Snake Torture

A 26 year-old female prisoner was caught writing a letter in jail at Life Detention Settlement No. 13 in the winter of 1986. She was badly tortured to make her confess who gave her the paper and pen. She refused to confess. Then, the chief jail officer used a big snake for torture. When she regained consciousness from a splash of water, she was shocked to find a snake entering her body. She quickly revealed Sgt. Choi as the person who gave her the paper and pen. Furious that one of his own men was involved, the interrogator continued to torture her to make her confess how many times they had sexual intercourse. Assisting a prisoner is already a very serous crime, but having sexual relations with a prisoner is even more serous because it means treating a prisoner as a human being.

She vehemently denied having sex with him. They told her that she would be pardoned if she sucked a dog’s penis and she did so but the torture continued for days in the presence of a colonel (a deputy chief political officer) and a major (an ideology officer) and the torture chamber was filled with her screams. They pushed a thick heated iron stick into her vagina and screwed it deeper each time she said no. She had withstood the torture for about two hours when she finally said, “Yes, five times.” The chief jail officer was embarrassed in the present of the other officers that one of his men had sexual relations with a prisoner so he kicked the iron stick into her body, the whole length of some 70 centimeters, and killed her. They say she died with her eyes open.

The girl, Pok-tok Kim, was 26 years old at that time. She came to North Korea from Japan with her parents in 1962. Her father was arrested for the charge of spying and she and her mother were sent to the life detention settlement when she was only 17 years old. Her mother ate less and less to provide more food for her child and, eventually, died of starvation in the settlement. The girl was left alone in the settlement and, one day, she pleaded innocence to the authorities and, as a result, was jailed for ideological corruption. She suffered from brutal beatings and starvation in the jail.

She was a pretty girl and Sgt. Chul-nam Choi, a jail guard, secretly brought her food from his home out of sympathy. One day in October, 1986, about 9 months before my arrival, PT Kim asked Sgt. Choi to give her some paper and a pen so that she could write a letter to her rich relative in Japan. She promised him a car or enough cash to buy a car when she got some help from her relative. Sgt. Choi gave her a piece of paper and a pen.
Later on, another jail guard became suspicious of her because she looked considerably better off physically than the other prisoners, who were all bone and skin. He secretly watched her and finally caught her writing a letter. The chief jail officer treated the matter confidentially because he suspected one of his men was involved and asked political and ideology officers to join him in investigating her. She withstood all kinds of torture and kept saying, “I wanted to write a letter myself. That’s all.”

Unaware of her arrest and what was happening to her, Sgt. Choi one day brought a big snake that he had caught in the orchard to the office. He was going to make snake wine with it. The chief jail officer took the snake from him and, after Sgt. Choi lift the office at the end of the day, used it to torture the girl.

A series of strict ideology re-education sessions followed of security officers and guards after this incident.

Sgt. Choi was fired, deprived of party membership, and sent to a remote mine to work as a miner for the rest of his life. Some of my colleagues who had been to his home town on official trips returned saying that he lived a beggar’s life without a home.

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