By Kang Chul Hwan, Child Prisoner of the North Korea Gulag
[2005-10-31 14:48 ]
Kang Chul Hwan
Mr. Kang Chul Hwan, a former child prisoner in a North Korean primary detention settlement, was born in 1968 in Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea. He was only nine years old when his grandfather disappeared one day and he was arrested and detained in the Yodok primary detention settlement together with his grandmother, father, uncle and a sister in 1977. They were released after ten years in 1987. In 1992 he and Mr. Ahn Hyok, also a former prisoner in the same settlement, defected to South Korea. He studied business administration at Hanyang University, Seoul, and he is a journalist of the Chosun Daily.
He is co-founder of Democracy Network against North Korea Gulag, an NGO organized by North Korean defectors.
One morning, we arrived at school and found the teacher’s bicycle badly ruined, with the rims broken and the battery damaged. The teacher, who had the nickname “old fox” was furious and shouted.
“Who did it? Come out before I crush your heads.”
Because we were so frequently beaten for not keeping the bicycle spotlessly clean, I hated it. I was pleased with what had happened. “Obviously, somebody else felt the same way as I did.” I thought.
“None of you will go hone for days, weeks or months until I find out who did it. All of you stand here and don’t move!” We stood there without meals and water until the following. It was so painful and torturous. I felt my legs shaking and saw stars in my eyes. Nobody surrendered. I felt like I was drifting like a cloud with my legs hanging in the air. He sat on a comfortable chair in front of us. In the morning, young guards joined him and punched and kicked us at random. “Who did it?” they demanded.
One of the children protested. “Why so you beat me? I am innocent.” The guard said. “What? You are protesting! This must be the guy.” He mercilessly beat him. The child kept saying until he fainted, “I didn’t do it.” The old fox dragged the boy into school and released us all. The boy was beaten for days without meals.
When he came back to school a few days later, he was a different boy. He no longer talked or laughed, and he had bruises all over his body. At the sight of any teacher, he always hid under. He always hid under a desk.
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