“The rats in the hospital eat the sick people’s eyeballs. The children are so hungry they eat the rats, and when the children die, the rats eat the children.” So describes Yeonmi Park, a North Korean defector, who writes about her experiences living in North Korea in her book To Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom.
Yeonmi describes what it was like on the inside of the hospital she saw when getting her appendix removed at 13 years old. Was it a proper diagnosis? The hospital greatly lacked the standard equipment you would find in any hospital, like x-ray machines and beds. Due to the lack of nutrition in North Korea, the average height of an adult male is 4 foot 10 inches. Anyone above that height has to work for the military. Every adult male must do 13 years of mandatory military service, and every adult female has to do 10 years.
It is illegal in North Korea to speak out about the government at all. If someone does, not only will they disappear and end up in a concentration camp and will be executed whether they get put in a gas chamber like the Jews in Nazi Germany or publicly executed. Citizens must come to watch public executions in a stadium-like venue. The father and grandfather of Kim Jung-un used to have people get shot in the head at public executions. This psychopath dictator literally blows people up with missiles as citizens watch in horror.
If someone is doing something illegal in North Korea and you don’t tell the regime, you and 3 generations of your family go to prison or concentration camps where most will be executed. Depending on the seriousness of the crime, up to 8 generations of a family could be sent to a death camp, eliminating an entire bloodline. People get sent to death daily in North Korea because of someone they had no idea they were related to.
Yeonmi says the only thing you can do freely in North Korea is ‘breathe.’ Everything else is controlled—the type of haircut you can get, the clothes you wear, and even how you dance. You get an announcement in your home by the regime the night before telling you exactly what you will be doing tomorrow. Most children aren’t educated, and most will work labour-intensive jobs side-by-side with adults starting about at age 6 or 7. There is no vocabulary for “I”; instead, they use “we” as there is no such thing as independence in North Korea.
It is a gigantic collectivist approach done by the regime to keep them conformed and keeping them hungry. It focuses them on finding food to prevent them from thinking about overthrowing the dictatorship. There is no such thing as a friendship in North Korea, people you know are ‘comrades,’ not ‘friends.’ In fact, recently, North Korean president, Kim Jung-un, had every single dog in North Korea killed. Most media said he had all the dogs put down for meat. The last thing he wants to do is feed his citizens. Kim Jung-un viewed having a pet dog as a friendship, and having friends is banned, so a quick mass genocide of all of the dogs happened. Yeonmi had escaped from North Korea over a decade before Kim Jong-un came into power.
Yeonmi and her mother escaped North Korea when she was a young teen. She was abducted by a human trafficker, then given away to another trafficker who sold her to a wealthy Chinese creep. Her mother would help her remain a virgin going through two human traffickers. Yeonmi prevented losing her virginity from the second trafficker by always fighting him off, and he had a mistress in the next room. When she was sold off for the third time, the Chinese owner was stunned she made it through two traffickers well-remaining pure.
The third and final trafficker had already owned her mother and sold her off before receiving her daughter. He promised her that he would reunite her with family in China if he could take her virginity. After she became his mistress and lost her virginity, he would follow through with his promises. He arranged to have her sick father come to China from North Korea and got her mom back from the person he had sold her to. It was a traumatic price to pay, but at least she got her family back. Yeonmi would spend the next two years with her new owner. Lucky for Yeonmi, he would develop a gambling problem and lost all of his money and couldn’t afford to feed her anymore, so he let her free.
She had no choice but to be a prostitute in China or talk to men from South Korea in chat rooms and show them her body. She chose to be a cam girl. She would meet a missionary in one of the chat rooms to help her escape to South Korea if she became a Christian. If a North Korean makes it into South Korea, they can live there, enjoying freedom for the first time. That would be the first time anyone told her she would be able to go free. She didn’t even know what freedom was. So, when she asked what it was, the missionary told her that freedom means “you can wear jeans and watch television in South Korea without being arrested.” South Korea is a capitalist country with a three-class system. North Korea, on the other hand, is very different.
North Korea’s foundation was laid down in 1948 by Kim Il-sung. He had come from a Lenin-Marxist viewpoint who believed in communism. North Korea has a class system of 50 different classes. People are only allowed to marry those in the same class. They purposely starve their citizens and provide absolutely no food and literally make an entire country forage for themselves. Everything has a use for it; nothing gets wasted.
They have little to no electricity in most areas, so they fire for heat in a frigid climate. Citizens see paper as too precious to start a fire with, so people often cut their hairpieces to use as a fire starter. The entire North Korean GDP is spent on building bigger and better nuclear weapons and missiles. Missiles they sell to counties like their number one customers Saudi Arabia and Iran. When Yeonmi left North Korea for China, they hardly had any tanks.
China will send North Koreans back if they catch them escaping into their country. According to the United Nations, this is a blatant crime against humanity, yet they are too cowardly to charge China. Otherwise, they would charge them for crimes against humanity for their own concentration camps. Today there are at least 30 million more men than women in China.
To seek companionship, they will often human traffic women from North Korea to China and sell them to lonely, desperate Chinese men. In addition, because of Mao’s one-child policy, girls were often aborted, where males were used for military and labour-intensive slave-like work. Yeonmi was lucky she was never sent back to North Korea or had her organs stolen. If you escape to China, they are currently building a lot of hospitals to harvest their organs. The Middle East and other countries will get an organ transplant from China as they have many options for new organs.
Yeonmi and her mother were allowed to leave China through the direction of the missionary workers. But, unfortunately, the only way out was through the Gobi Desert, where temperatures reach 45°C during the day and as cold as -40 °C during the nighttime. A couple of men and a handful of women, including Yeonmi, and her family were only given a compass and a vague direction to go towards. If they make it to the ‘barb-wired fencing,’ they are told the other side is Mongolia and tell a military officer you want to go to South Korea. Thankfully it took them only 24 hours to make it to Mongolia.
They would be contacted by the South Korean embassy and be moved to various detention centers over a few months, being interrogated to make sure they were North Korean and not a Chinese-born spy. They were then given fake South Korean passports and flew them to South Korea. In South Korea, Yeonmi would learn that the country is all about working hard in business with the importance of education. She was given an evaluation and told she had the education of a 7-year-old. Basically, she had to learn pretty much everything except how to breathe. Yeonmi just turned 17 years old when she was given her education in a ‘re-education centre.’
She was taught how to go out in public, use a bus, an elevator, fashion possibilities, and interact with people in a crowd. Then, she went to a bank and was taught how to use automated things like ATMs. Finally, they taught her about what actual food was. To Yeonmi and other North Koreans, the fanciest thing they can imagine is eating as many eggs as they can eat. Most North Koreans don’t even know what a hamburger is or that milk comes from cows, as most have never heard of milk before. Yeonmi would find out she could only eat five boiled eggs at one time.
It would take Yeonmi’s digestive system about 3 years to adjust to all new fancy foods. Things like carbonated pop and spices on food were challenging and odd to her system. But, it was a small price to pay to finally have freedom. Yeonmi is self-educated and taught herself elementary school throughout high school and obtained her GED and was in University in the United States at 17 years old, which she accomplished in only one year. She is a Member of the Board of Directors at Human Rights Foundation.
How long will the United Nations with countries like the United States and Canada sit back and let an entire nation become a concentration camp? No one can escape North Korea any longer. The number of landmines by the borders makes it impossible for anyone to leave.
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