang. Also back in North Korea, he says, are the three friends with whom he planned his escape. All of them were captured.
The exact number of runaways from the Siberian camps is not known. North Korea does not admit, never mind enumerate betrayal. The South Korean embassy in Moscow, to which many fugitives have turned for asylum, says that around 170 have fled. Roughly half took refuge in China, where they can blend easily with the large Korean-speaking population; the rest found sanctuary, via an underground railway manned mostly by religious groups, in Moscow and other Russian cities.
Mr Park says that he arrived in Russia in 1990, crammed in a special train with around 300 other labourers. They crossed the border at Khasan, passed through Ussuriysk and then continued – on a railway line now regularly scoured by North Korean security agents for runaways – to Khabarovsk, on the banks of the Amur River, the main clearing-house for Kim Il-sung’s Russian camps. From there they split up and fanned out into the forests.