North Korea’s hardline communist regime is using deadly nerve gas on its own citizens and possibly is operating experimental gas chambers, according to a Jewish human rights group.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told WorldNetDaily he went to Asia to talk with North Korean defectors who said they witnessed gruesome experimentations.

Cooper began the investigation after learning of a BBC documentary in February 2004 based on interviews with a former North Korean official who had defected. The rabbi interviewed that man and two others, who confirmed the claims.

The Rabbi interviewed a 55-year-old chemist who said he was in charge of an experiment to test the effect of deadly nerve gas on political prisoners.

“He said he was involved in the killing of two people – one who did not expire for two and a half hours, and the second didn’t die till three and a half hours had passed,” Cooper told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for a documentary that aired last night on the radio program “Dispatches.”

Soon Ok Lee, a North Korean now living in the United States, escaped from a political prison camp where she says she witnessed chemical testing on humans at least once or twice.

North Korea’s Camp 22 prison

Cooper said the Simon Wiesenthal Center intends to pursue action against the North Korean regime for possible crimes against humanity.

The rabbi told WND that after talking with U.S. officials in Washington, President Bush indicated to him his personal interest during a brief encounter at a White House Hannukah celebration in December.

“The president was very animated and emotional about this issue,” Cooper said.

While admitting the political situation is complex amid tension over North Korea’s nuclear program, Cooper believes international pressure can produce “behavioral changes” in Pyongyang.

“We need to send a message to North Korean officials that you are going to be held accountable personally for this kind of behavior,” he said.

As WorldNetDaily reported, South Korea officially has ignored the charges, fearing a confrontation that might hurt relations between the two countries.

Yesterday, human rights activists in Asia, Europe and North America staged North Korea Freedom Day, with rallies in a number of cities to protest Pyongyang’s human rights violations.

In the BBC report, a witness described watching entire families being put in glass chambers at a North Korean prison camp and gassed while scientists took notes.

Kwon Hyuk, who has changed his name, was the former military attach? at the North Korean Embassy in Beijing and the chief of management at the prison, known as Camp 22.

“I witnessed a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas chamber,” he said. “The parents, son and and a daughter. The parents were vomiting and dying, but till the very last moment they tried to save kids by doing mouth-to-mouth breathing.”

Hyuk drew detailed diagrams of the gas chamber.

“The glass chamber is sealed airtight. It is 3.5 meters wide, 3 meters long and 2.2 meters high. [There] is the injection tube going through the unit. Normally, a family sticks together and individual prisoners stand separately around the corners. Scientists observe the entire process from above, through the glass.”

According to the report, estimates of the number of prisoners held in the North Korean gulag could be as many as 200,000 in 12 or more centers. Camp 22 is thought to hold 50,000 people, including critics of the regime and Christians.

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