North Korea is holding at least 105,000 political prisoners, most of them without trial, in eight isolation camps in various parts of the country, South Korean intelligence officials said. The largest of the camps, with about 27,000 prisoners, is in Onsong County, near the northern border with the Soviet Union and China, they said.
The officials said the figure was based on ''scientifically reliable information,'' including reports by defectors from the Communist North. Information about the camps was first disclosed by Kim Yong Jun, an intelligence agent who defected to Seoul last January, they said.
Prisoners in the camps include former high-ranking North Korean officials and those who are seen as anti-Communist Party, counterrevolutionary elements such as landowners, capitalists, and ''ideological criminals'' - opponents of North Korean President Kim Il Sung and his son and probable successor, Kim Jong Il - the officials added.
No internees were known to have returned to normal society after entering the camps, where work includes mining of coal and other minerals, logging, land reclamation, and other hard labor, they said.