“Since I kept silent all day long, Chun Ho Kim ordered the guard to chain me with fetters to iron bars on the door. He was testing which would last longer: my resistance or his torture. The pain of my body weight held up by the fetters sapped my wrists and ankles. After they released me from the fetters, I could not stand or walk straight because of my weakened condition, and I lost consciousness from time to time. Once as i regained consciousness, my back itched. I could barely reach my back to scratch. As I did, I caught sight of something crawling. Through swollen eyes, I saw maggots all over my back. Flies had landed on my deadened flesh and laid their eggs as I was unconscious for hours. Chun Ho Kim instantly threatened me, “You b____, I’ve been working in this job for twenty years. To me, killing a person is as easy as eating cool soup. Don’t even think about getting out of this place alive unless you agree that what is black is white.” His furor to get me to sign the false statement was so great… That night, I returned to my cell by putting one hand on the wall to help me walk, and I fell many times. A jailer came by and kicked me saying, “Yeh! Don’t fake it. If you don’t want to be chained to the iron bars again, get up and walk!” When I could not get up, the guards pulled my arm and dragged me like a dead dog into my cell, cursing as they went.

I soon found that in the province interrogation center, two groups of twelve jailers worked in shifts. Even though most of them were lower ranking officers in their twenties, they were proud of their position so they treated the prisoners brutally. They abused prisoners who came from other concentration centers more harshly because these were people the other centers had given up on. The prison had twenty cells, ten on each side of a long hallway with a walkway in between. Each cell had a back door about the size of a dog. Prisoners had to crawl through the door to enter or exit the cell. Because of the walls between each cell, prisoners didn’t know who was in the next cell… When prisoners were not taken to the interrogation room, they were forced to sit in the jail cell with crossed legs and head bowed. They were not allowed to move even a fingertip. This immobility lasted from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. After remaining motionless for seventeen hours, our hips and legs became numb and swollen. This was a very difficult torture to endure.

Two jailers walked back and forth in front of the cells, watching for any movement. If a jailer saw a prisoner move, he commanded the person to stand and yelled,”Yah! you b______. Why did you move? Does your body tickle because I am not hitting you?” Stick your hands out between the iron bars.” Once the prisoners stuck out their hands, the jailer smacked the top of their fingers with a rubber club. As they struck the fingers, the jailers yelled, “Spread out your fingers.” If the prisoners did not obey, the jailer hit them ten more times. After the beating, the prisoners’ hands became swollen and they could not move their fingers for a long time. If the prisoners hesitated to stick out their hands, the jailers stabbed the prisoner’s body with a long wooden stick.

… At the prison transfer center, people could be killed without a trial. Therefore, the center had many executions. Prisoners who had not had a public trial were executed at night and then buried in the mountains. The center had a special torture room where prisoners could be frozen or baked. This torture was performed between 1 and 2 a.m. The torture room was about 60 cm wide and had an adjustable ceiling. there was only room for a person to sit on the floor and put his head between his knees. Jailers called this room the place where what is false becomes truth… In October 1987, a seventeen-year-old boy, the son of an iron mill worker, was dragged into the prison transfer center. He was accused of being the leader of a gang fight. Gangs were strictly forbidden in North Korea, because they could develop into anti-government terrorist groups. One night, this young boy was pulled out of the torture room frozen to death.

A man from the north side of Chungjim City went insane because of continuous torture and lack of sleep. He insulted Kim Il Sung by saying, “What did Kim Il Sung do for me?” In North Korea, whoever insults or complains about Kim Il Sung is killed instantly. A jailer froze this insane man to death.

Another common kind of torture room is an iron closet. People are confined in the closet and hit by a club that has countless sharp nails sticking out of it. Any prisoner who offended the jailers or interrogators was beaten by this thorn club. One slight hit made a person bleed. Prisoners who were beaten with the club became very sinister looking from the scars all over their body. I shared a cell with a young lady named Mee Sook Kim. She was twenty-one years old..she was arrested for helping her boss give away corn to coal miners. Although she might be released, her life will be ruined because people will always think of her as a criminal. She was raped by her interrogator. He appeased her by promising that if she would keep his crime secret, he would set her free. To complete her misery, she became pregnant. The interrogator took her to a hospital where the baby was aborted.
The interrogator worried that if she and I shared the same cell for long, I might spread rumors about what he had done to Mee Sook Kim, so he pressured the authorities to send me to a prison. Just for that, I was sent into an unknown pitfall.”

-Taken from Chapter 4 of “Eyes of the Tailless Animals: Prison Memoirs of a North Korean Woman” by Soon Ok Lee

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