Born into Brutality

Thursday, February 14, 2013

This morning, I came across a link to the life story so far of a North Korean man who describes himself as "a political prisoner at birth". The story sounds like something straight out of an Ayn Rand novel -- not Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead, but We the Living or Anthem.

When it is not describing inhuman brutality, most of the account is very sad, like the below description of one of Shin In-kun's good days.

After [being forced to witness] the execution [of my mother and brother], I was again separated from my father: He was sent to work on a construction site, and I was sent back to school. Things were no longer as they used be, I was now deemed the son and brother of traitors. Teachers just punished me repeatedly and arbitrarily for little apparent reason, and I was the target of constant discrimination. I urinated in my trousers many times as my teacher did not allow me to use toilet. I can never remember not being hungry. One day, I discovered 3 kernels of corn in a small pile of cow dung, picked them up and cleaned them with my sleeve before eating. As miserable as it may seem, that was my lucky day.
Just try to imagine a bad day compared to this. You probably can't, which is why the article is worth reading. You may well be merely lucky not to be able to imagine this. You may want to take luck out of the equation. For example, it might be helpful to start by asking yourself, after reading the whole thing, why our leaders think they can accomplish anything by negotiating with a regime populated by figures such as the ones in this story who make such misery possible.

The story of Shin In-kun's escape underscores how miserable life under a totalitarian regime can be for anyone who thinks for himself (or happens to be related to someone who does):
I ran to the barbed wire. Suddenly, I felt a great pain as though someone was stabbing the sole of my foot when I was passed through the wire. I almost fainted but, by instinct, I pushed myself forward through the fence. I looked around to find the barbed wire behind me but Park was motionless hanging over the wire fence!

At that desperate moment I could afford little thought of my poor friend and I was just overwhelmed by joy. The feeling of ecstasy to be out of the camp was beyond description. I ran down the mountain quite a way when I felt something wet on my legs. I was in fact bleeding from the wound inflicted by the barbed wire. I had no time to stop but sometime later found a locked house in the mountain.

I broke into the house and found some food that I ate, Then I left with a small supply of rice I found in the house. I sold the rice at the first mining village I found and bribed the border guards to let me through the North Korean border with China with the money from that rice.
This story appears at the web site of a Japan-based NGO I had never heard of until this morning: Life Funds for North Korean Refugees. I don't know enough about the group to endorse it, but I will say that it has done the world a great service by bringing this story to light,

-- CAV


Ryan said...

The life outside of the camps are only marginally better. If you have an hour or so, This video shows what life in North Korea is like even as the guides are trying to make it seem great.

Gus Van Horn said...


I haven't had a chance to view this yet, but thanks for posting the link.