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They Broke My Neck & Back

I was born in North Korea in August 1945. My grandfather was a landlord (in reality he bought farm land in 1944 and never got to harvest it until Korea was liberated from the Japanese at the end of World War II).

My father was a teacher but became a worker because of my grandfather's record of owning farm land.

My grandfather died under torture by the North Korean police.

During the Korean war, 1950-1953, my father defected to South Korea.

I was a bright boy who did well in school. Nevertheless, I was always discriminated against because of my grandfather's record as a landlord and my father's defection to South Korea. I was forced to move to another town to avoid the severe social discrimination.

I managed to enter an arts high school because I excelled at dancing but they soon found out about my family background and I was expelled from the school. After two years without any education, I managed to enter an electrical engineering high school as an outstanding soccer player between 1964-1966.

Then, I became a member of the chemical factory's athletic team until 1980 when the deteriorating North Korean economy was no longer able to maintain athletics.

When the soccer team was disbanded, I became an electrician at the same factory. During the many years I worked as an electrician in the factory, I was fortunate to narrowly escape being banished twice because I was such a good soccer player and all the factory workers admired my performance.

Nevertheless, we were always under police surveillance and my mother was so distressed, she died at the age of 47. Her last words to me were that I had to find my father in South Korea and be a good son to him.

In 1984, an unknown person scribbled anti-government slogans on the wall of a local middle school and I was arrested and severely tortured by the State Security Agency (SSA). In hindsight, I believe I survived the torture that broke my back because of my physical strength. Since then I have suffered from a bent back.

After my release, I worked hard as an electrician at the same factory and in 1988 I was promoted to a position of senior electrician. Kim Jong-Il even granted me general amnesty that same year, leading to my status as the Workers' Party member. In 1989, I was promoted as the Chief Electrician of the factory.

I hoped that by working hard I could open a new path for my children. Thus, I felt bitterly betrayed when the government refused to accept my children for higher education.

On 15 April 1990, there was a huge fire in the factory, which was attributed to poor electrical wiring. I proved my innocence, but they needed a scapegoat, and on 19 April 1990, I was arrested again and terribly tortured.

On one occasion, they hung me upside down from the ceiling to be beaten when the rope broke and I fell to the floor. At the impact, I fainted, and when I woke up a few hours later, I found my neck broken. Thus, my neck received permanent damage.

I was released after 27 days when they found out that it was 2 North Korean soldiers who caused the fire. Nobody apologized and before my release, I had to sign a statement saying I would reveal nothing about how I was treated.

My son, Song-kuk, has since been missing and we believed he died somewhere. In March 2001, I heard from him that he had defected to South Korea.

My son's encouragement and the fear of another bout of torture made me run away from North Korea. I arrived in China on 23 August 2003, using a large amount of money that my son fortunately provided.

I have information about the production of weapons and operation systems of the chemical factory I had worked at for decades, as well as some tragic political incidents of North Korea.

This report gathered by Mr. Kim Sang Hun, International Human Rights Volunteer. You can contact Mr. Kim by email at