Political Prisoners Used as Martial Arts Targets

One day in April 1988, in Life Imprisonment settlement No. 22, we were conducting routine military drills when Lt MC Choi, my platoon commander, spotted ten prisoners watching us as they passed by. He stopped them and asked them to come. The prisoners all went down on their knees, trembling and begging, “We will not watch you practice again. Please forgive us.” He said, “You s.o.b! Shut up! Stand up, move forward! Turn left…” He made them stand in the center of the training ground. One of our old timers said, “What a great opportunity! I am going to practice a side kick today.” Another guard said, “I am going to finish up my full roundhouse today.” Then, the commander began lecturing to us, “It is because of the people’s enemy like them, beasts, that the Leader can’t sleep well at night and that we are training hard here today. So, today, you must practice your martial art techniques to be ready to crush our enemy in one blow at any time…” Ten of the newcomers were told to surround the prisoners so that they could not escape. First, two prisoners were tied up against poles two meters apart.

The commander called each guard one by one and they began to kick and punch the prisoners until all ten prisoners were finished. The prisoners cried with pain. Most of them bled from the nose and mouth and suffered broken teeth and ribs. None of them were able to walk normally afterwards. They were limping and helping each other when they were told to hurry off immediately.

North Korea produced two martial arts moves in 1986, “Hong Kill Tong”(the Korean version of Robin Hood) and “Order No. 027.” Since then it has become common practice for the guards in the prison settlements to reenact come of the scenes from these movies by practicing martial arts using political prisoners as targets.

Frankly, we newcomers envied the old-timers for the opportunity to practice what they had learned and we looked at them with admiration, but we were very shocked and trembled with fear when we saw the victims bleeding and groaning with pain.

The officers encouraged the guards to use political prisoners for kicking and punching practice. Through casual conversations with my colleagues, I learned that this was common at all the detention settlements.