The Execution I Witnessed
North Korean Defector
My father, Han, Tae-seop, who was born on February 14 1940, once had been a vice chief in Seok-su-ri, Yon-sa-kun, North Ham-kyong province as a member of North Korean Workers' Party. He passed away in 1995 in a car accident while he was in charge of animal farming in Sam-po-ri, Yon-sa-kun, North Ham-kyong province. My mother, Kim, Ran, was born on February 7, 1942 in Myong-cheon-kun, North Ham-kyong province and died of high blood pressure on April 7, 1987. My sister, Han, Kyong-suk, was born on April 8, 1973 in Seok-su-ri and graduated Seok-su elementary school and Seok-su high school. She married in 1991 and died of tuberculous meningitis in May 1998, leaving her daughter, Kim, Hyang-mi behind.
I was born on April 29, 1971 in Seok-su-ri, Yon-sa-kun, North Ham-kyong province ad finished 4 years in Seok-su elementary school and another 6 years in Seok-su high school. I lived a better life when compared with others thanks to my father’s job when young.
After graduation I enrolled at North Korea’s People’s Army on September 4, 1987 and was posed in 7623-16 Corp after 40 days of training.
I was appointed first corporal on April 15, 1988, in honor of Kim, Il-seong’s birthday, and then staff sergeant on February 16, 1990 in honor of Kim, Jeong-il’s birthday and the vice-squad leader in the guard squad. When I was granted the first corporal in 1988, the goal in my life could be prioritized as follows; firstly joining the North Korean Workers’ Party and secondly becoming a general. Thus, 24 hours of my life was occupied with working and training except 4hours of sleep.
The goal of our corps was burrowing an underground tunnel between Pyong-yang and Kae-sung. Even when I was appointed staff sergeant and a vice squad leader, I couldn’t sleep more than 2 hours after spending 6 hours in work and the rest in training.
I joined North Korean Worker’s Party on April 15, 1995 at the construction hall of “Unification Street” and at the same time I entered military academy in Man-kyong-dae, Pyong-yang.
After graduation from the school as an honored student, I was placed to the 7623 Corp as a second lieutenant, participating identity investigation.
I was granted the vice general of the 16th platoon in the 7623 Corp on November 25, 1996, and the first lieutenant on October 10 in the following year, and then discharged from the army in March 1998.
As my father had devoted his all life on the farm, I followed his footstep. I escaped from North Korea on June 1, 1998 on account of my sister’s death and its regarding accidents followed.
My sister suffered from headache, which at that time apparently looked as such, and I didn’t consider it seriously. Her illness getting worse, I took her to the hospital to have an examination to know particulars about her illness, which later turned out to be a tuberculous meningitis. As I couldn’t afford to hospitalize her, I could not but bring her back home again and bought the medicine at times by borrowing money from others.
According to what the doctor said to me, she was running out of options; either die or become a fool. Thinking of her, my heart was full of agony in the fear of that there was nothing that I could do to make her up and around. I was responsible to take care of her as my parents had died, leaving her under my custody.
When I dropped by my sister’s house on my way back from work in mid May 1998, she asked me to bring her some painkillers. I went to see doctors only to come back empty-handed in complete despair. Feeling resentful, I went to the hospital and happened to find that a supervisor of worker’s party was having painkillers. I got too furious to patiently hear her saying that only those who had a pull were given benefits from the hospital.
I ended up to be punished 10 days of confinement, when I bit the doctor, out of myself, till he became passed out. When I came back home, released from the detention house, what I came to face was nothing but my sister’s funeral.
Coming back from burring my sister, I found a note from the executive committee, which asked me to participate in the meeting where I was severely accused.
Returning home, I thought over and over again how the life unfold would be in such a cruel and inhumane society where I should undergo hardships. I finally made up my mind to escape from North Korea, remembering what other people who once had been in China said before.
It was 1993 when I served the army as a vice-chief of the guard division. A soldier, looking as old as the chief, was commandeered from other division. After several conflicts with the chief, he fled during the night with one rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition.
Three months later he was brought in front of the court where all the soldiers convened. He was, above all, responsible for the betrayal of the party, great leader and our country, secondly for running away with weaponry and thirdly, extortion and rape.
He was sentenced to death. The execution has been held in public with his parents and his siblings presented, let alone the brigade. Seven soldiers including me was order to thrust our spear into his body in turn, from the chief to the last gun soldier.
Rushing to him with our spear forwarded, the soldier who stung him first was a soldier what’s- his-name. He later became fainted never to return after being convoyed to the hospital. I bulked 1 m ahead of him when I found him staring me. Looking his eyes while I was rushing to him, all the memories of the past such as chatting, dancing, and having dinner together on a table came to my mind. When the soldier who first impaled him fell down on the ground, I saw his blood spouting from his wound. At that time I unintentionally got my spear gored in his stomache. His mother and his sister passed away at the sight of the execution, while his father and his brother was crying. I can’t remember anything but that I lost my appetite feeling giddy and disturbed.
For two weeks the remained six including me took a rest in the filed army office. Feeling guilty, I asked whereabouts of his family but in vain, as nothing was known to everybody.