[해외언론보도] ‘We were slave owners’

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2017-08-29
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이름 : NKSC

2013-10-16 14:15:42  |  조회 1087



‘We were slave owners’: Ex-prison guard taught to view North Korean inmates as sub-human ‘enemies’

 

 

North Korea is estimated to have about 150,000 of its own citizens in a network of gulags across the country. Many are there for political reasons and to be “reeducated.” Prisoners are held in near-starvation conditions and torture, beatings and executions are common. On Friday, the National Post’s Tom Blackwell spoke to one of the few prisoners to have escaped as well as a former guard at a notorious camp.

 

For most Koreans, Taekwondo is a competitive sport or maybe a source of vigorous exercise, despite its origins as a “martial” art.

 

In the North Korean prison camps where An Myeong Chul worked for eight years as one of the system’s feared, ruthless guards, it was a weapon of subjugation.

 

“I remember practising Taekwondo on the prisoners,” Mr. An said in an interview Friday. “It was a way to control the inmates. For instance, if we had a high-ranking official visiting the prison camp, we would be told to show what we’ve learned and practise on an inmate, practise Taekwondo on the inmate.”

 

The brutal system he served so loyally for years eventually turned on him and his family, and the guard escaped the country just as he was about to be thrown among the prisoners himself.

 

 

 

 

Now, Mr. An is one of the survivors of North Korea’s vast gulag – said to hold about 150,000 people – who campaign against human rights abuses that they witnessed first-hand, and on a vast scale. Three survivors spoke at a conference in Toronto this week, organized by the Council for Human Rights in North Korea.

 

Most of the defectors are ex-prisoners; Mr. An offers a rarely heard voice from the other side of a prison network considered as merciless as those of Stalinist Russia or Maoist China.

 

He began work in 1987 in the relatively privileged occupation, a position he obtained thanks to the influence of his father, a local Party official.

 

Commanders drove home repeatedly that the inmates were enemies of the state, guilty of serious anti-regime crimes who deserved to be treated like scum, he said.

 

“If we were to help these prisoners in any way or be compassionate, we would be executed and our families as well, and we were given the right to kill any prisoner who attempted to escape,” he said. “I remember a colleague dragging a prisoner who was working in the field and executing this prisoner.”

 

Mr. An said he witnessed “a lot of deaths” of inmates, whether as a result of violence by camp authorities, starvation, overwork or accidents in workplaces like the coal mine where prisoners toiled at the notorious Camp 22.

 

In October, 1992, 300 of Camp 22’s 50,000 inmates died from an infectious disease they caught from a contaminated field mouse, he said. The prisoners were particularly susceptible to communicable illness, said the ex-guard, since they were fed the minimum amount of food needed to carry out their work tasks.

 

“The best way to put it is they were the slaves, and we were the slave owners.”

 

Tom Blackwell, @tomblackwellNP

Source: National Post/ Date: 2013.09.27.


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