My name is Tae-Jin Kim and I have been living freely here since I entered South Korea in June, 2001. I am enjoying my freedom of studying, working, moving, traveling, legal protection, and voting which I had only dreamt about in North Korea. Furthermore, I have freedom of religion, protest, association which I wasn’t able to put into action. As I feel terribly guilty, being overwhelmed by unimaginable such privileges which have been granted, I came to stand before you to tell you the reality of North Korea, where human rights were brutally infringed.
Since I was a Chinese-Korean, I wasn’t able to enter the Workers’ Party, and couldn’t enter a college, either. Consequently, I escaped from North Korea to China on March 24th, 1986 as I was feeling a great anger towards the North Korean Society. However, after a year and half later on July 25th, 1987, I was captured by Gonganbu, the Chinese public security. I was locked in for 20 days by them, and afterwards, I was sent to North Korea and held by the State Security Department. The North Korean authorities accused of being a big time “political criminal.” It was extremely painful for me being falsely accused of. When I didn’t yield to their demands, the officials of the State security Department hit me with a club, and sometimes, they didn’t give me any food; I couldn’t go to bathroom properly, too. They made me sit down all day long so I couldn’t move my legs properly even now. Additionally, a detention facility was terribly inadequate. There was one prisoner from Musan-gun Hamgyeongbuk-do Province whose legs had been amputated because of a serious frostbite, under a freezing cold. There was another prisoner whose nickname was ‘frog.’ Once, the prison guards made him take off all his clothes and sleep. Even in summer, it was cold in the prison, but in winter, it felt like almost 20 degrees below zero in Celsius. A moan of pain from the coldness was enough to make the prison a hell. After this incident, the ‘frog’ couldn’t endure the hardships of his life in the prison, so he committed suicide by banging his head to the wall. My body was also in a terrible condition because they didn’t allow us to wash our faces or teeth. At night, I had to fight with lice and fleas only with a tattered blanket to resist in cold; I don’t want to think about that again.
I was investigated for eight months, and finally sent to No. 16 political prison, which was located in Daedok-ri, Yodok-gun, Hamgyongnam-do Province on March 31st, 1988. In North Korea, there are many secret prison camps, and inmates are being transferred different camps on different periods. In some case, a whole family falsely gets accused as political criminals for not just anti-governmental activities, but also when their child only rips or writes something on a portrait of Ilsung-Kim by the mistake. Additionally, when people forget to say, “Great,” before the leader are given the same as the punishment. At that time, Yodok Concentration Camp was classified as the restricted area, where no inmates are allowed to leave alive permanently. In the restricted area, all publications or broadcasting were prohibited. When I was there, I was suffering from malnutrition terribly so that whenever I ate something, I had serious diarrhea. Then, I was so dehydrated badly that I wasn’t even able to open my eyes. This happened because I was only getting rice made with corn and an inadequate amount of vegetables. Some prisoners ate rats, snakes, frogs and frogs’ eggs secretly as well as wild greens, and flower leaves from mountains. Four years and six months, while I was staying there, I saw one person die per week because of malnutrition. Because of tortures like kneeling and hitting, it’s difficult to move our legs properly now. Actually, my body hurts each time I walk or sit down. In North Korea, prisoners were treated so badly that the officers hit us until they were satisfied.
Once, we were helping the construction of bullet-proof walls on the guard post. One prisoner from Pyonganbuk-do Province took and ate some tomatoes at a garden in front of the guard post. Then, the guards there hit him so terribly, took all his clothes off and made him stay up at the night like that. Afterwards, I had to carry him on my back because he was unable to move. For a month while tomatoes and cucumbers were growing, he was tortured seriously. He had nowhere to talk about his situation; it was a miracle that he didn’t die.
There was a person named Park, Sang-gil, whose families were all imprisoned in the concentration camp. They were all held there because their grandfather, an army surgeon at the anti-Japan guerrilla unit who had changed his political ideology. They were there for 15 years. During the farming season, because he didn’t plant seeds in the way Kim, Ilsong ordered, the undertaking official beat him so badly that he hurt his back and was unable to simply go out of his room for a long time.
There was another prisoner named Park, Ik-hyun, who was a chairman of some association. I don’t know why he was in the prison exactly, but it was said that 15 years ago, he was tortured and subjected to physical pains because he didn’t admit that he ripped the newspaper that had a portrait of Kim Il-sung. I think this doesn’t make any sense. This is the worst case of human rights infringement, which we can’t find any other place in the whole world.
Mr. Choi from Hamgyung-do Province was too tired to work out of hunger so our unit leader hit him terribly. However, he wasn’t still in a condition that he could work even after the beating so he acted like insane by going around stealing dog food and drooling. Eventually, he chopped his fingers with an axe.
In summer in 1989, some people including Kim Hong-am and Kim Hong-cheol gathered and talked about the Bible and Shakesphere. Kim Hong-cheol informed against this fact to the security department; Kim Hong-am and the other person was sent to the restriction area, and the anonymous person left the prison 6 months earlier. They were punished because the Bible was an idol and overseas works are revisionism.
Most of the restrictions in the prison were kept by the same prisoners; this makes the prisoners be choked. It’s because the atmosphere changes to the one that the prisoners monitor each other.
In the summer of 1989, Kim, Hong-am and Kim, Hong-cheol, and some others sat down and talked about the Bible and Shakespeare. However, Kim, Hongcheol told it to the State Security Department so Kim, Hong-am and another were sent to a restricted area. Kim, Hongcheol, the snitch, was released in six months but others have been punished as the Bible meant for an idol worshipping, and foreign literature is about revisionism. The order of the prison is usually maintained by prisoners, and this is the worst part of it because it creates an environment that everyone ends up watch each other.
Next, as far as concerning any prison breaks, they are all promptly met with execution by gun. When I was in the prison, there were five or six attempts, but nobody succeeded and they were all captured. During the execution, all the prisoners are dragged out to watch, surrounded by the armed guards. Meanwhile, a death-row inmate was given a pebble to bite, with a mask to cover their face while kneeling down. Afterwards, three shooters release three bullets each, and shoot a prisoner’s heart or head again to make sure he or she is dead. A few years ago, the guards even ordered other prisoners to throw rocks at the dead bodies in a line after the execution.
I was freed on April 10th, 1992, finishing my sentence there at the hell-like place being treated inhumanely. Though I was back to the dear family, my wife and children demanded a divorce that they couldn’t possibly live with a political criminal so we got separated, and even my mother I denounced me as an adopted; she cut me off her life. Because of this, I lost hope to live in North Korea; I decided to escape from the North again on July 7th, 1997, and went to China. Afterwards, I wandered place to place, and finally I succeeded in coming into South Korea in June, 2001.
I hope they quickly realize that North Korea is under the wrath of God. After Kim, Il-sung’s death, they claimed on the Workers’ Party publisher that he has descended from the sky through, which I think absolutely non-sense.
In North Korea, they are exiling people, who have been working very hard for the country for a long time, into mountains because the Kim’s don’t like them anymore. Additionally, they drove out talented technicians and scholars because of the reason that their families aren’t revolutionary enough. I think this is one of the reasons why North Korea cannot develop. They lie that people are the owners of factories and farms but make them only follow their orders; they have deprived any chance to know the world in the closed system. Because of the idolization of the Kim’s – the father and his son – all over the country, the treasury is empty, and the industry equipment has become deteriorated. Moreover, because of the Juche agricultural techniques, which they selected few decades ago, the country’s rice supply has depleted, which left the 300 starving people; and had to beg to the other countries.
All the time, they insisted that they are at the side of the poor. However, the ones who escaped to China didn’t escape to earn money, but to find their ways to survive; they left all dear people back at home, who have nothing left. However, the China government is sending these poor people back to the North again by using all nasty means. In conclusion, the citizens of the communist countries’ are mere means to sustain their political power.
I hope to make an appeal to everyone gathered here, and to the world. I hate communism the most because they not only lie a lot, but also they are shameless. I hope that you come up with solutions to protect the people in North Korea as well as refugees in other countries and China. Furthermore, I hope rather than threatening the world with nuclear weapons like a lunatic, North Korea to protect human rights and quickly realize that they have the future as soon as possible, making their precious time count. For the peace of North Korea and the world, I pledge my sincere conviction to the cause and strongly oppose any human rights infringements in the world. Thank you very much.
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