2:00 PM on August 16, my two daughters and I were issued visitor
permits at Weifang Prison, Shandongsheng, China
Before we were
allowed to enter the prison, guards inspected every item we had
brought for my husband. They even ripped open cigarette packages,
saying they wanted to check the contents. Eventually, they decided
we could carry in only the medicines we had brought.
The moment we
stepped into the meeting room, we sensed an atmosphere of terror.
My husband had grown even thinner and more frail since my last
visit. He and I and our two daughters all cried together. He hugged
the sobbing girls and offered up a prayer of gratitude.
monitored our conversation and took notes of everything we said.
The monitor often bellowed at us to speak more loudly so he could
hear every word. We were allowed only 20 minutes together, and
it flashed by so, so quickly.
We cried more
than we talked. For our last visit, in May, they had allowed us
nearly 60 minutes together.
I was shocked
to discover that my husband had been transferred to a bigger cell
which houses twenty inmates, some of them murderers. Judging from
his appearance, it was obvious that his treatment is more harsh
in this new cell.
have blocked him from buying food and basic daily necessities
with the cash I gave him last time. They claimed the punishment
was because he had spent more in a month than the rules allowed,
although he had never been told of such a spending limit. He had
purchased food and necessities also for the North Korean refugee,
Mr. Park Yong-chol, who is detained in the same prison.
It is no wonder
that my husband has lost so much weight and grown so weak. I felt
crushed and overwhelmed with sorrow for him.
My husband was
told that his prison term could be reduced if he earned "points"
for good behavior, but he discovered that the rating recorded
for him was negative points, meaning it is nearly hopeless for
him to be released before his 5-year term is finished.
has received absolutely none of the mails from his friends, nor
the post cards sent from Japan to encourage him.
None of the family
pictures from me, our daughters or his parents have reached him
at all since May. This outraged me and I asked the reluctant interpreter
to explain why. He answered that the mails were still being inspected.
They have not yet finished checking the mails received back in
How can he hang
on when he is being denied every last source of encouragement,
even the letters from his family?
Soon, wife of Choi Yong-hun