While we sit in our comfortable homes, drinking our coffee, browsing the Internet, we are not even aware of how lucky we are. Sure, we have our problems: finding a job, getting enough money, raising our children but in some parts of the world, people are being denied their most basic human rights and they are struggling to survive. In some of these god-forsaken countries slavery and dictatorship still exist, and it seems that civilization has not yet reached them.
North Korea – Nuri Yi
In North Korean prison camps, torture, violence and executions are nothing unusual. Those lucky enough to escape run a risk of being met with fierce retribution if they are caught. Nuri Yi is one of the few who managed to save herself from the hell that thousands never survive to talk about.
“I remember one time, we got some gruel – the food was always the same, insipid, cold and scarce – but I still remember those moments when the food arrived as the happiest there. If anything there could come close to happiness. So that one time, we got our daily portions of food, but my hands were shaking so much that I couldn’t hold my bowl. I dropped it and that little bit of gruel splattered all over the floor. My mother froze as the guards looked at me. They weren’t mad, however, rather amused. One of them ordered me to lick the gruel off the floor. But before I could think about it my mother shoved her bowl into my hands and started collecting the pieces of gruel off the floor and eating them. I remember everybody staring, almost hating me for spilling that precious food.
My mother died shortly after, probably of exhaustion and hunger. At times we were so desperate we caught mice and ate them but only if the guards were kind enough to let us do it.
As I was growing up, my determination to escape got stronger and stronger. But for lack of bravery I stayed. I watched people at the camp get weak and die. I kept my head down, never wanted to stand out. Those who stood out ended up losing their limbs, getting tortured and killed. The worst part about being a prisoner was losing humanity. I realize now I became a person devoid of feelings. Yes, I watched people around me die, but with every new day I started caring less. It was almost a prize to notice somebody has died before everyone else – you could steal their food and clothes.
Still, I could not quite get over the children. Even though I got used to death all around me, as did everybody else, the lack of compassion towards the children never stopped bothering me. I guess I remembered that scene from my childhood and never forgot the look on that guard’s face. That monstrosity in his eyes as he relished torturing me. I saw it many times after. I remember a girl of some 10 years, working next to me in the field, desperate to find something to eat. As she turned away from the guards to secretly eat something she found on the ground, she was spotted. For punishment, she was forced to eat dirt. She got so sick afterwards that she eventually died. I couldn’t help her. I knew I would have been next if I had.
Due to obsession with racial purity, women who had escaped and were returned to the camp were forced to have abortions. There was no anesthesia, no medications or sterilization. We knew that new ones have arrived, the screams were horrifying. They were raping them with dirty instruments in order to get that unborn baby out of them. Many didn’t live through the pain. Many died in front of our eyes, collapsing into the puddle of their own blood. If some were lucky enough to hide their pregnancy and give birth, guards would force them to kill their own child by drowning it. After I saw that, I knew I had to escape.”