Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ask a Korean! News: Starvation in North Korea

Did you give thanks this past week? Perhaps you should give some more thanks, after reading this story. This is a story from a North Korean defector lady who put a post on Nambuk Story.

Mom, Sis -- We are Humans Too

First, I would like to thank everyone who reads this post, because I could learn much from your comments.

I had a grandmother, a father and a mother who dedicated their entire lives swearing loyalty to Kim Jong-Il and Korea Labor Party. I have no memory of ever sitting on my father's lap, because he would go to work at 6 in the morning and come back at midnight. He wanted to receive an Effort Hero merit for his hard work.

But instead, all he received was invectives, because our ancestors come from South Korea. They said why would a family of shit dogs would receive any award. We could do nothing in our country because of our ancestor, whom we have never met, was from South Korea. Finally, when the crisis [TK Note: the famine in early 1990s] came, our family moved to the mountains to find a way to survive.

I was third of six brothers and sisters. I grew up learning songs like this: "Honk-honk, my little brother drives a "Victory" brand car. I asked him where he was going. He said he was going to give rice to the poor South Korean brothers." I still vividly hear my teacher teaching that there are many beggar children in South Korea with a can on their waist, who gets beaten to death by well-off people while scrounging and begging for food. I also learned that Korea was a slave to another country and cannot even breathe without permission. That it was a land of idiots without pride, mooching off America like a dog.

We had this great life because the Great General Father protected us with the pride and greatness of Korea. We swore our lives for the Dear Leader, who twice a year gave us a whole kilo of candies and cookies that South Korean children could not have.

But we had to walk 6 kilometers of mountain road to get to school. We had to give up school because our legs, fueled only by boiled wild vegetables, would shake and give out. It was especially difficult for my older sister and I, who had no shoes except a piece of plastic wrapping our feet.

When we were living in the city, my grandmother and mother were trying to turn the last one kilogram of rice into rice cake so that they could sell it. They would have used the profit to buy rice and have porridge. But the police took the whole thing away, saying that we are selling rice that was the grace given from the General. We could not even sell things because we were warned that merchants would be considered a criminal who accepts the filth of capitalism.

So we thought we would survive in the mountain by farming. We cut the trees, tilled the land and pulled the weed, with a hope that we can eat in autumn. Then a National Security Bureau adviser said they would take all the harvest, saying the South Korean dog's family just had to act like a landowner. My indignant grandmother yelled, "Go split it with the wild hogs." The remaining potatoes were hashed out by wild hogs, and the remaining corns were ruined from bears, squirrels and birds. Our blood and sweat disappeared with the wind. In the winter, we would face near death from starvation while eating boiled pea pods and crushed corn cobs. We would roast and devour a rat that was caught in a trap.

Although my father was a loyal member of the Korea Labor Party, he left for China to buy food because he could not bear to see the mass deaths of his mother, wife and six children. But on his way back with a bag of rice, he was caught by the NSB, and died from beating and starvation in prison.

My mother was pregnant with her youngest child. She tried to abort the baby because of the hardship, but the doctor wanted 20 kilograms of beans. She had to have the child because there was no way to get those beans. She gave birth after only eight months of pregnancy after having been frightened by the news of my father's death.

She gave birth in a log cabin without any lights. There was no one to help giving birth other than my grandmother, who was 76, and myself, who was 10. I could never forget what my grandmother said when she was cutting the umbilical cord with scissors that were used to cut cloth. She told me, shivering with fear, that mother would die if I don't hold on tight to the umbilical cord. I held the slippery baby on one hand and the umbilical cord on the other, screaming "mom please wake up". Hiding tears, my grandmother put my small brother face down on the ground for him to die. My mother begged my grandmother to let him live. I could only cry out of fear, holding my two younger siblings who were 5 and 6 years old.

My grandmother returned my brother to my mother, but he could only cry for milk that was not coming from my mother. My older sister went to sell the clothes from home to buy some rice, but she was robbed on the way home, barely coming home alive.

Eating only boiled water, we thought we could only die. But a lady from the People's Bureau in charge of monitoring the villagers told us that she would give us 5 kilos of rice if we would take the 20 kilos of beans to sell at the city 50 kilometers away, buy wallpaper with the money and bring it back.

My older sister left, telling me that she would return no matter how late the next day would be, and that I should protect my mother, grandmother and my younger siblings. But seven days later, she would not return. My mother, seven days after giving birth, went on the 50 kilometer journey to find her. She gave my brother to me, telling me to hang on until she came back.

To keep my brother alive, I begged at the houses of the NSB leaders for 500 grams of rice. All I got was a spit in the face and a beating with a broomstick. They told me why the seeds of South Korean dogs would bother trying to live, and that my father was a traitor to the country. Finally, my brother would not take drinking boiled grass water any longer; he starved to death after clawing at my breasts.

My mother heard that my sister was sold away to China. She went to China to search for her, but could not. She came back with two small bags of powdered milk and a bag of rice, and cried when she heard my brother had died. She was taken away when the NSB agents found out that she went to China. Everything she brought back was taken away. My grandmother starved to death, while longing for the illusion of a boiled potato that she saw next to me.

My mother returned after escaping from the prison. There was no part of her body that was fine, after the beatings and tortures. She laid down for two months while wringing towels soaked with blood leaking out of her head. Then she saw us, nearly dying, and summoned the superhuman strength to take the three of us to China, resolving that she could not possibly kill the remaining children.

I carried the five year old brother on my back and held the hand of the six year old sister, and let my barely moving mother lean against me. We could not walk more than 4 kilometers. My shoeless feet were bleeding. I went to this one house and begged that they take care of my brother for just five days, and promised my brother that we will come back if he sleeps for just five nights.

I can still hear my brother. "Nuna, why do you take the other nuna and not me?" I told him, "Guk-Cheol, mother and I have to carry the rice and your nuna has to carry the candies and cookies, so we will hurry back. Ok?"

After one month, we were trying to return from China but we could not because the Tumen river has flooded. But even more than that, they said there was an order from Kim Jong-Il that anyone who did not participate in the election was to be executed. So we gave someone else money and asked him to bring back my brother, but he only returned with this news: the family that was taking care of my brother had fallen on hard times also, and kicked my brother out. My brother starved to death in a windy reed field, looking for his sister.

This was the end of the destiny for our six brothers and sisters. This is how my family was shattered. I want to ask whose fault was our tragedy.

In China, we had to hide from the police in a dirt hole at night, getting bitten by ants and mosquitoes. During the day, we would help tilling someone's land. The landowner would say he would give the money tomorrow, but one bowl of rice was all we got. If we went to him for money, he would call the police. We were sent back to North Korea four times, but we survived by swallowing money wrapped in plastic. We would bribe the guards with that money after we excreted it.

Eighty percent of the prisoners in the prison I was sent to were caught while trying to go to Korea. Those who endure the beating while telling a story that they were only trying to work in China are sent to a prison called Training Center for six months to a year. If they do not die from disease or starvation, they come out alive and defect from North Korea once again. Those who cannot stand the pain and tell the truth are sent to the prison for political criminals and die there.

North Korean defectors can only die, only in different ways. If they stay in their homeland and survive by selling things, everything is taken away under the pretext that they are imitating capitalism. They finally die in prison after living in poverty and becoming economic criminal, thieves, or political prisoners for lamenting their country. They might want to die after at least having a bowl of rice and drown while trying to cross the Tumen River. The women are sold this way and that, dying from disease or beating after trying to run away. The truly lucky ones, like me, receive help from the Korean brothers, gain liberty and live as well as I do.

Please, everyone -- what are we supposed to do? Please tell me if you have any wise ideas.

I think the North Korean themselves are the only answer. They must somehow revolt, eliminate Kim Jong-Il and the parasites that suck on the blood of the people, and gain liberty. I believe that is the only way to resolve their misery and tribulations. It is not as if Koreans, busy with getting rich, will rescue them by killing Kim Jong-Il with their tanks.

The people of North Korea are taught like this: "Today, again, General went out for supervision without even eating, for the welfare of his people. He cannot sleep, refusing corn and rice, saying how could I have rice when my people are eating porridge because of the puppet South Koreans? Why is Korea trying to kill the people of North Korea? Why is it trying to start a war over and over? Why does it continue to send spies to put glass shards in the food that our poor people eat?"

Koreans, are you really like so? The Koreans I know are kind and love their people. Many times I wished North Korean people and military would learn the truth and endeavor toward life and liberty. That Kim Jong-Il is a true villain, who suffers from diabetes and clogged arteries because of eating so well. That while he condemns those who watch Korean movies as traitors but he still watches those movies and follows Korea's famous actors and actresses. That while he punishes those who divorce and bury them society while having a harem of women.

While I was in prison, I wished that I could put a picture of Kim Jong-Il's wives and the shark's fin banquet that he eats, along with 100 Chinese yuan, in front of every single house in North Korea. But those in Korea went further, and began sending flyers in balloons. This made me so happy. How else could we save the dying people?

JSH Note: This is a post in support of flyering from a defector, ID "Thank You", when there was a debate over the balloon flyering in North Korea last winter. I read this three times, and each time I cried. This post gives me strength, as it makes me reflect how and for what I should live.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. Disturbing and tragic. Thank you for translating.

  2. thanks for the article. this is so sad.

  3. This is horrible... reminds me of how important it is to dissolve that barrier between South Korea and North Korea so no more Korean blood is spilled.

  4. The story reminds me of the stories of what my mother told me. She walked many miles for food and work. Also her mother was taken during the Korea War. I wish America would go liberate North Korea and do worry about the liberal idiots think.

    Last month I overheard a conversation of Korean students at Starbucks stating America had no business having troops in South Korea. So I had to ask if they were Democrats. They said they are proud Democrats and voted for Obama. As I was about to say they were a bunch of idiots, an old Korean lady chew them out in Korean. I had no idea what they were saying because I speak no Korean. After the heated argument the old lady asked if I was half Korean and asked if my father served in South Korea. I said yes and she hugged me. She told me to give my thanks to my father for serving in South Korea.

    I am saddened because many young Koreans in American do not appreciate what American sacrifice for the Koreans during the Korea War.

  5. I cry to read of the unspeakable way people are forced to the name the name of nothing.

  6. Thomas: How does voting for Obama or being a Democrat mean that they want U.S. troops to come home from Korea, or that they some how support Kim Jeong Ill? I don't think that this article has anything to do with U.S. political parties. (The author even stated that she thinks that the solution should come from within North Korea.)

    Besides that, this indeed was a pretty powerful piece that reminds people that behind the posturing and nonsense that KJI commands, there are real starving people who live their lives in brutal misery.

  7. I couldn't finish it. Damn the Nork regime to hell, and the western lefties who support them.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.


    The South Park video “I’m a Little Bit Country” explains the political view of war in the U.S. The liberal Democrats do not want war. They also want no army and no troops on foreign soil. The liberal Democrats would rather give you everything to prevent war. On the other hand, the Republicans and blue dog Democrats wants a big army and have peace keeping troops on foreign soil.

    3gyupsal stated, “I don't think that this article has anything to do with U.S. political parties. (The author even stated that she thinks that the solution should come from within North Korea.)” Even though politics are not mentioned in the article, politics have a lot to do with the survival of their glorious leader. It is true that U.S. politics are keeping Kim Jeong in power by providing aid to him. The U.S. and the U.N. should cut off all aid to North Korea. The North Korean people may starve a little more. But if the conditions in North Korea get worst, the North Korean people may decide to over throw Kim Jeong.

    It is true that the solution should come from within, but the North Korean people need a little help. France helped the U.S. gained its independence from England. The world powers caused the problem by dividing Korea after WWII. Therefore the world powers needs to correct their mistake by getting rid of Kim Jeong and make Korea one big country.

  10. Holy shit. I have never been so grateful for my life. I had no idea. Thanks to TK for the education. Now I understand better what the topic is all about.


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