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