This is a country whose abuses of its own citizenry awaken images of Nazi "race science." The BBC says that North Korea is testing new chemical weapons on women and children. In fact, the families that fail to have pedigrees of fully obedient citizens for three generations have been used in such "scientific" tests. [See the following site: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/this_world/3436701.stm]
Hundreds of thousands of people are imprisoned without charge. It's not because they have committed a crime. It is because their relatives are believed to be critical of the regime and so they are punished.Another source on conditions in North Korea is a video that shows several thousand children starving on the streets, ignored and unprotected. [See the following site: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1875007335054132657#]
According to President Kim Jong Il, the bad blood and seed of any dissident must be rooted out down to three generations.
Forced labour and starvation rations ensure that prisoners do not escape. Those who try to are publicly executed.
Kwon Hyok, a former North Korean army intelligence officer, was also chief guard at "Prison Camp no. 22". For the first time on camera, he describes specially-made glass gas chambers used for human experimentation.
Also, the PBS News Hour recently aired a clip from a forthcoming film, Kimjungilia, that documents the horrors of life in North Korea. Here are some of the statements about conditions in the country, from that clip.
[W]hen I started forced labor [at the age of nine], I didn't have time for them [pet fish]. I didn't even have time to cry. Every day was so tiring. We worked so hard. I was so cold. You don't care about your pet fish when you're dying.Another speaker
We never knew when we'd get beaten. There was constant fear.
… in 1994, we were having a very hard time. We would go to the mountains to pick roots. We ate grass from the fields and bark from the trees.The experience of a young woman:
Narrator: There are an estimated 300,000 prisoners in the camps today. But even outside the camps, life is difficult. There are fears that food shortages could get as bad as they were in the mid-'90s, when Byeon Ok-soon was growing up.A former Captain in the military:
… Byeon Ok-soon lived with her parents, three brothers, and sister in a northern town. The only source of food was the state-run distribution system. By the time she was 17 that system had collapsed.
BYEON OK-SOON (through translator): One day, I was with my father in the mountains. I got soaked with rain while we were foraging. After we finished I went home. My body started to burn and I fainted.
We had nothing to eat and we certainly couldn't buy medicine. So, they laid me to one side, waiting for me to die. I had typhoid fever and was in a coma.
NARRATOR: Ok-soon woke up from her coma in China. Her brother had carried her on his back across the Tumen River. He left her in the care of an old woman while he looked for work to pay for her medical treatment.
As the oldest brother, it was his duty to care for his parents and siblings. He took his duty very seriously.
BYEON OK-SOON (through translator): After he saved me in China, with our parents back in North Korea, my brother felt very tortured. He would get food and take it back to our parents. He was constantly sneaking back and forth.
When he realized the North Korean authorities were on to him, he decided to give himself up. If you give yourself up, you expect to receive a lighter sentence. That's what he thought. Instead, he was taken and publicly executed.
PARK MYUNG-HO, escaped North Korea (through translator): The military suffered, too. The state only supplied us with rice and salt. We had to get everything else ourselves.Another man’s escape:
NARRATOR: Park Myung-ho was a captain in the Korean People's Army. He served for 20 years. His father had also been a soldier.
PARK MYUNG-HO (through translator): These days, many officers desert. Even if you want to work, there are always supplies missing, making it impossible to do the job. But commanders go on issuing orders every day. You have to steal the supplies you need.
If you care at all, it is impossible not to express your frustration. Consequently, many are arrested. That's what drove me to escape. We decided to cross the 38th Parallel by boat. We evaded navy ships twice. Because our boat was small and theirs were big, we could see them first and get away.
Actually, the North Korean ships had no fuel. They couldn't start their engines and were under sail. When I saw all the trees on the mountains, I knew we were in South Korea.
I came up with the idea of escaping. I knew we could get shot or electrocuted. All of a sudden, I was afraid. And then my friend said, "I don't think we can do it." But I couldn't give up. I had to escape. I practically dragged him. And then I slipped in the snow, so he ran ahead of me. When I saw the wired gates, I figured he was squeezing through the electric wires. So, I followed his lead and squeezed through, too. When I got up and looked behind me, I realized I was on the other side of the gates. And then I saw my friend was stuck and didn't move. He was still stuck in the wires. If I hadn't fallen, I would have been the first to squeeze through the electric wire. I would have been the one electrocuted.