Shin Dong Hyok – Growing up in a North Korean prison camp

On Nov. 29, 1996, a 14-year-old North Korean, Shin Dong Hyok, and his father were made to sit in the front row of a crowd assembled to watch executions.

The two had already spent seven months in a North Korean prison camp’s torture compound, and Shin assumed they were among those to be put to death.

Instead, the guards brought out his mother and his 22-year-old brother. The mother was hanged, the brother was shot by a firing squad.

“Before she was executed, my mother looked at me,” Shin said in a recent interview. “I don’t know if she wanted to say something, because she was bound and gagged. But I avoided her eyes.”

North Korean prison camp inmates [like Shin] were held in the “revolutionizing zone” at Camp No. 15 in Yodok in eastern North Korea. This means that the emphasis was on “re-educating” the prisoners. If they survived long enough to complete their sentences, they were released.

Shin is the first North Korean who made it to South Korea who is known to have escaped from such a prison camp, a “total-control zone.”

Shin “is a living example of the most brutal form of human rights abuse,” said Yoon Yeo Sang, president of Database Center for North Korean Human Rights in Seoul. “He comes from a place where people are deprived of their ability to have the most basic human feelings, such as love, hatred and even a sense of being sad or mistreated.”

[Excerpt of an International Herald Tribune article by Choe Sang-Hun]

German theaters to screen movie on North Korean political prison camp

A movie about a former North Korean political prisoner will be screened in theaters in Berlin and nine other German cities on November 8.

Director Marc Wiese’s “Camp 14 ― Total Control Zone” is about the dramatic life of Shin Dong-hyuk, who was born in a political prison camp, according to the documentary film company.

Shin remained in the camp for 24 years before escaping over electrified fences and making his way to China. He settled in South Korea in 2006.

“Our sole purpose was to follow the rules of the work camp and then die,” Shin said in a synopsis. “Sometimes people tried to escape, driven by fear of starving or being beaten, but they were publicly executed and became the object of hate for those of us who were left behind.” Shin has said inmates were subjected to torture, hard labor and arbitrary execution.

The movie follows the March publication of “Escape from Camp 14,” a book on Shin’s experiences by American journalist Blaine Harden.

 

Escape from a North Korean concentration camp

–A brief account byYong Kim, who escaped from a political prison camp in North Korea and after living as a refugee in China, 1 year later arrived safely in South Korea, via Mongolia

On September 28, I made a miraculous escape from [my concentration] camp of death on a coal train. I passed through various North Korean provinces, finally crossing the Tumen River in December [escaping into] China. I wandered in Yanji not knowing where to go in the strange Chinese land.

The sad fate of North Koreans in China as a poor homeless race came home to me. The women are sold for rape and forced into prostitution by Chinese and Korean-Chinese. Some women try to go back to North Korea with the money they earned to feed their families, only to be caught and imprisoned in police detention centers.

Pregnant women often suffer the most, as officers would kill the fetuses while in the womb by kicking the women’s belly. In the market in Yanji, you see North Korean children whose fingers have been cut off for stealing food.

There is a pecuniary reward for every North Korean defector captured, and the Korean-Chinese go all out searching for North Koreans in hiding, to hand them over to the Chinese police. The arrested North Koreans are strung together with a wire that is pierced through their noses. And in groups of fifty, these people are deported.