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North Korea’s Terror and Crimes

Nina Franke, News writer

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To be honest, I never really knew much about North Korea. A few years ago, I would hear negative things about Kim Jong-un and I knew that their political situation was terrible, but I never expected it to be actually this horrible. Then, not long ago, I found this video of a girl speaking of her escape from North Korea, it changed my mind.

“North Korea is an unimaginable country,” she started. The people are not in any way allowed to express their emotions, especially love, unless it’s towards the dictator. There are no books, movies or songs about love between men and women. Only one TV channel exists, and there’s no internet for a large segment of society. You are not allowed to sing, say, wear or even think what you want. But one of the most unbelievable things for me was that executions, public executions, are still real in North Korea. This country is in such an incredible old and wrong mindset that it is just depressing.

Yeonmi Park was born in 1993. When she was little her mother used to tell her she shouldn’t even whisper things they weren’t supposed to say because the birds and mice could hear her. The girl thought that the dictator could read her mind, that’s how afraid she was.

When Yeonmi was nine years old she saw her friend’s mother publicly executed, because she watched a Hollywood movie. The smallest crimes can lead to an execution or imprisonment in North Korea, not only for the person who committed the crime, but for his/her family for two generations to come. While Yeonmi was in the hospital to get her appendix removed, her sister and a friend had made plans to escape the country, without anyone knowing. Not long before, her father got arrested and everyone was afraid of the consequences.

Together with her mother she went to search for her sister in China. Yeonmi was 13 years old at that point. After they crossed the North Korean border they met a Chinese official, who targeted the 13-years-old and wanted to rape her. There’s a saying in North Korea “women are weak but mothers are strong”, so instead of seeing her daughter being raped her mother offered herself to protect the girl. Yeonmi had to watch everything.

Later her father also managed to escape and followed them. The difficult part of their journey was just about to start. To get to Mongolia they had to cross the Gobi dessert. The Gobi dessert, in some parts of China also called “hanhai” which means “the endless ocean”, is one of the biggest desserts in the world. Continental climate predicts drastic changes in temperature, therefore -65 degrees at night is not uncommon. Now imagine walking through this desert for two years without the right preparation and always afraid of getting caught and sent back.

Unfortunately, her father didn’t survive the journey through the desert. She had to bury him herself at 3am in secret and she couldn’t even cry, because she was to afraid of being heard and getting sent back. Yeonmi was now 14 years old. Although she had lost her father and sister, she and her mother kept going. After two more years crossing the desert they came to Mongolia. Instead of helping the Korean refugees the Mongolian officials put them into prison for three months. It seemed to be an impossible situation. At some point they went so far as to threaten suicide in order to get free and continue on their way. But after all the terror and labour they went through, Yeonmi and her mother eventually had enough money to buy their freedom. They eventually flew to South Korea and safety and are still living there today.

Yeonmi Park’s story is only one of thousands. It is unknown how many North Koreans try to escape the country every year, but what we do know is that not many of them survive.

Another shocking reality is the Slave- or also called Prison-Labour Camps in North Korea. Statistics say roughly 200,000 people are held prisoners in these camps today. When reading about them it made me think of the Nazi concentration camps from World War II .
Surrounded by electrified razor wire it’s impossible to escape alive. The only food inmates get is a mush of corn, cabbage and salt, but frequently they catch mice or insects and eat these. The prison guards use torture methods, which could be taken straight from the middle ages. Roasting prisoners over fire to force information from them, cutting off limbs or beating them to death. People in the camps get tortured so badly and treated like animals, that all remaining is the survival instinct. There are many cases of children reporting their own parents and siblings to the guards. Because of the three-generation rule some children are born and grow up in the camps, therefore they know nothing else and behave like wild animals rather than humans.

Everyone that talks about escape gets assassinated. You drop something and part of your finger could be chopped off, if your guard is in a bad mood. An escapee told the story of a girl in the camps, who got beaten to death by her teacher for carrying a few kernels of corn in her pocket. Often the guards, teachers and other people of power didn’t even want to get their hands dirty and got inmates to beat others while they were just watching, enjoying the punishment.

All North Koreans fear the camps, one of the reasons why they follow their leaders rules and don’t rebel or try to bring political changes forward. Too easily they can make a mistake, which could land them in prison. When a household didn’t have photographs of the Kim leaders or they were not dusted and prominent, they would get into huge troubles. Neither are North Koreans allowed to listen to foreign radio broadcasts, nor to have deviant thoughts. Both would likely end in execution. Certain “class enemies” like Christians or other religious groups have it even harder.

Poverty is one further big problem many citizens face. Many are malnourished as money for nutritional food is in short supply. As a result, some have to collect random things on the streets to eat.

The wish to spend your vacation in North Korea is not exactly common, but it is also incredibly hard to get into the country as a foreigner. A reason why most North Koreans have never seen people from other nations. Tourists in the country are constantly guarded and are never able to see behind the facade, as everything is done to show them an image of a practically perfect country. Dancing during assemblies, children smiling, friendly faces everywhere. They put on a mask to hide the real grimness. It’s just all fake.

It’s rather difficult to bring changes forward in this military dominated country. North Korea possesses one of the largest armies in the world and has a heavy guarded coastline. On the other side of the country China functions as North Korea’s protector, trying to keep refugees from crossing the border or reaching South Korea.

The Kim family’s last three generations rule the worlds most tyrannical oppressive state. It’s been more than six decades and there were still no changes made. But we can make them. After some research I found quite a few organizations committed to raising awareness and helping North Koreans escape the country.

“The committee for human rights in North Korea” (US), a group of foreign policy and human rights specialists with the goal to close forced labour camps, support North Korean women, who are trafficked in China, state a code of conduct for companies investing there and much more.

“Life Funds for North Korean Refugees”, a Japanese group, builds shelters along the China-North Korean border, supplies defectors with rice and clothing and operates an education sponsorship program for abandoned children whose mothers were repatriated.

These two are only examples. We often forget about this small country on the other side of the planet, but we should not, because what happens in North Korea is not tolerable in any way, and the Kim Regime has to be stopped.

Please raise awareness about the circumstances in North Korea.

The committee for human rights in North Korea

Life funds for North Korean refugees

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1 Comment

One Response to “North Korea’s Terror and Crimes”

  1. Antonia on May 23rd, 2017 11:25 am

    Thank you for this really good article. Especially in the previous months you heard a lot about atomic bombs and the fear that Kim Jong Un would drop one on North America. But you heard almost nothing about these horrible prison camps or the circumstances in North Korea. And you are right. We have to rise awareness about North Korea to stop this horrible dictatorship.

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North Korea’s Terror and Crimes