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Life in the Kaechon Indoctrination Camp (3)
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2016-01-21 12:48:49
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Life in the Kaechon Indoctrination Camp (3)


LiISun Ok (Female, 53)


Public Executions

It is routine to witness public executions in the camp. When an inmate is branded to have committed a political crime, he or she will be executed even without a summary trial.

During my 5 years of stay there, I witnessed public executions 8 times. On the days of the execution, all inmates, numbering about 5,000, were told to assemble at an open field. The condemned was gagged and tied up to a 2 meter-high iron pole, with his chest, waist and knees fastened with ropes. Six guards fired three shots each, and then the ropes broke off while the condemned drooped his head. Then the inmates were told to walk by the dead.

I remember two persons in particular. One was a young woman who worked in a clothes factory. She was condemned to death after she was found to be telling to others that she was anxious about whether her two children, 5 and 7, left behind, were still living or not. She was executed on the charge that she had no confidence in the "mother party." Another was a young man who was once a member of the Three-Revolution team. He was incarcerated in the camp after committing an accidental homicide. In the camp he was known to have invented various tools, but his last work was a failure. He was accused of wasting state property, and during torture he took a defiant attitude toward the guards and was given the death penalty.

Dead Bodies Become Fertilizer, and Stillbirths Medicines

In the camp there are only two medical doctors and 3 nurses who are chosen from among the inmates. But the clinic in the camp has no drugs, and the patients are given medicine herbs grown in the camp.

Only T.B. patients are sent to a sanatorium in a place called Yongdam. Usually 30 ~ 40 inmates die from various diseases. But the deat bodies are not turned over to their family members. The dead bodies wrapped in a straw bag and buried in the orchard in camp.

Pregnant women must undergo a horrible experience. Usually they must go through about 5 or 6 months of investigation at the police before they are sent to the camp, and therefore, when they enter the camp the time of delivery is near. They are given a certain injection and their baby will be born dead. But a baby born alive will be killed on the spot. The stillibirths are wrapped on worn-out work clothes and carried away somewhere. I heard they are used for manufacturing medicines. 

The mother will be given no food for a few days to make her breasts dry up.

Interviews with Family Members

By regulation, from after 6 months of incarceration, inmates are given a chance twice a year to meet their visiting family members, but usually the interviews begin from after one year. The inmates go to interviews room in a group of ten and are allowed to meet the visitors only for 15 ~20 minutes under the watch of the guards. Everyone must tell their visitors that they are spending days there well and healthily thanks to the consideration of the Party. If one is found to be uttering complaints or showing the visitors painful facial expressions, then he or she will face the penalty of being confined in a detention house. One penalty will deprive the inmate of one chance of an interview. 

During the interview they can eat food brought in from outside, but no food is allowed to be taken into the camp. The excuse is that all inmates are given enough food, thanks to the "deep consideration" of the Party.

The Commutation

In North Korea, people often face undue punishment for a minor charge. But one may be given a commutation on the occasion of Kim Il Sung's or Kim Jong Il's birthdays, or on anniversaries of the founding of the Party.

I was sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment on a false charge. But fortunately on the occasion of the 80sth birthday of Kim Il Sung in April 1992, I was given a commutation and free from the camp on December 23 the same year after serving there for 5 years.

Prior to my release, I was given an indoctrination course for 15 days in a release-expecting prisoners' ward. During this indoctrination I was ordered to review my life in camp and tell what had learned there and what I was determined to do when I was freed. Of course, I said I was reborn as a faithful revolutionary thanks to the deep consideration of the Party and through the precious labor activities there. Finally I was told not to comply with the request of other inmates and not to talk about anything about my experiences in the camp.

I wrote a letter of pledge that I would sacrifice all for sake of Great Leader Kim Il Sung and Dear Leader Kim Jung Il, then I was let out of the camp. I received no wages though I was given a small sum of money as travel expenses to the place where I had lived.