Christians in North Korean prisons - extract from a horrifying biography

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Christians in North Korean prisons - extract from a horrifying biography

Soon Ok Lee is a former prisoner at Kaechon Prison in North Korea she was imprisoned after being set up by a jealous official. In this excerpt from her book "Eyes of the Tailless Animals" she describes the lives and experiences of the Christian prisoners. Read it.

The people who believed in God

ALL MY LIFE, I HAD BEEN TAUGHT THAT religion was like a drug. I learned in school that religion paralyzes human creativity and logic. I was well trained to never think about God's existence.

Having Christians in a nation that believes Kim Il Sung as a god violates a fundamental belief. Because of this belief among North Korean leaders, oppression against Christians in North Korea is especially severe. Since the North Korean government was established, the leaders have tried to eliminate all religions through intense persecution. People who will not deny their faith in God are sent to concentration camps or prisons. I believed that it was their choice to live as worthless animals instead of as a traitor to God. Yet, there was a spark in me that wanted to know God. When I was in prison, I would look up in the sky and cry out, "Why are you doing this to me?"

I couldn't understand these believers who were aware of an "invisible power." The abuse they received was so much greater than the abuse other prisoners got. If a prison guard finds a way to convince a person to deny God, tile guard will get promoted. So the guards try any way possible to do this, The believers received less food and clothing rations and were isolated from the other prisoners

In some instances while believers were being beaten, they would stand up halfway and begin to sing hymns and say "Amen." The guards thought they were crazy and took them back to the electric torture room. I never saw any of the believers return from that room. I, too, thought they were crazy, and I didn't understand what they were singing.

Yet the believers didn't become evil after the abuse they received. If a prisoner made a mistake, she had to pay severe consequences. Therefore, some prisoners blamed their mistakes on other prisoners. But the Christian group was different. They not only did not falsely accuse others, but were willing to take the blame for another. They even died for other prisoners.

Just like the believers who worked in the discipline department, other believers were given the most horrible jobs in prison. When I first entered a prison factory, I saw people working on the rubber soles of shoes. They wore only rubber aprons and were covered with black rubber powder. The only thing I could see beyond the black powder was their white teeth shining from their dark faces.

Later, I found out that these prisoners were the people of God. They were given the most dangerous work in the prison. The rubber factory, smelting factory, mine, and discipline department were the main places they were assigned.

Of all these places, the rubber factory was the worst. After the rubber was heated, it went under a big roller to be flattened. The prisoners' job was to flip over the hot rubber before it went under the roller. Officers forced the believers to do this work to "re-civilize" them. The rubber was very heavy, and if the prisoners didn't flip it fast enough, their hands and arms were smashed by the roller. Many of these prisoners had lost hands and arms.

Working in the Rubber Factory
In July 1991, all the prisoners were working more than twenty hours every day to finish the extra projects for Kim Il Sung's 80th birthday on April 15, 1992. Working twenty hours in the rubber factory squeezed every drop of human strength out of the prisoners. Yet the officers pestered the prisoners, calling them lazy and accusing them of trying to sabotage the project.

One Christian man always worked quietly at his job of flipping the rubber. One day, his fatigued body stumbled onto the hot rubber and he began to get sucked into the roller.

A prisoner screamed at an officer, "Someone is dying turn off the roller!"

The officer yelled back, "Don't stop the machine! Its a chance to remove this crazy, godly man!"

I realized once again that the officers didn't have a conscience. They were like Satan-getting their thrills by watching the pain of the prisoners.

One spring day in 1992, the rubber factory burned to the ground. Because the factory stored a lot of gasoline, the fire roared up and engulfed the whole building almost instantly. One of the main factory buildings was located right next to the rubber factory. The fire truck soaked the factory with water, but the water didn't even faze the fire.

There were twenty to thirty prisoners trapped inside the rubber factory, waiting to be saved. It was possible to rescue the prisoners and protect the adjacent building at the same time, but the warden came and decided to shut the rubber factory door to protect the building. He considered the prisoners too worthless to take any time for them in that emergency situation.

Walking on Bodies
Once or twice a month, on a Sunday or Saturday, the guards would pull out one or two Christians for re-education training. (They used many harsh words like "fight to gain the correct Communist philosophy or mind.") The six thousand other prisoners would surround the Christians as the guards tried to get the believers to deny heaven.

One day, the warden pulled out one of the men. The guards hung the believer upside down. The warden screamed, "Say that you don't believe in heaven! Heaven is only a word. Just say, `I don't believe in heaven."'

The believer didn't say a word, either yes or no. The warden began to poke him with a stick until his whole body was bloody. Then he was let down and the warden kicked and beat him. But still he did not deny his faith.

The warden was furious. He looked like he had been taking drugs to make him high. he began to stomp on the Christian, reminding the other prisoners, "'This is going to happen to you if you ever believe in heaven!"

The warden ordered the prisoners to walk over the body of the Christian. It was totally unimaginable how he died.

Another time, two men were pulled out and ordered to deny heaven. (The word "god" was never allowed to be spoken.) But the men would not deny their religion.

Again, all six thousand prisoners were ordered to walk over their bodies. Just think of six thousand people walking over them! For the first two or three minutes, the men screamed with a very strange sound. The screams sounded like the cry of dogs as they are hung with ropes. Yet the believers never said any words other than "the Lord ... the Lord." I did not know why they were calling the Lord. But I know they were expressing their conviction in the Lord.

The Smelting Factory
One night in February 1992, 1 went to the smelting factory. The work was almost done for the day and I had to check the daily production.

I saw eight Christian prisoners carrying a big metal kettle holding molten iron. An officer called to them using very vile words. "Tomorrow is the day of re-education training. As you know, it's held because of your stubbornness. You are supposed to turn yourself in. Tomorrow is a `cleaning the mind' day. Tomorrow, you will go out and tell everyone that there is nothing in heaven to believe in; there is no God. Otherwise you will be killed. Do you understand?"

There was silence. Not one of the prisoners responded to the officer. He didn't wait long for an answer because he didn't like to be ignored. He knew that tomorrow was an important day for re-education and he wanted the believers to recant. He yelled at the prisoners, "Why are you so quiet? Answer me! Answer me now!"No one said a word.

The officer became furious and began to curse at the men. At the top of his voice, he screamed, "You sons of b---s! All eight of you come here and put your face down to the ground!"

They came just as he ordered. They sat on their knees and then bent their heads down.

The officer called over other male prisoners, "We cannot let these men live. They think they don't know who I am. Bring boiling liquid iron from the furnace and pour it on them!"

The male prisoners' faces were full of fear. The liquid iron was 1,200 degrees. They hesitated to do this terrible thing.

The officer gave them a fierce scowl Do you want to die with them?

The frightened prisoners ran to get a kettle of molten iron. Then they poured the boiling iron on top of the people of God kneeling so quietly

Suddenly, the smell of burning flesh assailed my nostrils. The bodies began to shrivel from the intense heat as the liquid metal burned right through their flesh.

I fell to the ground and almost fainted from shock. The impact on me was so tremendous that I screamed as if I was crazy. Other prisoners in the factory screamed in horror as the eight Christians died.

I looked at their shrunken bodies and wondered in my heart, What do they believe? What do they see in the empty shy? What could be more important to them than their lives?

In the years I was in prison, I saw many believers die. Yet they never, never denied the God who is in heaven. All they had to do wits say they don't believe in religion and they would have been released.

I didn't understand what made them not fear death. Their unbelievable faith brought a big question into my heart: What did they see, and what am I missing?

Read a second extract - Life in a North Korean Prison

Buy the book here Eyes of Tailless animals
By netchicken: posted on 19-4-2009

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