Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Social studies lesson

This interview with Bradley K. Martin, the author of the new book Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty could serve as material for a comparative study of political and social systems. Students could be instructed to compare and constrast.

I recently watched news on a Hispanic channel and saw video of hundreds of North Koreans being mowed down. They had tried to escape to China. None of it made into the nightly news of the big three as far as I can tell.

Martin: Let's break it down into types of suffering. During the famine of the '90s, people really were reduced to eating worms and boiled tree bark. The best estimate now is that some two to three million people lost their lives. Those who stayed alive had to learn survival tactics and strategies including, on the positive side, trade and entrepreneurship, and on the negative side, bribery and theft.


Martin: I would be glad too. It is important for us to hear their voices, and my book documents their sufferings in their own words. Ahn Hyuk, one inmate who managed to get out of a prison camp, said he weighed only 84 pounds at the time of his release, even though he's five foot seven. By the time I interviewed him in South Korea he had bulked up to a normal weight of 150. He told me the guards had caught him one day cooking a pig bone he had found on the ground. Eating food thrown away by non-prisoners was forbidden, so "I was tied to a stake and beaten. That's when my lower jaw was smashed. I've invested so much in my teeth since I came to South Korea. Once we were so hungry that about twenty of us went to the pigsty and started eating the pigs' feed." The pig keeper "complained that the pigs would get thinner because we were eating their feed. They sent us to the river and made us put our heads in the water. The first to put his head up would be beaten brutally. We had to do this until we drank enough water to urinate in our pants."

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