These scenes of tiny hands toiling on a filthy coal site should be from a bygone age, but child labour is rife in the notorious, repressive state
Dwarfed by their adult-size jackets, four children, as young as seven, arch their backs under the enormous strain of lifting a bag of coal.
Towering over them, a man loads the sack as the boys cling on, momentarily lifting it to shake the fuel to the bottom.
The brutal scene of tiny hands toiling on a filthy coal site is from a bygone age.
But in the world’s most secretive state, child labour is thriving. The notorious Aoji mine has for decades been a place where political prisoners serve harsh sentences.
Today we reveal it is also home to children born into slavery and a life of misery in North Korea .
Children as young as seven fill sacks in a North Korean coal mine (Photo: Daily Mirror)
In the second part of the Daily Mirror’s expose, we publish the first images of children being forced to work in the treacherous coal mining conditions.
At least five men, and possibly a woman, stand around, all understood to be prisoners, all hurriedly toiling in the dirt.
With their sack full, the four boys appear to have been relieved from their duties and run off, passing directly in front of our source’s hidden body camera. Two of the lads appear to be considerably smaller than the other two and, as they pass, we witness a brief moment of humanity.
After being ordered to climb the filthy slag heap in the background, one of the boys picks up a piece of coal and throws it in front of the group.
As if buoyed by his pal’s confidence, another boy picks up a piece and throws it further. A third lad then throws again, creating a giant splash in a nearby puddle.
The scenes are from the notorious Aoji mine, a place where political prisoners - and seemingly their children - serve sentences (Photo: Daily Mirror)
The glimpse into the childhood they left behind is shattered when another adult, possibly a woman, orders them up the slag pile to continue their back breaking work.
The Mirror yesterday revealed startling images of children as young as five forced into work on railway lines and cliff faces to break rocks. The perverse regime led by despot Kim Jong-un shamefully suggest the labour is merely “team building” for the desperate youngsters.
Amnesty UK Director Kate Allen said: “The Daily Mirror has lifted the lid on the abuses these children are being subjected to. These distressing images simply don’t belong in the twenty-first century and it’s unacceptable for the world to turn a blind eye.
“It’s no wonder the UN has said North Korea is without parallel in the modern world in terms of human rights abuse, but that’s not enough.
“The UN and other monitoring groups including Amnesty International must urgently be allowed in to North Korea to make a full assessment of the scale of abuses.”
Child labour is thriving under North Korea's loathsome tyrant Kim Jong-Un (Photo: Getty)
A 2014 UN report detailed rights abuses in North Korea by a “state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world”.
Forced to work on farms, repair railroads, mine for coal, weed towns and neighbourhoods, and even scrub statues of the former leaders, a childhood in North Korea is virtually nonexistent.
Health officials have stated the back breaking, hazardous and dangerous roles carried out by children for the regime threaten their health, development and education.
Evidence suggests the tragic youngsters are regularly subjected to violence and even threatened their families will be harmed if they do not complete their work.
Dr Arnold Fang, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International, said: "These images add to the human rights violations that go on every day in North Korea. Forced labour in camps and even starvation is still being practised.
“Looking at the video of the children carrying out work and lifting very heavy loads of rocks, it is undoubtedly very hazardous to their health and safety.
The Daily Mirror also revealed children are being used on a North Korean railway project (Photo: Daily Mirror)
“In international law it is recommended that no one under the age of 18 should carry out this type of work, so judging by the videos the Daily Mirror has uncovered these children are under age and should not be doing this work.
“Human rights violations happen across the board right now.
A recent report by Amnesty International revealed how North Korea has expanded its programme of brutal prison camps. Human rights campaigners said practices including rape, torture, deliberate starvation, forced labour and child murder exist at two notorious political prison camps, known as kwanliso 15 and kwanliso 25.
Dr Fang added: “In our experience we understand there are people including children who are sent to political prison camps, not because they have committed any criminal offences but rather they have someone in their family who was sent there because they were perceived to be dangerous to the regime.
Some of the youngsters affected are believed to be the children of political prisoners (Photo: Daily Mirror)
“This is guilt by association. Some children are even born in the camps.
“It is possible these children could be the children of political prisoners in a labour camp.”
“It is most important the North Korean government opens up to outside human rights monitors like Amnesty and the UN.
“Whatever their explanation for using child labour, they have to give justification and we need to know the specifics of the problem to examine how endemic this is.”