Today Instapundit linked to a WSJ piece, Escape From a North Korean Prison, the story of Shin Dong-hyuk, a North Korean man born in a concentration camp, who escaped to South Korea in 2005. It was an interesting coincidence, because my wife and I had just watched the 2009 documentary Kimjongilia, which included Mr. Shin’s story among several others.
The WSJ piece was written by Blaine Hardin, author of the forthcoming book Excape from Camp 14, a longer exploration of Mr. Shin’s life.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper also has the story, How one man escaped from a North Korean prison camp with a bit more detail. Excerpt:
His first memory is an execution. He walked with his mother to a wheat field, where guards had rounded up several thousand prisoners. The boy crawled between legs to the front row, where he saw guards tying a man to a wooden pole
Shin In Geun was four years old, too young to understand the speech that came before that killing. At dozens of executions in years to come, he would listen to a guard telling the crowd that the prisoner about to die had been offered “redemption” through hard labour, but had rejected the generosity of the North Korean government.
Guards stuffed pebbles into the prisoner’s mouth, covered his head with a hood and shot him.
I strongly recommend you read the rest.
I also watched another, similarly-themed film recently, 2010’s The Way Back, the story of a Polish Army lieutenant, Janusz, imprisoned by the Russians early in WWII, who escaped with several other prisoners and walked over 4,000 miles from Siberia to India. The book this story is based on, The Long Walk, is almost definitely fiction passed off as fact, but according to Wikipedia:
Soviet records confirm that Rawicz was a Polish soldier imprisoned in the USSR, but differ from The Long Walk in detail on the reasons for his arrest and the exact places of imprisonment. Polish Army records show that Rawicz left the USSR directly for Iran in 1942, which contradicts the book’s storyline. Aside from matters concerning his health, his arrival in Palestine is verified by the records. The story of the escape to India comes from Rawicz himself. The BBC report does mention the account of Captain Rupert Mayne, an intelligence officer in Calcutta, who – years after the war – said that in 1942 he had debriefed three emaciated men claiming to have escaped from a Siberian Gulag camp.
In the context of this post, one of the most interesting things in The Way Back is when the escapees reach China in early 1941, the portion they reach is already Maoist. Communism has reached China before them, thus they decide they must forge on to Tibet and freedom. I recommend both films. The Way Back, fictional or not, is well made and powerful. Kimjongilia is brutal and depressing, but something everyone should see. A commenter, to the WSJ piece, “george kamburoff” writes:
We have more people in cages than the North Koreans, and a larger percentage of our population is in cages, and now the conservatives have put the Directorate of Fatherland Security, Suppression, and Punishment on us, to make SURE we do not step out of line.
Remember how free we were “BB” – Before Bush? No machi8ne(sic) guns in airports, no inspection lines, no armed guards making all of us suspects? Our own conservatives are turning US into North Korea.
Yeah. Way to get a grip on reality. From the Korea Herald, Feb. 15, 2012:
Kim Jong-un regime in Pyongyang warns of ‘three-generation wipeout’ for defection
In a letter sent to the White House on Monday, the North Korea Freedom Coalition said China’s repatriation policy not only directly violates the international agreements it has signed but has also created an environment of violent activity in China.
The group said North Korean agents “roam freely” killing humanitarian workers trying to help the refugees, while the majority of North Korean female refugees fall victim to human trafficking.
The human rights groups said that they were reportedly told that China will repatriate the North Korean defectors by Feb. 20 who, if returned, are likely to face harsh punishment such as detention, torture or even execution.
Especially as North Korea is under the new leadership of Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang is strongly warning of a “three-generation wipe-out” of any family with a North Korean caught defecting.
“george kamburoff” is politely invited to defect from the USA. I’ll help him pack, and chip in $100 for plane fare. His immediate and extended family need not worry.
BTW, those “humanitarian workers” trying to aid North Korean defectors in China? They’re mostly Chinese Christians.