“If your uncle lives then we’ll just hurt you a bit. But if he dies, what can we do? I swear you’ll die, too”
A PSA officer slammed the metal door of the waiting room. I did not think my uncle had died. Why would a person who had been perfectly normal when we departed be dead now, and after promising to pay back the money in 10 days as well? I guessed he’d probably had another attack of the cramps from drinking too much…
I was locked in until around 8 P.M. when the chief of the office brought me out.
He dragged me downstairs and said, “Leave your thumbprint on this self-criticism before you leave.”
“I knew it. My uncle cannot be dead” I was thinking as I followed the chief to a long house. I’d never been to the PSA, so I didn’t know what the building was. I thought it was the chief’s office, so I just followed in without a great deal of thought. The chief ordered me to wait outside in the chill air briefly, and then told me to enter.
There was another door inside the first, so I knocked. A voice told me to come in. I greeted the person inside as cordially as I could manage, but he just demanded that I take my clothes off. I was taken aback, “Clothes? Why my clothes?” I asked politely. The answer? An officer kicked me viciously.
“Why are you kicking me?” I asked meekly.
“How dare you fucking talk back to me in this place, you stupid little bastard?”
I tried desperately to reason with the officer, “What did I do wrong that you’re kicking me? The chief told me to leave my thumbprint and go home.”
“Shut the fuck up! This is a detention room for prisoners, and if you say another word then I’ll beat you until you’ve got no teeth left.”
I took off my clothes in terror. There was no other choice after hearing that. The guard ripped out all metal parts from my clothes. I felt terror rise in my throat and my heart was beating like a drum. I did everything he asked me to do, but after I had put my clothes back on, he took me to a second interrogation room and shouted, “Hey, comrade, this guy is a murderer. Teach him how to behave!”
“No way! I’m not a murderer! Is my uncle really dead?” I was so shocked I couldn’t say another word.
I was later told that my uncle had hit the wall and fell, hitting his head on sharp stones. He had passed away 4 hours later.
With regret, reflection and distress, after 5 months of hearings I was sentenced to seven years in prison for first-degree murder in accordance with the criminal law of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The cause of my uncle’s death was a cerebral hemorrhage.
During that cold winter night, my mom waited for ages in front of the metal door, embracing rice and soup to keep them warm while her hands and lips were going pale. She always came to visit, and never uttered a word about how hard it was. I should have written her a letter but, when I was about to sit down and write, I blacked out. I went to bed thinking I would write one early in the morning. However, I never did. I was always very tired when I woke up, and in prison there are others constantly looking over your shoulder.