From: Sebastian Heart
Let me introduce you to the people who live in North Korea.
Above you see a picture of Korea from space.
As you can see North Korea it is very dark compared to South Korea.
North Korea is a communist country and South Korea is a free country.
Living in North Korea is like living in George Orwell’s ‘1984’.
The leaders there are worshiped as Gods. They are the heads of the nation and the people are the body of that nation.
There is no market freedom, no freedom of expression, and no freedom of thought in North Korea.
Deep down the people there might know that their leaders lie about everything they tell them. But the people have to act like they don’t see it.
The leaders tell them that North Korea is the envy of the world with the highest living standard ever achieved on Earth. There is no television, internet, or other media that may prove the people otherwise.
It is very expensive to smoke cigarettes in North Korea. This is because paper is expensive. Instead of buying expensive cigarette papers the people decide to use a newspaper as their cigarette paper. If by accident one tears a picture of the state leaders from the newspaper and use it as a cigarette paper to smoke they risk a political prison camp sentence. Because the leader was on it.
And if that is not the worst. Their entire family up until three generations will go along with them. Their father, their mother, their uncles and aunts, their grandfather and grandmother, their nieces and nephews and all their children. They all join the accused in a prisoner camp. All the children born in a prisoner camp stay there as well.
If you are alleged of tearing down a poster as a foreigner you can get sentenced to 15 years of hard labour.
What if you are born into one of these prisoner camps?
Let me introduce you to Shin Dong-Hyuk.
Shin Dong-Hyuk lived in camp 14. The estimated 15.000 prisoners here are considered unredeemable by the state. The prisoners are under no circumstance be led back into the society of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. Their stay in camp 14 is for life.
Shin was born as the son of a political prisoner in camp 18. Shin was introduced to working at age 6 and went into hard labor, sixteen hours a day at age 12. After a failed escape he was moved to camp 14.
Shin is the only known person who is thought to have successfully escaped the horrors of a North Korean concentration camp as a detainee.
On this map you can see all the supposed concentration camps located in North Korea plotted and sourced by www.freekorea.us
Shin grew up malnourished, tortured, and terrorized. He describes eating rats and worms as normal in the camp. The bowl of rice and soup two times a day were not enough. Prisoners sleep in concrete cells with no beds, no heating and no air circulation. Prisoners are subject to human experiments dealing with chemical weapons. Prisoners are witnesses of public executions or public torture every week. Beatings, waterboarding, and sexual abuses are the norm in these camps. Prisoners are rewarded if they give information about possible escapees from the camp. Shin was taught to do the same. He informed the authorities about his mother and brother who he thought were going to escape. Eventually he saw that his brother was shot and his mother was hanged. Only then he realized he made a terrible mistake by reporting them.
A few years later on an afternoon Shin and a fellow of his named ‘Park’ decided it was better to risk living as free men than to die like worms.
While they were on labor duty collecting firewood in an outer region of the camp they saw that their guards left for a patrol. Park and Shin estimated they now had a window of opportunity to escape. They looked at each other for a moment and then dropped the firewood and headed for the electric fence. Park was busy fabricating a hole in the electric fence while Shin was on the lookout. As Park was working on the fence he was electrocuted and died. Park passed away taking a leap for freedom. Shin saw it happening and noticed Park was gone. Park laid in an opening through the electric fence which made it possible for Shin to climb over his dead friends body through the hole in the electric fence to make it to the outside of the fence. But that wasn’t the end.
After the electric fence an underfed Shin was able to survive a 50 kilometer long minefield around the camp that is entrenched with razor sharp booby traps and guard posts. He was also being hunted down by scouting parties with dogs. Shin had to pass various control posts and prevent being captured while being extremely malnourished.
When Shin managed to escape the last security ring and entered rural North Korea he could buy food. For the first time in his life that meant he did not have to eat rats. Even though he still was in rural North Korea and on the run for the authorities he felt as if he was in heaven.
He came across markets and was finally able to buy clothes, maps, and food. He found an officer’s uniform and masqueraded through the countryside. He lived in empty houses and on the streets hidden from the police and soldiers. After some time he made it to the Chinese border.
While he crossed the frozen river to enter China he was unaware that Chinese officials would actively catch North Korean refugees and sell them back to North Korea. This would have meant a public execution by stoning or worse. Shin was able to stay under the radar in China and eventually make it out of China to Seoul using public transport.
Shin’s decision to leave the camp and make it to freedom proves us that anything is possible.
The only known witnesses of all concentration camps in North Korea can all be counted on one hand. They are all former camp guards or officers who defected to South Korea risking their family’s fate.
Shin is the only known interviewed escapee.
So the next time you feel sad and blue. Think about North Korea and what it would mean for you.
What will you do with your given freedom today?
Watch Shin’s Escape Here.
Blaine Harden (2013) Escape from Camp 14. One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West. Penguin Books.
Freekorea.us (2009) Camps 14 and 18, North Korea: Satellite Imagery and Witness Accounts. Freekorea.us
Freekorea.us (2009) Holocaust Now: Looking Into Camp 22’s Hell Hole. Freekorea.us
Matt Broomfield (2017) Former Guard Reveals What Life Is Like At A North Korean Prison Camp. Independent.com