In the 20th century, a new category of labor camps was developed for the imprisonment of millions of people who were not criminals per se, but political opponents (real or imagined) and various so-called undesirables under the totalitarian, both communist and fascist regimes. Some of those camps were dubbed "reeducation facilities" for political coercion, but most others served as backbone of industry and agriculture for the benefit of the state especially in times of war. Labor camps of forced labor were abolished by Convention no. 105 of the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO), adopted internationally on 27 June 1957.
Registration of Jews by Nazis for forced labor, 1941
During World War II the Nazis operated several categories of Arbeitslager (Labor Camps) for different categories of inmates. The largest number of them held Jewish civilians forcibly abducted in the occupied countries (see Łapanka) to provide labor in the German war industry, repair bombed railroads and bridges or work on farms. By 1944, 19.9% of all workers were foreigners, either civilians or prisoners of war.
During the early 20th century, the Empire of Japan used the forced labor of millions of civilians from conquered countries and prisoners of war, especially during the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific War, on projects such as the Death Railway. Hundreds of thousands of people died as a direct result of the overwork, malnutrition, preventable disease and violence which were commonplace on these projects.
North Korea is known to operate six camps with prison-labor colonies in remote mountain valleys. The total number of prisoners in the Kwan-li-so is 150,000 – 200,000. Once condemned as a political criminal in North Korea, the defendant and his family are incarcerated for lifetime in one of the camps without trial and cut off from all outside contact.
The Soviet Union took over the already extensive katorga system and expanded it immensely, eventually organizing the Gulag to run the camps. In 1954, a year after Stalin's death, the new Soviet government of Nikita Khrushchev began to release political prisoners and close down the camps. By the end of the 1950s, virtually all "corrective labor camps" were reorganized, mostly into the system of corrective labor colonies. Officially, the Gulag was terminated by the MVD order 20 of January 25, 1960.
During the period of Stalinism, the Gulag labor camps in the Soviet Union were officially called "Corrective labor camps." The term "labor colony"; more exactly, "Corrective labor colony", (Russian: исправительно-трудовая колония, abbr. ИТК), was also in use, most notably the ones for underaged (16 years or younger) convicts and captured besprizorniki (street children, literally, "children without family care"). After the reformation of the camps into the Gulag, the term "corrective labor colony" essentially encompassed labor camps.
^Peretz, Don (January 1994). The Middle East Today. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 179."..., and if the sale failed to produce the required amount, the owners were sent to forced labor camps run by the Ministry of Public Works."