letter was sent to us by human rights activist Sin-U
Nam, who received it by email. He says:
a terrible story on the Korean websites last night. This
is a story of a boy from North Korea, now hiding inside China
somewhere. I have read many stories of the NK refugees, but this
may be the worst. It made me physically sick.
This letter contains extremely graphic descriptions of
the brutal treatment that this boy and his family experienced.
If you find such descriptions disturbing, you may wish to stop
away from North Korea, and am writing this petition somewhere
born in Pyongyang. My father was a professor of politics
at Kim Il-sung University, and my mother taught at the Foreign
Language Department of Kim Hyong-jik (Kim Il-sung’s father)
University. My elder sister was a student at the Instrumental
Music Department of Pyongyang Music and Dance University. We lived
in the Dong-dae-won District in Pyongyang.
became a 7th grade student, my family was taken to the
political prison camp. We had been living happily in Pyongyang.
drank too much one day, and said something against the
Labor Party. He was accused of crime committed against the Party
and against the Revolution. We were all taken to the political
prison camp at Myong-chun County in Hamkyong-Bukdo Province. One
night while we were all sleeping, there were loud shouts and knocks
at the door.
went out to open the door. There were four people outside
the door, all wearing dark glasses. They punched my father in
the stomach, two of them took my father forcefully by the arms,
and the other two came into our house and started to search for
something. They broke everything in the house. They smashed all
the dishes. They ordered my mother and my sister to kneel down
on the floor, and asked them if my father ever said anything against
the Revolution, if he ever contacted bad people, if he ever listened
to radio, and many other things.
the Party ID card of my father and four photographs my
father framed which he took at different times of his life. They
warned my mother and my sister to be ready for self-evaluation,
and locked the door from outside. My mother was not well, and
she fainted as soon as they left. My sister and I cried, and tried
to bring my mother back to her senses. My mother finally came
to at dawn, and cried with us.
At 9 o'clock
in the morning, a Russian made truck came and loaded
all of our belongings into the truck. My mother, my sister, and
I were forced into a Jeep, and taken to the National Security
Agency. We spent two nights there. I was left alone in the cell,
but my mother and my sister were taken out and interrogated many
our forefinger imprint (for signature) several times.
On the third day in the prison, we were taken to an armored vehicle.
Inside the vehicle, there was nothing but four soldiers with their
rifles on their shoulder. We were being taken along with three
young men and two women. They were all handcuffed and shackled,
but we were not.
quite a while. They told my family to get out of the
vehicle and urinate, but the other people had to do it inside
the car into a bucket. They told us to get back into the car,
and then left one door open. They sat on the ground, and started
to eat. One of them with a star on his shoulder yelled at us,
“You guys are hungry, are you not? You should not have gone
against the Party! You are worse than animals.” Then, he
yelled at me, “You, little SOB, come here! Your father and
mother are traitors, and that is why you have to suffer!”
He gave me two pieces of wheat bread and a spoonful of salted
cucumber, and ordered me to eat them outside the car. I ate only
the cucumbers. I pretended to eat the bread, but did not. I squeezed
the pieces of bread into small balls. I thanked the man, and went
back to the car. I shoved one of the balls of bread into my mother’s
mouth and the other into my sister¨s. My mother did not say
anything, but cried holding my hands and looking at me.
at the political prison camp (Kwan-lee-soh) at 2 o¨clock
in the morning, and there were many people at the entrance waiting
The political prison camp this family went to was No.
16 Kwan-lee-soh at Hwasung City in Hamkyong-Bukdo Province.
This camp originally was for political prisoners who committed
serious crimes such as anti-Revolution and anti-Party activities.
Prisoners like Kim Chang-bong and Huh Bong-hak who were detained
at the Kwan-mo Prison camp were transferred to Hwasung Prison
Kwan-mo Prison Camp was dismantled when the military
set up the headquarters of the 6th Army here after they disbanded
the 6th Army. The political prison camp at Chong-sung-ku in
On-sung County was also dismantled when they converted the area
into a tobacco farm. All serious political prisoners were transferred
to Hwasung Political Prison Camp at that time.
end of the 6th Army incident, the officers who were
involved with the incident were sent to Hwasung Prison Camp.
The driver who transported the prisoners at the time was a blood
relative of mine.
Political Prison Camp became a big place at the time,
and was known to outside of its existence.)
at us loudly, told us to bow our heads, and put our hands
behind our heads. We were taken to the so-called Welcome House,
but those who were in shackles were taken somewhere else. We were
told to kneel down, and they started to ask questions and wrote
down something in their notebooks.
came and took my father and my sister first. They told
the guards who transported us that they were done. They went out
talking to each other. I sat on the floor and waited. One security
agent came and took me to a cell. They stripped me naked and took
away all my clothes. They gave me a prisoner¨s uniform, which
was too big for me and had many holes in it. It was so dirty it
did not look like clothes.
there were 30 boys aged from 10 to 20, and there were
6 groups like this in total. I was assigned to group No. 4. The
place where I was sent is called Unit No. 3.
dawn, the leader of the cell yelled at us to get up and
line up outside. I realized that both sides of the place were
cliffs. Soldiers had heavy machine guns placed in the caves in
the cliff, and guarded the prison camp. I counted the guard stations
in the cliff later. There were twelve stations in total, divided
into three units.
to learn carpentry from that day.
was all separated. My father belonged to Unit No. 1,
and my mother and my sister went to Unit No. 2. Unit No. 1 was
for those who committed serious crimes, and there the prisoners
were handcuffed and shackled all the time. At Unit No. 2, one
had to bend down to get into the cell through a concrete stair,
and the cells were all underground. The ceiling of these cells
was covered with iron grids, and a guard was placed on the iron
No. 2, prisoners were put to hard labor. Men worked at
mills to make wood panels from logs, while women worked on the
farms. At Unit No. 3, prisoners were composed of old people, children,
and the families of prisoners in Unit Nos. 1 and 2. There was
a treatment center for prisoners at Unit No. 3.
us two meals a day. One meal was composed of one potato
and some salt, and the other meal was composed of a handful of
corn or rice, or corn stalks, or a handful of steamed wheat. I
was not good at work, and the leader used to take half of my meals.
the guards “Teachers.” We could not complain
to the Teachers no matter what. The grounds surrounding the camp
were treated with chemicals, so no grass or plants could grow
there. We were hungry, but there was no grass or plants to eat.
Sometimes, we found some edible grasses and weeds while working.
We had to watch the Teachers, and ate the grass while they were
not watching us. We saved some, and ate the grass during the night.
Prisoners at Unit No. 3 were good at finding mushrooms and many
kinds of berries and roots, but those of us from Pyongyang did
not know anything. We just worked inside the prison camp.
first came to the prison camp last year, we underwent
interrogation periods, when we suffered much. Two or three times
a week, we were called to interrogation where my father was being
interrogated. The Teachers shouted that he was not answering their
questions, and while we watched, they beat my father with a wooden
club and with rifle straps.
they beat my father with the belt from a generator.
fainted every time they beat my father. Every time my
mother fainted, they gave me a bucket of water, and ordered me
to pour the water onto my mother. I shuddered with fear, but poured
the water on my mother. My father shouted back. The Teachers said,
“You SOB, you have not repented yet!” They put 2x4¨s
in between his joints, and pushed down. Sometimes, they hung my
father upside down, and kept on with their interrogation. “We
have proof of everything. How much did you get? Give us the names
of the National Security agents! What is the name of your group?”
They beat and beat my father. My father lost all his teeth, and
his mouth was so torn he could not speak. They shaved my father¨s
head, and I could see my father¨s head was full of scars and
bruises. His body was full of bruises, he could not walk by himself,
and the guards dragged him in and out. The Teachers beat him,
and the people in uniforms beat him. They bullied my father to
accept his crimes, and my father never did. Several guards ganged
up and beat him and beat him.
days before the New Year, all of us were called. “We
have to finish your business before the end of the year. You are
a headache! You confess now, you will be okay and we will be happy!”
They tied my father to the pear tree in front of the workhouse.
One in a winter coat sat in front of my father, and asked the
other Teacher to bring six wooden clubs. He went over to the mill
and fetched 2x4¨s.
me, my mother and my sister, one club each. He ordered
us to hit my father three times, each time he refused to answer.
I hit my father three times. I hit him nine times in total. My
father still maintained his innocence, and told them he was still
loyal to the Party.
got very mad and yelled, “We have had it with you!”
They undressed my mother and my sister naked. They broke the ice
in the mining car, and ordered my mother and my sister to go into
the freezing water. My mother and my sister cried and resisted.
They forced them into the water, and held them down with their
them out, and made them stand in front of my father.
The guards said they would free them if they confessed the crime
of my father. They refused. They beat them with a leather belt.
Teacher made my mother spread her legs open and said,
“You have a nice bird¨s nest.” He pulled out the
hairs from my mother. Another Teacher said to my sister, “How
many times did you do it with the boys when you were at the university?”
My sister trembled and said, “I’ve never done it.”
He said she was lying, and ordered her to spread her legs for
inspection. He made my sister lie down in the dirt, spread her
legs open, and pushed his shoes into her. They put the club into
her and said, “You have done it many times. You are lying!”
They took out a cigarette lighter and set fire to her hairs, “You
must be punished for what you have done!”
cried out loud, and they all laughed.
thought we were going to die on that day, but they let
us go when my mother fainted and did not come back to.
later, we were interrogated again all day long. All but
two of the Teachers left to go attend the Living Indoctrination
Meeting (They ran these meetings once a week in North Korea, such
as Party Loyalty Indoctrination Meetings, Youth Meetings, Living
Indoctrination Meetings, and Local Party Members Meetings.). The
two remaining teachers tied my father to a pole, and tied my hands
and my mother¨s to a tree branch. They then turned to my sister,
“You have been here a year, and you still have some flesh
left. What did you steal?” They undressed my sister, saying
they had to inspect her.
pole where my father was tied, there was a reed mat.
They brought the mat and ordered my sister to lie down on the
mat. They said, “You are so dirty. I cannot stand it.”
One of them took off his shoes, and took his socks off. He gave
the socks to my sister and ordered her to wet them in the water
and clean herself. (He pulled out new socks from a pocket and
put them on.)
washed herself again and again, and her flesh turned
Teachers tried to force themselves into her, and my sister
resisted. They beat her several times, and one of them rubbed
a cigarette butt on her nipple. They held down my sister and sat
on her face with their bottoms. My sister screamed, and they tied
her hands and feet.
one of her legsto the pole my father was tied to, and
the other to my mother and the tree branch where we were tied.
They tied her arms to the cart and a pole. “We will make
you rags today!” They then raped her.
me and my mother not to talk about it to other Teachers.
They would kill us both if we talked to others. They yelled at
my father, “You still refuse to confess? You must be the
worst spy!” They tried to put him in the freezing water.
at that instant gathered his last strength, pulled the
bayonet from one of the Teachers, and pushed it into his stomach.
The soldiers carry their bayonets at their sides. My father pushed
the bayonet into his stomach hard, and there was so much blood
all around him.
panicked and called for a doctor. My father died on the
way to the treatment center. My mother fainted, and came back
to on the day after. She went crazy, and died three days later
after she ate three bowls of human excrement at the outhouse.
Teachers were punished after this incident, and were
transferred out of the camp. I heard later that the Teachers were
inspected by the higher authority, and there was an Ideology Indoctrination
Meetings held later.)
was very sick, and went crazy after my parents died.
I wanted to save my only sister. I hid goodies and gave them to
her at her cell whenever I had to go to the mill. Every night,
there was a Reform Meeting. Women sat across from the men. I had
to watch my sister across the isle, and cried silently.
got weaker and weaker, and she looked like a ghost.
had her hairs pulled and shaved, and I could not even
when she was in Pyongyang, was so pretty that her pictures
appeared on the cover of a picture magazine and a youth literature
magazine. People living at the same apartment said she was so
pretty that she could be a movie star. My sister was always quiet
and did not talk much. Everybody loved her and adored her. She
has become in the prison camp an invalid and a discarded vegetable
August. There was nothing to feed the prisoners at the
camp. They let the prisoners eat the potatoes from the potato
farm. Women pulled the potatoes from the ground with a digger,
and men carried them in buckets to the collection place. The Teachers
stood watch, and an ox cart carried the potatoes.
the Teachers were roasting the potatoes for their lunch. The Teacher
guard left to join the lunch. Three prisoners attacked my sister
and raped her. She died by herself.
was sick and hungry always. When the Teacher guard left
for his lunch, my sister gorged herself with the raw potatoes.
When the prisoners attacked her, she was not herself and went
crazy. The Teachers knew what happened, but said, “She stole
and ate the potatoes. She deserved to die.” They had her
body covered with the potato stalks. The Teacher guard took the
three prisoners who attacked her.
not there, and I did not know my sister died. I did not
see her for a while, and asked the Teachers where my sister was.
They beat me on the head, and told me they did not know.
my close friend, Young-soo, told me, I learned that my
not know. Usually, anytime a prisoner went missing, the
camp turned upside down, but it was very quiet when my sister
continuously for several days, and we were all locked
inside. I had no way of knowing my sister died. My sister died
before August 10th, and I didn’t find out about her death
after August 20th. People went out to the potato farm, and found
the body of my sister.
of the camp were to take care of her body, but could
not because of the rain. They forgot about it, and sent me out
to the farm. I cried and begged to the Teachers to bury her properly.
The Teachers ignored my plea, and took her body to cremate her.
was a crematory at the camp, and more than 10 bodies
were cremated each month.
at the body of my sister. She had a rotten potato stalk
in one hand, and dirt in the other. In her mouth were dirt and
rotten potatoes. I tried to clean her mouth, and cried holding
her body. The Teachers kicked me, and ordered the prisoners to
take her body.
days, I cried only when I was alone.
If I got
caught while crying, they would have charged me for sympathizing
with an anti-Revolutionary. I could not cry openly.
friend, Young-soo was two years older than I. He said,
“You should act like a grown-up man. Forget the whole thing!
We must survive no matter what. Something good will happen when
the country is unified.” He cared about me.
grandfather was a civil vigilant during the War, and
killed many people. He went to South Korea. The family got connected
to their grandfather’s actions. They escaped to China, but
were caught three years later. They came to this prison camp four
years ago. His father died soon after, and his mother died two
years ago. He did not know what happened to his brother and his
sister. He bragged that his sister was in China and how good things
were in China when he was there. He could eat anything and everything.
they assigned me to the group who collected mushrooms. There were
no mushrooms yet, and we had to collect wild grasses. We had to
fill two sacks with wild grasses every day. Young-soo was with
me every day, and talked about escape.
scared. I did not know the way, and the Teachers were
guarding with their rifles ready. Young-soo said we would be safe
if only we could climb over one mountain. He had been in the camp
over three years, and he said he knew where the barbed wires were,
where the mines were, and where the pits were.
out to collect wild grasses for eight days in a row.
We ate lots of grasses, and we felt better.
before we escaped, Young-soo caught a big snake. He cut
the head off, and cut the snake in half with a stone. He cleaned
the inside and gave me the snake. We pretended we were eating
grasses, and tried to eat the snake. It was very difficult because
the skin was very tough. I discarded the skin, and swallowed the
said we had to escape on the day after. It rained lightly
on the day after.
had their raincoats on. They traded with the civilians,
wild grasses for wine. They were drinking wine. The guards were
watching, but we decided to escape from the camp. Fortunately,
one of the guards fell from a tree because it was slippery. The
Teachers were not watching us. Young-soo and I went through the
barbed wires, and ran like hell toward the mountains. Young-soo
told me beforehand several prisoners who ran down the mountain
were all shot to death by the guards. We ran up the mountain in
the misty rain and fog. We were not spotted by the guards.
near the top of the mountain, and a shot rang out. They
found out we were missing, and began the hunt. We ran like hell
and climbed over two mountains.
was a mountain brook. Young-soo suggested we go into
the brook in order to escape the hunting dogs. We stayed in the
brook until dark. There was no sign of dogs and the search party.
said we would reach Hwasung City if we climbed over one
more mountain. It was only then that I realized I was near Hwasung
City. I had heard the camp was near Chilbo Mountain, but was not
sure where we were.
come down the mountain, we avoided people who were collecting
wild grasses. Young-soo and I raided a nursery school. We stole
one pack of flour and three kilos of corn grain. We raided another
house, and got new clothes. There was nothing to eat at that house,
but we found some pears in the cabinet. We ate them all. Young-soo
said we should not ride the train, but walk alongside the railroad
track. It was my first time in Hamkyong-Bukdo Province. It was
very difficult to walk to Chongjin City.
to Sang-Ki Town, and rode a cargo truck to Chongjin City.
We met a guy named Chol in Chongjin City. (He was 18 years old.)
he had been to China seven times altogether, and there
were many relatives of his in China. He offered to take us to
China. Young-soo and Chol got into a fight, and Young-soo won.
We all became friends afterwards.
we should wait in Namyang City for the freight train
heading for China, and got on the train when we could. Young-soo
and I did not know how to swim. We were afraid of drowning in
the Tumen River while crossing the border. We wanted to sneak
into the mining cart going into China. We thought we could hide
in those carts. We had to go to On-sung City first to make money.
Chol and Young-soo were very good at raiding and stealing.
three days at On-sung Market collecting money by pick
pocketing. We made thirty thousand Won¨s. We could bribe the
inspectors with money, and make sure they would not poke holes
into the cart cargo we were going to hide in. We went up the hill
and looked at the China side.
were lots of people down in the village because there
was a hospital. We decided to spend the night in the hills even
though it was dangerous. We all slept at the cliff supported by
wooden poles. Young-soo kicked around in his sleep, and fell off
the edge down to the railroad track. He screamed, and the guards
came running with flashlights. It was very noisy down at the tracks.
my mouth with his hands. He said we had to run. We ran
to the other side of the mountain. I ran crying all the while.
I did not want to abandon Young-soo.
lost my father, my mother, and then my sister at the
prison camp, and was ready to die myself, it was Young-soo who
saved me. He was like a brother to me, and he was gone now.
mountains, I called out Young-soo’s name and cried.
My brother, Young-soo had to die in front of Tumen River just
for his body for several days, but could not find him.
passed like that. Chol and I crossed the border in a
cart heading for China, and arrived at a place named Ahn-Doh.
Chol’s relatives in Ahn-Doh gave us 350 Yuan, but did not
let us in.
us in a bus, which was heading to Mok-Dan River.
I arrived at Mok-Dan River on the 7th, and we continued
on to Chonjin City by bus with the help of Chol¨s acquaintance.
In Chonjin, they told us that it was dangerous to go to Beijing.
They advised us to go inland from Chonjin City by train or bus.
walking out from a Korean restaurant, and we ran into
a South Korean reporter-benefactor.
forget my father. I cannot forget my mother. I cannot
forget my sister. I cannot forget Young-soo.
eat rice and beef now everyday. I think and resolve every
day that I will take revenge.
I am still
a child, but I have watched many movies from South Korea
now, and I have met many South Koreans.
has been very kind to me, and I got to know many people
grow up, I will avenge my father, my mother, my sister,
and my brother, Young-soo.
told me to write this letter. He told me this letter
would reach the people in South Korea. I think about my parents
and my sister. I cry every day thinking about them.
help! I will never forget your kindness.