Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Everything Relative

This is a post about having to put everything into perspective.
It is an older story, but I remember reading it when it first came out in the Washington Post. It is the story of a young man, 26 years old by the name of Shin Dong-hyuk who lives in Seoul and who had escaped from a North Korean prison camp (there are about 200,000 people that live in these North Korean camps). He had actually been born there in the prison camp. Some of the details are quite horrendous.
"Shin is 26 and lives in a small rented room in Seoul. He is a thin, short, shy man, with quick, wary eyes, a baby face, and sinewy arms bowed from childhood labor. There are burn scars on his back and left arm from where he was tortured by fire at age 14, when he was unable to explain why his soon-to-be-hanged mother had tried to escape. The middle finger of his right hand is cut off at the first knuckle, punishment for accidentally dropping a sewing machine in the garment factory at his camp."
These are intense stories, and bring an amazing perspective to my life. If you've ever read Gulag Archipelago, you'll instantly have flashbacks of Solzhenitsyn's horrific tales as you read about Shin's life. But this is amazing because we're no longer talking about Stalin's gulag...we're talking about today, going on right now.
Camp #14 is located in Kaechon, about 55 miles north of Pyongyang(so it isn't in the middle of nowhere). It begins with the story of his birth in camp #14 to parents whose union was arranged by prison guards as a reward to the father for excellent work as a mechanic. Shin lived with his mother until he was 12 when he was taken away to work with other children. He describes the common savagery of the camp, the rape of his cousin by prison guards, and the beating to death of a young girl found with 5 grains of unauthorized wheat in her pocket.
All of this is extraordinary and unless my studies will prove otherwise, I have no reason to believe it has gotten better in the few years since Mr. Shin escaped from prison. In 1996 he was forced to watch the execution of his mother who was hanged on the same day his only brother was shot to death. Before that, his torturers told him for the first time why he and his family were in the camp: two of his fathers brothers had collaborated with South Korea during the Korean War and then fled to the south. His father was guilty because he was the brother of traitors; Shin was guilty because he was his fathers son.

If there is one thing about the U.S., it is that we don't have our father's or brother's or associates' failings held upon us - we are able to make our own lives. And even in a time of economic downturn and exhaustion, its kind of useful to me to remember some of the unspeakable savagery that still exists in this world and that still exists as an inevitable product of communism, which we have done so much to defeat and turn back and need to continue to do so. My wife has been having serious difficulty recovering from a recent surgery, and in a small bout of sadness on my part it helped me to remember what others have had to go through in other parts of the world - people they have seen suffer and experiences they had to endure.
Here is a link to the full article on Shin Dong-hyuk

1 comment:

  1. Whenever I hear about something like this it really ticks me off. It is a shame what some people in the world have to go through for other people's dumb choices. I remember when I was in Korea, I thought anout this a lot and who knows what will happen but I remember that there were groups ofpeople who work in trying to help NKoreans escape. I would tell my Katusa friends (Korean Soldiers working in US units)that I would apply for Mexican citizenship (I would have dual citizenship) and go to China using that passport. I don't know if I would be able to get into Nkorea, I heard that it was allowing people except US citizens in, I would look into it more if I decided to do this, and if I were able to get in or not, I would do something to help people escape N Korea. Perhaps there is a better way but This was something I really wanted to do. I would use my MX passport because just being in that area with a US passport would raise a bunch of red flags. I thought that if I got really serious about this, I could even ask coyotes for advice (guys who smuggle people across US-MX border). There are a lot of factors that I think about and we really don't have the space to discuss'em here but there are lots of ramifications that I also think about. I just hate being a person who reads about bad things and doesn't do anything. Interestingly, when I watched a documentary about N Korea, it said how Kim Jong Il wanted to control his people and I read an article about Sadaam who also thought that the more restrictions and control he imposed on his people the more they would feel protected. Now we know the author who tries to force and control people, remember lucifer wanted to force everyone to do what is right. The Gospel opens our eyes to things that others would not normally see or consider. I always tell my wife that I want to be a philanthropist and I want to do something for the better of this nasty world, not just a normal 9-5er (nothing wrong with that) but I want to do something else. Helping N Koreans escape the hell they are in is on my list of doing something good for the world, I know some people would criticize or say it's too difficult but I have been in many extremely hard jams that the only way I could have made it through was with the Lord's help. Whenever someone says'It's too difficult, you can't do it" I always think to myself, 'hmm,lame, this person has no faith, spine nor know much about God'. Perhaps there is another way to help out those people but this optioon will stay on my list to do for quite a while.