Even in despair, Survival Is the Biggest Source of Happiness

[imText1]Defector Shin Dong Hyuk, born in a political prisoners’ camp, revealed his thoughts about his time in the camp on the 26th, “I thought it was only fair that I stayed in a political prisoners’ camp for 24 years to atone for the sins of my parents. Due to my status as a criminal, I could not harbor a grudge.”

Mr. Shin, in a special lecture at the College of Law at Yonsei University, relayed the details of his escape from a political prison, marriage inside the camp, and life after defecting to 70-some college students.

As he started the talk, Shin said he felt differently towards South Korea students who can study freely in contrast with North Korean students. “South Korean students get nosebleeds while they are studying, but I got nosebleeds while working to earn a commendation inside the camp.”

After the lecture, students threw heated questions about North Korean society and political prisoners’ camps.

“In the South Korean movie ‘Shiri (1998),’ the North Korean spy Choi Min Shik felt a sense of anger while looking at South Korea’s societal luxuries while North Korean people are dying from starvation. What was it like for you when you first came in contact with South Korea’s brightly-lit society?”

Mr. Shin replied frankly, “I had the same feelings as the character. South Korean people have such abundant resources that they do not know how to value things. In particular, even people in their 60s work in political prisoners camps, but South Korean homeless are able to work, but choose not to.”

Further, he entreated students to not give up when faced with hard circumstances, because compared to North Korea, life in the South is so free. “There is a lot of suicide-related news in South Korea, but in camps, the biggest source of happiness is survival, even when family members die from being shot and no matter how difficult things get.”

In response to the question, “Is getting by on government or NGO support sufficient,” Mr. Shin replied that it was and added that “In South Korea, there are so many good things to choose from; it is difficult to choose just one (for myself).”

He also reminisced, “When I received an identification card from South Korea, I was so elated at the thought of the administration taking care of me.”

Lee Jung Ryul of Yonsei University’s Politics and Diplomacy Department said, “It was shocking to see that the most basic human rights do not receive consideration inside the camps, where inhumane circumstances and the trampling of people are a fact-of-life.”

“At the UN General Assembly, I thought the South Korean government’s abstention in the vote for the North Korean human rights draft resolution was an inevitable decision,” Lee remarked, “but after hearing the lecture, [I felt that] the administration, from a universal humanitarian perspective, should take into account the North Korean human rights issue.”

Defector and Yonsei University student Han Young Jin, who arranged for the talk, explained, “We wanted to let people know that a more difficult place exists adjacent to here. We hope that by hearing about life in North Korean political prisoners camps, university students will develop an interest in North Korea.”

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