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10 Horrifying Tales From Inside North Korea

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Sep 07, 2017

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  • 10 Horrifying Tales From Inside North Korea
  • 10.
  • SHIN DONG-HYUK
  • Shin Dong Hyuk is believed to be the only person born into a North Korean prison camp
  • to ever have escaped.
  • He spent 23 years in North Korea’s most notorious and largest concentration camp,
  • commonly known as Camp 14, where he describes how as a prisoner he was brainwashed to think
  • his own family members were enemies.
  • So, at the age of 13, when he overheard his mother and brother planning to escape from
  • the camp, he informed guards in the hope of a reward.
  • Instead, Shin suffered fire torture, where he was tied up and placed over a charcoal
  • fire until he 'smelled his skin burning', and was then forced to watch his mother and
  • brother being executed.
  • He told the Financial Times in 2013: "I did not have feelings for my parents.
  • I try even now but I have a hard time doing that."
  • On 2 January 2005, Shin and his friend attempted to escape from the camp.
  • His friend was fatally electrocuted climbing the high voltage fence, but Shin managed to
  • pass over the wire using his friend’s body as a shield to ground the current.
  • Despite recounting small elements of his story in the years after his escape, Shin has been
  • described by The UN as the world's "single strongest voice" on the atrocities inside
  • North Korean camps.
  • 9.
  • KIM HYE-SOOK
  • At just 13 years old, Kim Hye-Sook was captured alongside her family, for reasons withheld
  • from her at the time, and taken to prison camp 18 to serve a 28-year sentence.
  • In this prison, Sook explained that detainees were divided into three per group, and were
  • supposed to monitor each other and write up a detailed report of what the other person
  • has done for the guards.
  • If reports were not written, whether the inmate was sick or unable to write due to injured
  • hands, guards would tear their mouths with plyers or handcuff them until they lost circulation.
  • Perhaps her most chilling account is of fellow prisoners turning to cannibalism to survive
  • by killing their own children.
  • In one instance, she explains: “A mother put her 9-year-old daughter in this big cast
  • iron pot and boiled her.
  • She was a too big for the pot so the mother had to chop her legs and head to fit the body
  • in the pot.”
  • When Sook was finally released three decades later at 42-years-old, she finally learned
  • the reason for her imprisonment — her grandfather had escaped to South Korea years before during
  • the Korean War.
  • 8.
  • KWON HYUK
  • Former military officer at the North Korean Embassy in Beijing, Kwon Hyuk was also the
  • chief of management at Camp 22.
  • In the BBC's This World 2004 documentary, Hyuk claimed that the notorious camp holds
  • an evil secret: gas chambers where horrific chemical experiments are conducted on human
  • beings.
  • In the program, he said he “witnessed a whole family being tested on suffocating gas
  • and dying in the gas chamber.
  • The parents were vomiting and dying, but till the very last moment they tried to save kids
  • by doing mouth-to-mouth breathing.”
  • Hyuk has drawn detailed diagrams of the chambers, that aren’t too dissimilar to those that
  • were used by the Nazi’s at Auschwitz.
  • During sessions where prisoners were placed in the chamber, scientists would observe the
  • process from above, through the glass.
  • As Hyuk was completely brainwashed by the brutal North Korean regime, he said he felt
  • no sympathy towards the prisoners and felt they thoroughly deserved such a death, even
  • the children.
  • 7.
  • LEE SOON OK
  • Kwon Hyuk wasn’t the only defector to describe instances of human experimentation in North
  • Korean camps.
  • Former prisoner Lee Soon-ok, who spent six years in Kaechon concentration camp, detailed
  • one of the most distressing instances.
  • She recalled that a guard ordered her to select 50 healthy female prisoners and give them
  • soaked cabbage to eat.
  • Soon after the prisoners had eaten it, they were screaming out in pain and vomiting blood.
  • The cabbage was laced with poison.
  • Within 20 minutes all 50 of the women were dead.
  • Alongside this description she also reported witnessing infanticide where in some cases
  • prison guards would stamp on the necks of babies born to prisoners to kill them, as
  • well as instances of rape and public executions.
  • Soon-ok was released in an amnesty in 1992 and escaped to South Korea in 1995.
  • 6.
  • YEONMI PARK
  • Born in 1993, Yeonmi Park was a baby at the height of the North Korean famine, which ultimately
  • claimed up to 2.5 million lives.
  • As a result, her father turned to black market trading to prevent her family from starving.
  • However, in 2002, he was arrested for illegal trading and sent to a prison near Pyongyang
  • to serve a 17-year sentence.
  • After three years, he managed to bribe his way out of jail.
  • Upon his release the Park family began plotting their escape into China to start a new life.
  • On the night of March 30 2007, Yeonmi and her mother made their way towards the border
  • with the help of Chinese brokers.
  • But they were far from safe.
  • One of the traffickers threatened to report them to North Korean authorities if Park wouldn’t
  • have sex with them.
  • But her mother intervened and offered herself instead, she was raped in front of her daughter.
  • A few days later Yeonmi’s father, slipped across the border and managed to join them.
  • Sadly, he died shortly after the trip and Yeonmi and her mother had to bury him in secret
  • for fear of repercussions.
  • The pair then managed to escape into Mongolia, to seek asylum from South Korean diplomats.
  • 5.
  • OTTO WARMBIER
  • For 22-year-old American university student Otto Warmbier, a holiday with friends to North
  • Korea ended in utter tragedy.
  • Whilst visiting the hermit state in January 2016, Warmbier was arrested and sentenced
  • to 15 years imprisonment with hard labor after being convicted of trying to steal a propaganda
  • poster from his hotel.
  • Two months after his imprisonment, he suffered severe neurological injury from an unknown
  • cause.
  • North Korean officials claimed he fell ill from botulism shortly after his trial and
  • lapsed into a coma after taking a sleeping pill.
  • But doctors from the University of Cincinnati Medical Centre, who treated him following
  • his medical evacuation from North Korea in June 2017, have cast strong doubts over this
  • explanation.
  • Some doctors suggest he might have had a sudden heart attack that went untreated, others offer
  • more malicious causes such as some kind of poisoning or asphyxiation.
  • Six days after his return to the United States, Warmbier died.
  • 4.
  • KIM YOUNG SOON
  • As a young woman in the 1970’s, Young Soon moved among the North Korean elite as a celebrated
  • dancer for Kim Il-sung, the "founding father" of the nation.
  • Being around Kim’s inner circle she learned many things about Kim Il-sung and his son
  • Kim Jong-Il.
  • For instance, she knew that one of her dancer friends was having an affair with Kim Jong-Il
  • and that was enough to earn her a place at the infamous Yodok prison camp – along with
  • her parents and children, who were deemed guilty by association.
  • Ms Kim described the nine years she spent in the camp as "hell", where prisoners were
  • forced to eat anything they could find, "we ate, ants, rats, frogs, snakes.”
  • She also claimed that children were born condemned, revealing how desperate mothers would often
  • cut open pregnant rats to harvest their foetuses, roasting the tiny, hairless creatures, and
  • feeding them to emaciated babies in the camp.
  • By the time Mrs. Kim had escaped, her family, including her parents and her and eight-year-old
  • son, had died from the harsh conditions.
  • 3.
  • LUCIA JANG
  • Jang grew up in North Korea under Kim Il-sung, famine was rife and her family suffered because
  • they had relatives who escaped to South Korea.
  • Whilst working in a factory as a young woman, she was raped, became pregnant, and was forced
  • to marry her rapist.
  • She spent months convincing her family to let her come home, so they said she could
  • on one condition: that they sell her son because they did not want another mouth to feed.
  • Jang agreed.
  • Driven by starvation, Jang began illegally crossing over to China to trade goods.
  • But on one fateful trip she was caught and imprisoned in Chongjin Jipgyulso labor camp.
  • At the time, Jang was pregnant again with her second child.
  • She knew the fate of her seven-month-old baby: abortion.
  • But miraculously, she was freed.
  • Once back at her family home, her mother informed her that as soon as the baby was born, it
  • would be killed and she would be sent back to the labor camp.
  • She told Jang to flee.
  • She escaped with her son when he was just a few months old, fleeing under gunfire across
  • the Chinese border.
  • 2.
  • KIM KWANG-IL
  • In February 2014, the United Nations' Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic
  • People's Republic of Korea published a wide-ranging report on the gross human rights violations
  • in the country.
  • Within the report were drawings by professional artists based on Kim Kwang-Il’s memories
  • of life behind bars.
  • The 48-year-old spent more than two years in North Korea’s notorious Jeongeori Prison
  • for crossing the border to sell pine nuts.
  • His drawings depict many forms of torture and starvation the prisoners had to endure
  • whilst detained in the camps.
  • One of which is called “pigeon torture” where inmates are handcuffed behind the back
  • and through a low-lying bar attached to a cell wall, hunched over in such a way that
  • they can neither stand nor sit.
  • Prisoners would often be left in this agonizing position for three straight days, which would
  • leave their bodies permanently contorted.
  • Others drawings show wagons full of dead prisoners, starving inmates eating snakes and rats to
  • stay alive and mice eating the flesh of corpses.
  • 1.
  • AHN MYONG CHUL
  • As a former North Korean prison guard, Ahn Myong-Chul witnessed many horrors, but few
  • haunt him like the image of guard dogs attacking children and tearing them to pieces.
  • Ahn, who worked as a prison camp guard for eight years until he fled the country in 1994,
  • recalls the day he saw three dogs attack children coming back from the camp school.
  • He said that the dogs killed three of the children right away.
  • But two others were badly hurt and still breathing when the guards buried them alive.
  • Despite witnessing numerous executions and the effects of extreme torture, it was not
  • until Chul was promoted to be a driver, transporting prisoners between camps, that he started to
  • question the system.
  • During this time he spoke to many prisoners and was astonished to find that "more than
  • 90 percent" had no idea why they were in the camp.
  • It was the first time he had heard of the three generations of punishment rule.
  • On leave in 1994, he got a taste of the rule himself.
  • His father committed suicide and as it’s illegal in North Korea, Ahn's mother, sister
  • and brother were detained and sent into camps.
  • Fearing for his life, he drove his truck to the shores of the Du Man River and swam across
  • to China.
  • So that’s 10 Horrifying Tales From Inside North Korea, which of these did you find the
  • most interesting?
  • Let us know in the comments!
  • If you enjoyed this video, why not check out 10 Hilarious Threats Made by North Korea.

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What is it like to live in North Korea? We bring you 10 horrifying tales from defectors about their time in the Hermit Kingdom.

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