Memory of an Adult Movie

Many pornographic films have recently been circulating in North Korea. To lend a CD for one hour costs 2,000-3,000 North Korean won (approx. USD0.6-0.9). Even teenagers are watching pornographic films with friends and they are boastful of this, according to defectors who came recently to South Korea.

I have a sad awkward story related to porno films.

It was the 3rd day after my escape from North Korea with my best friend, Shing Young Il. We arrived in Wangqingxian, China and were sharing frozen rice balls on the 29th of December, 2003.

We didn’t go there with a certain purpose, but were just looking around for jobs and a place to avoid the cold. Eventually, we’ve met a guy who offered to set us up with a job and led us to a hut in the mountains about 5 miles outside of the town.

We harvested trees and chopped firewood. Our boss dropped by the workplace once every five days to haul off the firewood and to bring some food and the necessities to us.

The only window to the outside was a small radio at the time. We fostered the hope of going to South Korea someday while listening to South Korean radio broadcasts.

When we talked about our families, Young Il always had tears in his eyes.

He had never been able to avoid mobilized construction or Shock Brigade work because of his poor family background. His sister, Young Shim also participated in the Shock Brigade for the Propagation of Party Ideology (June 18 Shock Brigade) and was picked as an office worker of the brigade thanks to her beauty. The office work was not open to ordinary workers, but only to pretty young girls.

The office workers in the shock brigade who record actual outputs everyday and report it to the authorities were overtly known as playthings for battalion generals or leaders of the brigade.

After two years in the shock brigade, Young Shim returned home and married to a discharged soldier. A few years later, the husband heard about her career in the shock brigade and acted outrageously to her. She eventually divorced her husband while pregnant.

After that, she unfortunately died during an abortion procedure and her mother also died from the shock of her daughter’s death a few months later.

He felt a great repugnance toward the leaders of North Korea and the absurd North Korean society on account of this incident and decided to escape from North Korea.

A month after we started working in the mountain, the lunar New Year’s Day came. The boss suggested that we have dinner together at his house. It was really exciting for us since we had been living like animals.

He lived in a big house alone apart from his wife who did a business in Hong Kong and his daughter who studied in Yanji at the time. The most exciting thing for us was the Korean satellite TV which allowed me to see South Korea for the first time.

After the dinner and drinking, he asked us, “Have you ever watched adult movies?”

Young Il replied to him that “We won’t watch such things.” But, I wanted to see such movies once just out of curiosity, so asked him to watch it. He turned on his TV and tuned in to the channel.

What most surprised us was that he could so easily access such movies through an ordinary TV set, not by CDs or DVDs. We didn’t know that there were satellite TV channels just for adults, so we thought that everyone can watch adult movies as long as they had TVs in South Korea. Moreover, we thought the movie showed us the South Korean society as it was.

When the boss went out for a while, Young Il said, “I’m going to go back home. I didn’t know South Chosun (Korea) was such a rotten country. What we’ve been taught was not a lie.” He cried bitterly and added that “I would be so foolish to go such a dirty place.”

Young Il finally left me that night for North Korea where he suffered great heartbreak caused by his sister’s death and irregular social practices.

Now, I can explain about South Korea society to Young Il, whom I haven’t met since that night. The world, including South Korea, is not as simple as what the authorities had led us to believe. And, what we saw in the movie was just a small part of the big picture.

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