- Monique Macias was packed off to North Korea with her siblings in the 1970s when her father was executed
- The former leader of Equatorial Guinea struck a deal with Pyongyang to take his children shortly before his death
- Monique’s schooldays consisted of firing Kalashnikovs and completing survival courses and military drills
- Now in her 40s, Ms Macias has just published her memoirs of North Korea, ‘I’m Monique, from Pyongyang”
New memoirs by an African woman that document her bizarre childhood living in exile in the secretive state of North Korea could shed new light on the totalitarian regime.
Born in Equatorial Guinea, Monique Macias spent 15 years living in the capital Pyongyang, where her school days consisted of firing Kalashnikov rifles at the same prestigious military academy that Kim Jong-il was educated.
Being one of very few black people in Pyongyang and living in a strange country taught Ms Macias to see the world differently. She writes, “I know how Koreans think and how to talk to them because they taught me. They made me.”
This, she said, is what inspired her to publish her memoirs now, with tensions between North and South Korea running high. She said: ‘Although North and South say they want unification, they don’t actually know each other as people. If we want unification, we have to bury prejudice.’
She recalls rumors in 1989 of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement and subsequent massacre in Beijing reaching the hallways of North Korean colleges. “I felt university students in Pyongyang at the time were thinking about change too. Although they (North Korean media) didn’t report it, a lot of people knew about it.”
Her education, which she speaks highly of, was peppered with survival courses and drills. Under the North Korean education system, anti-Americanism became a constant factor in her understanding of the world as a child, something that made meeting her first American a big shock on a rare trip to see relatives in Beijing.
She said: “At that time no one there spoke English and I was lost. I saw a white guy passing and I asked him if he spoke English but when he started talking he had an American accent,” Macias said. “I was so scared. I thought ‘oh my god, it’s an American’. My palms were sweating and I just started to run. He was shouting ‘hey, stop! I’m not going to eat you’.”
This week, state media in North Korea criticized a report by a US think-tank on scenarios for the collapse of a reclusive country with a grim record of famine, prison camps and nuclear brinkmanship. But Ms Macias sees that as unlikely. “I don’t think it’s going to collapse easily. What I’ll say is that it can open up like China but very, very slowly.”
[Full Daily Mail story and photos]