On Monday evening I drove down to DC to meet with Margie for a very special evening. We had managed to get passes to listen to and meet Shin Dong-Hyuk, witness and survivor of Camp 14, the infamous political concentration camp; Suzanne Scholte, 2008 Seoul Peace Prize Laureate and chairman of the Defense Forum Foundation; and Pavel Klein, neurologist, at the Czech Embassy.
He had to watch many executions in the camp including those of his mother and older brother who had tried to escape. He and his father were tortured, held over a fire, as the guards tried to extract information from them. He had never known the emotion of love, or even the word, and never heard of God. He had been trained to regard his family as competition for food, never receiving any warmth from his mother or brother and only seeing his father five times a year, regarding him as a stranger.
It's mind numbing to try and comprehend what this man has been through, and I could only admire and respect him as I watched with awe at how he now interacted with people and talked of his past life. He looked so healthy yet from having started to read his book, I have learned that his growth is stunted through malnutrition, his arms are bowed from heavy labor, he has a finger tip missing, cut off by guards for damaging a sewing machine, he has scars and burns on his back from the fire he was held over with a hook piercing his skin to keep him in place, his lower legs have welt scars from shackles while hanging upside down in solitary confinement and burns from the electric fence as he escaped. His teeth have been cosmetically enhanced. It was a miracle that this young man had survived all this and was now standing before us bent on making us and the rest of the world understand what goes on in these North Korean camps.
He spoke through an interpreter, and when he suggested that we all went home afterwards and took some cold medicine because his interpreter had a cold. Everyone laughed and I was incredulous that he had a sense of humor, he was genuinely funny at times. All I could do was shake my head hardly believing what I was hearing.
Suzanne Scholte spoke for a while explaining what was being done to help and rescue the orphaned children from North Korea who make their way to China.
Some interesting websites here:
A brief history of Shin's life in the camp:
Free North Korean radio - click on the ENG button at the top:
Working for freedom and the human right of North Koreans: