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Stories of Brutality - 2

Through Hell with My Two Little Girls

I am a North Korean woman and will turn 40 years old in 2005.

I completed my high school education in 1980 and proceeded to join the army as a career path to Workers’ Party membership. I served in the army anti-aircraft unit in Pyongyang for approximately 7 years, from August 1980 to January of 1987.

I was a senior official at a local district People’s Committee for about five years and a supervisor of a factory’s inventory for a period of 10 years, April, 1987 to May of 1997.

I was married to a driver in 1988 and I have two girls from this marriage. I was divorced in 1997.

My Baby Boy Dismembered in a North Korean Prison

In 1995, due to my inability to fully support my family as a factory inventory supervisor, I was engaged in commercial activity, i.e. selling Chinese shoes in the local North Korean market. I was cautioned against engaging in capitalist activities as a Party member. However, at the time the stark realities of survival caused me to cast such caution to the wind.

Consequently, in May 1995, I was arrested by the local police and sentenced to serve a six-month prison term at a minimum security prison in Pyongsong city, North Pyongan Province.

I was already six months pregnant at that time, but the prison officials showed little regard for pregnant women. The work in the prison was extremely strenuous and we prisoners had to run barefoot while carrying heavy bundles of straw, for example. Pregnancy did not exempt a woman from hard work.

Two months into my prison term, my water bag suddenly broke and early labor pains forced me to take a squatting position. I was about to deliver a baby!

Prison officials brought me into a simple prison clinic and by that time, both of the baby’s legs were emerging from the birth canal. I fell unconscious at this point and remained so for perhaps 20 hours.

When I awoke I found myself still on the same operating table. Under my bed, I noticed an object covered with cloth with only a baby’s head visible. I removed the cloth, and to my utter horror and shock, found a baby boy dismembered, lying in many pieces.

In shock, I shrieked as I stared at the nightmarish sight before me. The baby’s remains were then immediately removed to an unknown location.

There were approximately 30 pregnant women in the room, including some 10 women expecting their babies at any time.

During the three days I was in this ward, I saw 10 separate cases of babies choked to death at birth, carried out by members of a group of eight to 10 prison guards. Throughout this ghoulish ordeal, women could be heard wailing uncontrollably behind curtains surrounding their beds.

The guards carried away the tiny corpses in dirty gunnysacks. I was in such a poor health and my lips were so badly bitten that I was unable to even drink water for days.

Although I am unable to disclose the source for protection, reliable information in the prison at that time convinced me that babies poisoned and delivered were then eviscerated. The remaining meat was then dehydrated and ground to be served with wine to prison officials.

My Cousin Publicly Executed for Reading the Bible

In October 1998, at a small family party that marked the first birthday of my mother since her passing, I remarked to my close friends, “Who cares who becomes the nation’s leader? I simply want unification as soon as possible. That’s all.”

I was arrested by the State Security Agency (SSA) for this remark, but was separately and severely interrogated for receiving a Bible from my farmer cousin, Kim Yong-sam, who himself had been arrested for reading a copy of the Bible.

In fact, he had received three Bibles from China and studied late into the night. His wife informed the authorities of his secret Bible studies. Under torture, he confessed that he gave me one of the Bibles.

My limbs were lashed together and I was hung by my hands from the ceiling for three days. I was ruthlessly beaten with a square stick over my entire body.

This took place in the depth of North Korea’s winter days. Sometimes, interrogators splashed icy water over my cold body and the door to the outside was left open to expose me to the piercing wind.

I urinated while suspended and could feel blood running from my head down my back from the beating. My thighs swelled to the size of big logs and my knees were unbearably painful.

They fed me such dirty food that, at times, I could not bear to eat. The coarse corn gruel made me vomit and sand settled to the bottom of the soup bowls. I stopped drinking and eating for nearly a week as a protest to the abominable food.

Because they needed information from me, they forced my mouth open by placing a block of wood between my teeth and jaw, enabling them to pour rice soup into my mouth.

Then, the male guards stripped me to the skin and put me into a punishment chamber for two weeks. The chamber was so small that I was unable to stand or stretch myself. I was only able to squat down over a small hole in the floor that caught my urination and feces. The walls were laced with pieces of sharp, jagged metal that effectively prevented me from leaning against the wall.

I was confronted with my cousin several times for the purpose of cross checking. He was in such miserable shape that I failed to recognize him at first glance. Both his legs were broken and his fingers had no fingernails. He was so severely injured and weak that he could barely speak.

In December of the same year, he was publicly executed on a hillside near the farm cooperative in Yanghwa-ri, Sinpo City, South Hamkyong Province.

When I was released from the punishment chamber after two weeks, I was simply unable to walk for many days. I was eventually released after 30 days on the condition that I would report immediately any sighting of another man who had remarked in the same party “I could do better than Kim Jong-il.”

(Medical certificates from South Korea [attached to original document] confirm cerebral concussion from external impact and kneecaps seriously wounded)

First Defection to China with my Two Little Girls

By this time I had become so disillusioned by the dehumanizing treatment inflicted on North Korean prisoners that, within a few days of my release, I ran away with my two little girls, 14 and 11 years old respectively, to a border town in an attempt to defect to China.

On a very cold winter day in early January, 1999 I managed to cross the Sino-North Korean border with my two daughters. We walked the snow-covered mountains at night for a month until reaching the city of Jilin, the capital of the Chinese province by the same name on 25 March 1999.

That we had survived such a horrible ordeal was nothing short of a miracle.

In early June in the same year, 1999, I crossed the Sino-Vietnamese border with my daughters in an effort to leave China for South Korea. In this crossing, we were detected and bitten by Vietnamese guard dogs, then were put under arrest by border guards.

After two months of detention in Vietnam, we were released and managed to cross back to China. Following our return to China, we lived in either a makeshift mountain shelter or at times under a bridge.

Repatriation to North Korea by Chinese Authorities.

It was our great misfortune that my two girls and I were arrested on 10 July 2002 and sent to the Chinese border prison in the city of Tumen. There we were interrogated for about a week before being repatriated to North Korea.

Upon arrival in North Korea, we were stripped completely naked for observation by women guards, including the unspeakably intrusive examination of anus and vagina in search for hidden money.

My little 14 and 11 year-old girls did not escape this outrage. We were detained by the Onsong district State Security Agency (SSA) for 15 days, during which time I observed more than 10 prisoner deaths at the hands of brutal prison guards.

I Attended the Killing of Six Babies at Delivery

Following the abovementioned period, we were ordered to the Onsong District Labor Training Camp, Ontan District, Onsong Kunup, for a full month.

In addition to the usual brutal treatment of prisoners, baby killings were also practiced here.

The camp had two large rooms for prisoners, one for men and the other one for women. Baby killings took place at the women’s room during the daylight hours when all the women were working outside.

At times when women returned from work to their quarters, some pregnant women were still in labor. At these times, the female prison workers were sent into the men’s room until all remaining babies were delivered and killed.

Prisoners could hear the groaning voices of the mothers, and babies crying from the next room. Some workers secretly stole glimpses of the baby killings through a small window, 30 x 30 cm.

One day, I had such severe headaches from previous head wounds sustained in the prison that I was excused from work and allowed to stay in the men’s room with small children while all other prisoners, both men and women, were at work outside.

Sometime after lunch, I was asked to come to the women’s room and help the camp’s woman officer, referred to as “SSA aunt” by some prisoners, and whose real name was something to the effect of Kim Ok-sun.

As I entered the women’s quarters, I found six women in labor, lying down and stripped from the waist down.

A baby boy had just been born alive and the doctor was holding the baby, still crying, upside down. Her hands were wrapped with a vinyl sheet and were full of blood. The camp doctor needed someone to help administer an intravenous injection of 5% dextrose to the mother.

Obviously, the patient had somehow managed to pay for this ‘luxury’.

I used my brassiere to tie her wrist and then inserted needle into her vein with neither sterilization nor a piece of adhesive tape to hold the needle in place.

That afternoon, I learned from the women in the room that the woman doctor had inserted plastic capsules containing light blue liquid into the women’s vaginas.

Some six hours later, women began to groan with pain and began to deliver the babies, one by one. I attended the delivery of six babies that afternoon, amidst great crying and blood. All six babies that day were born alive and were boys. Some women took longer than others and their babies were delivered in the evening. The dark room was illuminated with a kerosene lamp and every one in the room had a blackened nose from the kerosene smoke.

The babies, all choked to death, were wrapped up in cloth and left on the floor for hours before they were removed to an unknown location.

All the women who had delivered the babies were also taken to an unknown location by the local police after their deliveries. We prisoners did not know what their fate was to be. Some prisoners believed that they were released.

I Was Hit by a Sword

Following this episode, I was sent to the provincial police detention camp. There I was detained for about a month until police from my hometown arrived to claim us.

One day at this detention camp, I was tasked with drawing water from a deep well using a wooden bucket that was already very heavy.

A guard was very angry because I was not fast enough when drawing water. He hit my left arm with a sword, cutting my flesh. I still have the wound on my arm from this incident.

At my hometown police station, I was again subject to horrible interrogations for one month before I was finally released at the end of November 2002.

2nd Defection and Arrival in South Korea

After 20 days, I went into hiding and on 6 December 2002, I defected from North Korea for the 2nd time and managed to enter the South Korean Embassy on 1 April 2004 and arrived in South Korea in September of the same year.