A refugee from the Democratic Republic of North Korea who spent six years in one of that nation's harshest gulags has shared his chilling illustrations of its conditions with the UN High Commission on Human Rights.

The eight cartoons by Kim Kwang-il, which depict various forms of torture, hardship and death visited upon the prisoners, form part of a new UN report on the communist dictatorship's brutal excesses.

"Crimes against humanity have been, and are being, committed against starving populations," the Commission says in a stern summary of its findings addressed to North Korean authorities, adding that "persons detained in …prison camps, those who try to flee your country, adherents to the Christian religion and others considered to be introducing subversive influences are subjected to crimes against humanity."

Kim's illustrations of life in a prison camp are included below, with quotes excerpted from the report:

"[H]e had to crawl on his hands and knees into the cell he shared with 40 other prisoners, because the entrance door was only about 80 cm high. The guards told him that 'when you get to this prison you are not human, you are just like animals, and as soon as you get to this prison, you have to crawl just like animals.'"

"During the interrogation phase, suspects are systematically degraded, intimidated and tortured, in an effort to subdue them and to extract a full confession. The physical setup of the interrogation detention centre is often already designed to degrade and intimidate."

"Mr. Jeong was also subjected to the so-called 'pigeon torture'. '[Y]our hands are handcuffed behind your back. And then they hang you so you would not be able to stand or sit,' Mr. Jeong described. 1035 On repeated occasion, Mr. Jeong had to spend a full three days at a time in the pigeon torture stress position, enduring excruciating pain."

"During the 10 months he spent in detention, Mr. Jeong was given so little food that his weight dropped from 75 kilograms to 36 kilograms. In order to make him confess, Mr. Jeong was beaten with clubs, while hanging upside down."

"In March 2003, another man left his work unit to take some potatoes from the storage, because he was extremely hungry. Fearing that the guards would try to consider this an attempted escape, he tried to hide. The guards chased tracker dogs after him. The dogs found and mauled the man until he was half dead. Then the guards shot the victim dead on the spot."

"The torture chamber was equipped with a water tank, in which suspects could be immersed until the suspect would fear drowning. The room also had wall shackles that were specially arranged to hang people upside down."

"During the famine, food rations were further cut down to a point where only adults engaged in full time forced labour would receive rations. Her grandmother died from starvation and her exhausted mother fell from a steep cliff as she tried to forage for edible wild plants."

"The prisoners were brought to the camps in train wagons originally designed to transport animals. '[T]here were like six wagons that were filled with people. And that train came to the camps for six days consecutively, so thousands came in,' Mr. Ahn testified."