Extra! Korea

June 7, 2009

Harrowing Description of Life in North Korea

Filed under: North Korea — extrakorea @ 8:29 am

I recommend reading this in its entirety, but here is a taste.

I was nine when I saw my first execution. The man had been condemned to death for stealing copper wire to sell in China, crossing the border under the cover of darkness. He was dragged to the foot of the mountain near a railway track. A train that happened to pass stopped to let passengers watch the scene.

Executions were a frequent occurrence in our small city, but the inhabitants never tired of them. Primary and secondary school pupils skipped classes to join the audience, which always consisted of hundreds, even thousands, of people. Posters went up in the city several days before. When the time came, the condemned man was displayed in the streets before being led to the place of execution, where he was made to sit on the ground, head bowed, so everyone could get a good look at him. He was dressed in a garment designed by army scientists for public executions, a greyish one-piece suit made of very thick, fleece-lined cotton. That way, when the bullets are fired, the blood doesn’t spurt out but is absorbed by this fabric, which turns red. The body is thrown on a cart and then abandoned in the mountains for the dogs to eat.

[ snip ]

Our district stood at the foot of some mountains, which were riddled with coal mines. Everyone lived off the mines. The good side was that you didn’t die of cold in winter, as you might have done elsewhere, because our fuel supplies were always guaranteed. My father was a miner. It was a dangerous place: there were hundreds of galleries underground, and collapses were frequent because the wooden struts propping them up were often stolen by people who sold them for food. The mine was plunged into mourning around once a month.

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