Category: Injustices


I feel numb, deadened that I am so free. The whys no longer bother me as much as the hows: how could a country change so quickly, how can a tyrant gain such power? I remember my own ignorance and ask how can the suffering be stopped? I question whether I can do anything to stop it, and inevitably, how?

Over 200,000 men, women, and children are currently prisoners in political penal labor
colonies, prison labor facilities, or detention facilities in the Democratic People’s Republic of
Korea. The camps have existed for half a century, twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps and twice as long as the Soviet Gulag.

According to The Hidden Gulag, a book published by U.N. human rights expert David
Hawk, prisoners are arrested and imprisoned, often for life, without a trial in kwan-li-so (political penal labor colonies). People may be arrested for any alleged political opposition to the government, even if they personally did not oppose the regime. Koreans three generations removed from someone once labeled a political “threat” may be arrested even if they personally have never caused political opposition. The slightest suspicion leads to immediate imprisonment and often, the prisoners do not even know the charges under which they were arrested. Choosing to practice any religion is also a major reason for being imprisoned.

The kyo-hwa-so (prison labor facilities) are similar to the kwan-li-so in that forced labor, executions, torture, and mistreatment of all kinds abound. But the main difference is that unlike kwan-li-so prisoners, those in the kyo-hwa-so are usually political prisoners tried and given a definite sentence. Some of them are eventually released. In addition to these, there are several types of camps for North Koreans forcibly repatriated from China.

Prisoners’ bodies are used for cruel experiments. They are poisoned, gassed, burnt. Women are raped then punished for having had forbidden sex, they are beaten, and forced to undergo abortions or watch their babies die after birth. Husbands are separated from their wives, children from their parents. Prisoners are “re-educated,” tortured until they confess to crimes they never committed. They work 12-15 hours of hard labor each day, surviving on 70 kernels of corn and bits of salt. Some get nothing and must eat the leftovers of the camp: reptiles, insects, rodents, or rotten vegetation. Many of them will die before they are fifty. Most of the women become hunch-backed. They live in crowded cells; some don’t have enough space to lie down.

One woman, Soon Ok Lee is a remarkable survivor of the camps. She not only miraculously escaped, she later became a Christian and has written a memoir and testified before Congress multiple times. David Hawk’s book provides a good summary of her experiences:
“LEE Soon Ok was born in 1947 into a privileged and stalwart Korean Workers’ Party family. Trained as an accountant, Lee rose to become a supervisor in the No. 65 Distribution Center in Onsong, North Hamgyong Province, which distributed Chinese-manufactured fabrics to party and state officials. She was arrested in 1986 in what she believes was a power struggle between the Workers’ Party, whose members run the nationwide distribution system, and the public security bureau police, who were not satisfied with the amount of goods being provided to them by the distribution centers. She was charged with theft and bribery and held for seven months in the Onsong bo-wi-bu (National Security Agency) ka-mok (jail), where she was tortured severely because she refused to confess to the allegations against her. Then, upon her
expulsion from the Party, she was transferred to an In-min-bo-an-seong (People’s Safety
Agency) provincial interrogation center, where she was held for another seven months
and further tortured.
“To escape even further torture and threats against her family members, Lee ultimately
agreed to sign a confession. Afterwards, she was given a public trial and sentenced to
fourteen years at Kyo-hwa-so No. 1, located at Kaechon, South Pyong-an Province,
where, among other things, the prisoners manufacture garments. Though she originally
worked in the ordinary sewing lines, she was eventually transferred because of her
accounting and managerial experience to the administrative office of the prison, where
she had the opportunity to observe and learn a great deal more about how the prison labor
camp was run.
“After her release, in February 1994, Lee and her son fled from North Korea to China,
eventually arriving in South Korea in December 1995 via Hong Kong. Once in South
Korea, she wrote a prison memoir, Eyes of the Tailless Animals: Prison Memoirs of a
North Korean Woman, which names numerous persons who died under torture in the
jails of Onsong and from various mistreatments at Kaechon prison labor camp.”

Some of the things she describes in her memoir are unbelievable. She writes, “I used to believe that the North Korean government valued every individual. Then I found out that the government purposely allocated the number of people to be sent to prison so they could have free labor. Every ten years, the government released many prisoners to celebrate Kim Il-Sung’s birthday, but I discovered that as soon as they were released, the government arrested more healthy people who could work more effectively. People who were released from prison received new ID cards showing that they were once criminals. Therefore, they were always watched. Many were returned to prison.”

Situations like these seem hopeless because we seem helpless to solve them. It is easy to think that there is nothing we can do to directly halt atrocities like this. And when you think that this is just ONE country in a world where there are millions of injustices occurring every day, it is hard not to be completely overwhelmed.

But we cannot be overwhelmed, because we serve a mighty God: One who has redeemed us, One who is Master over all things, including Death and Satan – One who is able to ultimately bring good out of incredible tragedy and evil. Romans 12:21 says “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Our God is good. And our God will overcome evil.

In Jeremiah 22:15-16, God specifically states what it means to know him, how we may know him fully:
(Speaking to Josiah’s son about his father) “ ‘He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the Lord.”
Knowing God means knowing what is “right and just” – knowing the Truth and Righteousness of God. That knowledge then leads to action – defending the cause of the poor and needy.

I challenge you to know your God and to use your God-given power as an individual. That may seem ironic – isn’t an individual weak?

Instead of seeing ourselves as powerless “individuals,” we should recognize that we are individuals called to obediently serve an all-powerful God. We each are allowed to choose to love God, and to obey his command to love others as ourselves. He has given us all individual responsibilities and opportunities to glorify him, and placed people in our lives that we should be caring for and reaching out to. Human suffering and pain has many forms and is certainly not limited to modern-day slavery, persecution, or human trafficking situations. There are so many opportunities for each of us to do good, to help someone each day – this is the type of obedience God calls us to. An attitude of obedience allows us to remember that we are only servants of an all-powerful God, not God himself, and we can then focus on following Him one step at a time.

As Anne Frank said, “How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” It is not enough to simply say that someone else will take care of needs we see and turn our eyes away from the problems. Instead, we should “defend the cause of the poor and needy.” To do that requires that we first understand the problems and be aware of the needs and causes we should be working to help. Once we are aware of a need, we must defend those who have no defenses, speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves (Prov. 31:8-9).

God uses ordinary people to work out his plans. He used a few Hebrew midwives to save Hebrew babies; a young prisoner, Joseph, to protect the people of Egypt from famine; Esther to save the Jews; the prostitute Rahab to protect Israelite spies; Amy Carmichael to protect dozens of young Indian girls from a life of forced prostitution and slavery; Corrie Ten Boom and her father to protect Jewish refugees during World War II; and on and on the list goes. We do not know how God will use us, but we must be willing to obey him in whatever he asks. We may not be able to fight on the front lines to abolish extermination camps, political prison camps, human trafficking, and other international human rights abuses, but we can all stand up for the people we know at home, at work, even across the world, who are being taken advantage of or are defenseless.

When it comes to injustices, we are individuals helping individuals – which means that while we may not be able to help as many as we wish we could, each person we help is affected in a large way. Helping just one person – rescuing just one person from a life of slavery, rescuing just one child from being beaten, helping just one person through a difficult time in life, feeding one hungry person, whatever it is, will mean the world to that one person you help.

So what can we do as individuals who want to fight injustice?

First of all, we can pray. We know we are in a spiritual war (Eph. 6:12) One of our main weapons is prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says we are to “Pray continually;” Ephesians 6: 18 says to “Be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints;” James 5:16 says the “prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective;” and Colossians 4:2 says “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

We must pray seriously. Hebrews 13:3 says “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” That verse is not talking only about prayer, but I believe it applies to prayer: If I were in a prison similar to what Soon Ok Lee was imprisoned in, I would be completely desperate and on my hands and knees every minute, praying for strength. How much more should we -who have so many luxuries and free time – be pleading with God each day for the thousands of Christians tortured and imprisoned for their faith, or for the thousands of innocent victims who may not be believers. Soon Ok Lee ends her memoir with these words, “The forgotten people in North Korea are the ones we should pray for and send God’s love. We should also remember those believers who are in prison because they will not deny the God in heaven. Their pleading eyes cry out to us. We must be faithful to bring God’s love to them all.”

Second, we must do, as Jer. 22:15 says, what is “right and just.” I believe this implies more than simply being people of integrity – it means we should do what is in our power to uphold justice and righteousness. One woman may not be able to stop concentration camps in North Korea, but she can influence her family, her friends, her church, to become aware of the problem, to speak out against it, to elect legislators and government authorities who will work to abolish it. She can teach her children and people around her Biblical principles about justice and protecting humans’ basic God-given dignity because they have been created in the image of God. She can influence those around her to act fairly, to see humans as God does and not as objects to be manipulated and used for one’s own selfish gain. Cultural revolution begins with individuals.

Third, we can support organizations who are able to be “on the front lines” in the fight against severe human rights abuses and persecutions through direct involvement in government and non-governmental intervention and aid. We can support those organizations directly (volunteering) and indirectly. Financial donations can be useful, but what almost every Christian organization specifically asks for is your prayer. Organizations such as International Justice Mission, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Voice of the Martyrs, and many others, are doing amazing things for God and making great progress in rescuing people from slavery and unjust cruelty.

Fourth, we, as American citizens, can use our incredible freedoms and opportunities for involvement in our government to act against issues that are present in our country (such as abortion and human trafficking). We can do this by educating ourselves on these issues, educating others, voting for people who will work to find solutions, discussing these issues with other people, informing our communities and government leaders that we care about resolving injustices, and doing everything in our power to protect freedom and uphold correct rule of law.

God says that faith without works is dead. Helping the helpless, loving the unlovely, serving those who have nothing to give in return are all ways we live out our faith and show God to the world. James 3 emphasizes that, while we cannot neglect to care for a person spiritually, we also cannot neglect to care for him or her physically.

By setting aside our fears and reservations, by giving of ourselves to meet others’ needs, and by being willing to care for others, we choose to overcome evil with good; we choose to say “Here I am Lord, use me.” By getting in the middle of situations no one else wants to touch – situations others call hopeless – and focusing on the hope we have in Christ, we are in effect shouting to a despairing world: “There is still hope, there is still love, there is still life. Good is overcoming evil. God reigns!”

Says the Lord in Isaiah 58:6-11:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
“To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing quickly appear: then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

US Dept. of State – http://www.state.gov
>Democracy and Global Affairs
> Human Rights/ Religious Persecution/ Trafficking in Persons (each category will bring up different pages and you can see different reports on each topic)

Voice of the Martyrs – http://www.persecution.com
Christian Solidarity Worldwide – http://www.csw.org.uk/joinus.htm
International Justice Mission – http://www.ijm.org/getinvolved
Persecution.Org – http://www.persecution.org/awareness
Barnabus Aid – http://barnabasfund.org/US/Our-work/Our-current-projects/BF-Project-Countries
Each of these sites (except the Dept. of State one) has news articles you can read, ways you can pray for each country, and projects that you can provide financial support for. Barnabus Aid has an especially interesting and concise “Projects” page that is broken down country by country.
To read the book I referenced today, go to David Hawk’s site and select “The Hidden Gulag” http://www.davidrhawk.com/HiddenGulag.pdf
To read the 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, click http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/

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Here are just a few of the disturbing situations in China discussed in the 2010 Human Rights Report.

Overview:
“A negative trend in key areas of the country’s human rights record continued, as the government took additional steps to rein in civil society, particularly organizations and individuals involved in rights advocacy and public interest issues, and increased attempts to limit freedom of speech and to control the press, the Internet, and Internet access. Efforts to silence political activists and public interest lawyers were stepped up, and increasingly the government resorted to extralegal measures including enforced disappearance, “soft detention,” and strict house arrest, including house arrest of family members, to prevent the public voicing of independent opinions. Public interest law firms that took on sensitive cases also continued to face harassment, disbarment of legal staff, and closure.

Individuals and groups, especially those seen as politically sensitive by the government, continued to face tight restrictions on their freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel. The government continued its severe cultural and religious repression of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and Tibetan areas. Abuses peaked around high-profile events, such as the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to democracy activist Liu Xiaobo and sensitive anniversaries.

As in previous years, citizens did not have the right to change their government. Principal human rights problems during the year included: extrajudicial killings, including executions without due process; enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention, including prolonged illegal detentions at unofficial holding facilities known as “black jails”; torture and coerced confessions of prisoners; detention and harassment of journalists, writers, dissidents, petitioners, and others who sought to peacefully exercise their rights under the law; a lack of due process in judicial proceedings, political control of courts and judges; closed trials; the use of administrative detention; restrictions on freedoms to assemble, practice religion, and travel; failure to protect refugees and asylum-seekers; pressure on other countries to forcibly return citizens to China; intense scrutiny of, and restrictions on, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); discrimination against women, minorities, and persons with disabilities; a coercive birth limitation policy, which in some cases resulted in forced abortion or forced sterilization; trafficking in persons; prohibitions on independent unions and a lack of protection for workers’ right to strike; and the use of forced labor, including prison labor. Corruption remained endemic.”

Torture and other Cruel Punishment:
“There were widespread reports of activists and petitioners being committed to mental health facilities and involuntarily subjected to psychiatric treatment for political reasons. According to China News Weekly, the MPS directly administers 22 high-security psychiatric hospitals for the criminally insane (also known as ankang facilities). From 1998 to May 2010, more than 40,000 persons were committed to ankang hospitals. In May an MPS official stated in a media interview that detention in ankang facilities was not appropriate for patients who did not demonstrate criminal behavior. However, political activists, underground religious believers, persons who repeatedly petitioned the government, members of the banned Chinese Democracy Party (CDP), and Falun Gong adherents were among those housed with mentally ill patients in these institutions. Regulations governing security officials’ ability to remand a person to an ankang facility were not clear, and detainees had no mechanism for objecting to claims of mental illness by security officials. Patients in these hospitals reportedly were medicated against their will and forcibly subjected to electric shock treatment.”

Prison/Detention Center Conditions:
“Forced labor remained a serious problem in penal institutions. Many prisoners and detainees in penal and RTL facilities were required to work, often with no remuneration. Information about prisons, including associated labor camps and factories, was considered a state secret.

In response to claims that the organs of executed prisoners were harvested for transplant purposes, Vice Minister of Health Huang Jiefu in August 2009 stated that inmates were not a proper source for human organs and that prisoners must give written consent for their organs to be removed.

Conditions in administrative detention facilities, such as RTL camps, were similar to those in prisons. Beating deaths occurred in administrative detention and RTL facilities. According to NGO reports, conditions in these facilities were similar to those in prisons, with detainees reporting beatings, sexual assaults, lack of proper food, and no access to medical care.

Information on the prison population is not made public. In 2004 then minister of justice Fan Fangping reportedly said there were more than 670 prisons housing “more than 1.5 million prisoners.” According to domestic media reporting, a Ministry of Justice survey estimated that the prison population as of the end of 2005 was 1.56 million. The law requires juveniles be housed separately from adults, unless facilities are insufficient. In practice children were sometimes housed with adult prisoners and required to work. Political prisoners were housed with the general prison population and reported being beaten by other prisoners at the instigation of guards.”

Denial of Fair Trials:
“The law states that the courts shall exercise judicial power independently, without interference from administrative organs, social organizations, and individuals. However, in practice the judiciary was not independent. Legal scholars have interpreted President Hu Jintao’s doctrine of the “Three Supremes” as stating that the interests of the Party are above the law. Judges regularly received political guidance on pending cases, including instructions on how to rule, from both the government and the CCP, particularly in politically sensitive cases. The CCP Law and Politics Committee has the authority to review and influence court operations at all levels of the judiciary.

Corruption also influenced court decisions. Safeguards against judicial corruption were vague and poorly enforced. Local governments appoint and pay local court judges and, as a result, often exerted influence over the rulings of judges in their districts.

Courts are not authorized to rule on the constitutionality of legislation. The law permits organizations or individuals to question the constitutionality of laws and regulations, but a constitutional challenge can only be directed to the promulgating legislative body. As a result, lawyers had little or no opportunity to use the constitution in litigation.”

Human Trafficking:
“The Law on the Protection of Juveniles forbids infanticide; however, there was evidence that the practice continued. According to the National Population and Family-planning Commission, a handful of doctors have been charged with infanticide under this law. Female infanticide, sex-selective abortions, and the abandonment and neglect of baby girls remained problems due to the traditional preference for sons and the coercive birth limitation policy.

Kidnapping and buying and selling children for adoption increased over the past several years, particularly in poor rural areas. There were no reliable estimates of the number of children kidnapped; however, according to media reports, as many as 20,000 children were kidnapped every year for illegal adoption. Most children kidnapped internally were sold to couples unable to have children, particularly sons. Those convicted of buying an abducted child may be sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. In the past most children rescued were boys, but increased demand for children reportedly drove traffickers to focus on girls as well. In 2009 the Ministry of Public Security started a DNA database of parents of missing children and children recovered in law enforcement operations in an effort to reunite families.”

High Suicide Rate – Suicides in China account for 44% of suicides worldwide, according to the World Health Organization:
“According to the World Bank and the World Health Organization, there were approximately 500 female suicides per day in 2009. The Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center reported in 2009 that the suicide rate for females was three times higher than for males. Many observers believed that violence against women and girls, discrimination in education and employment, the traditional preference for male children, birth-limitation policies, and other societal factors contributed to the high female suicide rate.”

Aggressive “Family Planning” Campaigning:
“While all provinces eliminated the birth-approval process for a first child, thus allowing parents to choose when to start having children, some provinces continued to regulate the period of time required between births. This adjustment signaled an end to the former family-planning quota system, in which some couples previously had to delay pregnancies if the allotted birth quota for that locality had already been exceeded.

The law requires each person in a couple that has an unapproved child to pay a “social compensation fee,” which can reach 10 times a person’s annual disposable income. The law grants preferential treatment to couples who abide by the birth limits.

Social compensation fees were set and assessed at the local level. The law requires family-planning officials to obtain court approval before taking “forcible” action, such as detaining family members or confiscating and destroying property of families who refuse to pay social compensation fees. However, in practice this requirement was not always followed, and national authorities remained ineffective at reducing abuses by local officials.

The population control policy relied on education, propaganda, and economic incentives, as well as on more coercive measures. Those who violated the child limit policy by having an unapproved child or helping another do so faced disciplinary measures such as social compensation fees, job loss or demotion, loss of promotion opportunity, expulsion from the party (membership is an unofficial requirement for certain jobs), and other administrative punishments, including in some cases the destruction of private property.

In order to delay childbearing, the law sets the minimum marriage age for women at 20 years and for men at 22 years. It continued to be illegal in almost all provinces for a single woman to have a child, with fines levied for violations. The law states that family-planning bureaus will conduct pregnancy tests on married women and provide them with unspecified “follow-up” services. Some provinces fined women who did not undergo periodic pregnancy tests.

Officials at all levels remained subject to rewards or penalties based on meeting the population goals set by their administrative region. Promotions for local officials depended in part on meeting population targets. Linking job promotion with an official’s ability to meet or exceed such targets provided a powerful structural incentive for officials to employ coercive measures to meet population goals. An administrative reform process initiated pilot programs in some localities that sought to remove this linkage for evaluating officials’ performance.

Although the family-planning law states that officials should not violate citizens’ rights in the enforcement of family-planning policy, these rights, as well as penalties for violating them, are not clearly defined. By law citizens may sue officials who exceed their authority in implementing birth-planning policy. However, there exist few protections for whistleblowers against retaliation from local officials. The law provides significant and detailed sanctions for officials who help persons evade the birth limitations.

During the year Puning City, Guangdong Province conducted two campaigns of “sterilization of married couples that have two children” during the year. According to the Puning government, the city conducted 8,916 sterilization procedures in April and more than 3,000 in September. Meanwhile, a report by the Southern Rural News, a paper belonging to the Nanfang Daily Group, indicated that if two-child couples identified for sterilization did not cooperate with family-planning officials or fled the area, authorities confiscated the couples’ property or detained their family members. Detained family members were forced to take family-planning policy-learning sessions–officials forced at least 1,300 persons related to two-child couples to attend the learning sessions in April.”

Psalm 146

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord, O my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them – the Lord, who remains faithful forever.

He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the Lord.

“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

It Really Happened

I am still in shock.

Have I really just been accepted into law school? To an elite Honors Program at the school I thought I might not even be accepted to???

It is difficult not to be nervous about the upcoming year. Everyone loves to share their horrors of the first year of law school…the first year is the most intense, specifically geared towards weeding out students who are not serious about their studies. I shouldn’t be worried – I have always been a serious student. But what if I cannot keep up? What if I am lacking experience, ability, knowledge, “smartness,” or time? What if I snap?

One friend reminded me that the admissions committees on law schools see thousands of applicants, and they know what a successful applicant is like. They have chosen me and said that I have the potential they are looking for, so I should trust them and recognize that I have what it takes.

Part of that is true. The school, Regent University School of Law, has said that all graduating students have a bar passage rate of 89%. Students who scored 155 or above on the LSAT had a pass rate of 95%, while students who scored above 160 have a 100% pass rate. I scored 161, so I should, in theory be fine.

But it is so hard to let go of the “what ifs“. Maybe that is the part of me that will enable me to be a good lawyer. Or maybe it is the part of me that is unwilling to trust God.

This entire process of getting into law school has been a total confirmation that I am heading in the right direction, doing what God wants. It all seems so ridiculously hard, yet I made it. I chose law school completely on my own – no career advisor, no counselor was there to help me. I picked a terrific pre-law major without knowing I’d go to law school. I thought the LSAT would be like the GRE for me – I’d get an average score, not one good enough to earn scholarships. I studied completely on my own, and scored lower than I hoped. It was above average, but still lower than I was aiming for. Despite what I considered a “low” score, I was admitted and offered a killer scholarship. It was as if God was saying, “Stop limiting me! If I want you somewhere, I’ll put you there!”

For once, I am able to plan. I have vision, I know what I want to do and why I want to do it. This is of God. All of this is so much better than I could have ever hoped for.

Now, my dreams are about to become real. I have to make a choice: will I cower away from trust like Moses, stammering that I am not the one God wants to use, or will I humbly accept the chance He has given me and obey Him like Daniel did?

I’ve come this far, I’m not about to turn around now! Bring on the sleepless nights, bring on the endless research and reading, bring on the critics and the questions. I will focus on my God, I will choose to stop worrying about tomorrow!

Now to work through some Blackstone, American and Korean history, and economics texts…

of whom the world is not worthy

Written on April 18 at 2:39pm
I came across this letter I had emailed to my close friends this past spring. I cannot articulate my thoughts any better now.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
-hebrews 13:3

“anyone then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”
-james 4:17

“speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
-proverbs 31:8-9

i cannot even describe how much sorrow i feel right now after reading some of the accounts of prisoners in north korea. (http://www.davidrhawk.com/HiddenGulag.pdf ) it is horrific. the brutalities, the atrocities committed against people there are terrible, but the knowledge that there is nothing i can presently do to relieve it is almost worse. knowing that it will continue, that even now, people are being tortured and killed unjustly, breaks my heart. and then, when i remember that north korea is just ONE country like this, i am stunned. how many other innocent people, especially Christians, are being persecuted around the world in similar ways? it is numbing, i don’t even want to think about it, but know i must.

i hate the helpless feeling i have. i want to change it, i want to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING. but what can i do? i know God is the one in control, i know that He will change people, not me. i know that although He did not introduce suffering, pain, cruelty and injustice into our world, He is capable of using it to bring about His perfect plan of redemption. yet it also seems like we should be doing something, doesn’t it?

i cannot read about this and not feel compelled to act. yet how? act how? what is there that i can do, besides pray?

today after hearing a sermon on giving based on philippians 4:10- 20, i came home and began researching north korean labor camps again. i hadn’t been doing that since this december. i feel that giving of my life, my time, to defend these innocents is necessary. yet how to do that is the question.
it doesn’t sound happy, doesn’t seem promising, definitely seems impossible. but God has a plan.

it is so difficult to continue reading prisoners’ accounts of their mistreatment. i feel such a sense of urgency, but i know that God in His wisdom, has me where He wants me. although i still want to be doing something NOW, i question whether i really would be willing to act out if it meant risking all i have. i think i am easily influenced by hearing about injustice, and i wonder if my rash, emotion-based response would hold up when i would be tested? if i had to rely on my strength, i know i would fail. but God has promised to provide strength for whatever he asks us to do.

please pray for the 200,000+ prisoners in labor camps, when you think of it. i’m trying to set aside at least 10 minutes every day to do so. i feel that is the least i can do.
if you have any knowledge about ways to become involved in changing the atrocities done in these camps, please let me know.
also, please pray that i would know what God wants me to do

“now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. your gold and silver are corroded. their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. you have hoarded wealth in the last days…you have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. you have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. you have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.”
-james 5:1-6

Swallowing Death

She hears only her heart as she huddles in the cell. She has just enough room to crawl several inches. The dirt underneath her bleeding knees works its way deeper into her skin. She slows her breathing, having learned that trying to catch her breath only leaves her breathless here in the staleness where the only air enters through the small cracks by the door. It had been five days since she had been given any water. Ten days since she’d eaten. Would they shoot her today?

They are starving. They are suffering. They are silenced.

Over 200,000 men, women, and children are currently prisoners in political penal labor
colonies, prison labor facilities, or detention facilities in the Democratic People’s Republic of
Korea (DPRK). The DPRK denies the existence of any such camps. But satellite photographs,
North Korean defectors, and escaped detainees’ witnesses prove otherwise. The camps have
existed for half a century, twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps and twice as
long as the Soviet Gulag.
Although there are several reasons people may be imprisoned, and there are differing
types of labor colonies, all prisoners share one thing in common: they are being brutally
mistreated without fair trial, most for nothing they themselves have done. Public executions,
torture, rape, beatings, starvation, human experimentation, and “retraining” (brainwashing) are
routine parts of these camps.
According to The Hidden Gulag, a book published by U.N. human rights expert David Hawk, kwan-li-so (political penal labor colonies), prisoners are arrested and imprisoned, often for life, without a trial. People may be arrested for any alleged political opposition to the
government, even if they personally did not oppose the regime. People three generations
removed from someone once labeled a political “threat” may be arrested even if they personally
have never caused political opposition. The slightest suspicion leads to immediate imprisonment
and often, the prisoners do not even know the charges under which they were arrested. Religious
opposition is also a major reason for being imprisoned.
The kyo-hwa-so (prison labor facilities) are similar to the kwan-li-so in that forced labor,
executions, torture, and mistreatment of all kinds abound. But the main difference is that unlike
kwan-li-so prisoners, those in the kyo-hwa-so are usually political prisoners tried and given a
definite sentence. Some of them are eventually released. In addition to these, there are several
various types of camps for North Koreans forcibly repatriated from China.

They are bloodied and bruised. They are broken.

These are the brave, those who continue to live while swallowing death each day.
Their bodies are used for cruel experiments. They are poisoned, gassed, burnt. Women are
raped then punished for having had forbidden sex. They are beaten, and forced to undergo
abortions or watch their babies die after birth. Husbands are separated from their wives, children
from their parents.
They are “re-educated,” tortured until they confess to crimes they never committed.
They work 12-15 hours of hard labor each day, surviving on 70 kernels of corn and bits
of salt. Some get nothing and must eat the leftovers of the camp: reptiles, insects, rodents, or
rotten vegetation.
Many of them die before they are fifty. Most all the women become hunch-backed.
They live in crowded cells, some not having even enough space to lie down.

They are flayed. They are forgotten. They are forsaken.

I feel numb, deadened that I am so free. The whys no longer bother me as much as the
hows: how could a country change so quickly, how can a tyrant gain such power? I remember
my own ignorance and ask how can the suffering be stopped? I question whether I can do
anything, and inevitably, how?
I am only one. I do not know what I can possibly do to alleviate the indescribable, unjust
pain. I won’t shut the camps down, or single-handedly halt the regime. But I can write. I can try
to be a voice for the silent. Maybe you won’t care about tortured North Koreans, maybe you
won’t care about protecting basic human justice.
But maybe you will.
Maybe, after understanding the justice that provided you with a chance to pursue your own
good while ignoring others who have no justice, you may listen. You may occasionally think of
the woman who helped Chinese women deliver their babies, then was forced to lay the babies
face down on the dirt, watching helplessly as their cries slowly ceased, or were muted by the wet
vinyl used by the guards to suffocate the babies still alive after two days (Hawk 70) . She had a
name. They all have names. Maybe you will remember hers, it’s very simple: Detainee #26.
Maybe you will remember the man whose mouth was crammed full of pebbles to silence
his screams before he was gunned down 15 feet away from hundreds of other prisoners forced at
gunpoint to watch, to stand close enough to feel his blood splatter on their thin clothing (Blaine).

I cannot forget the living ghosts that haunt me. I see their screams. I hear their innocent
eyes silently plead, crying out for justice.
I must write. For them. For her – the she of the first paragraph, still unknown to me.
I have not read of her, only of children like her. She is in a sense fictional, for she is not a
documented factual person. But the image of her in my mind is so clear that for all I know, she
is real. Thousands of her exist. But there is only one she and only one me. And only one you.

They are calling. They are confined. They are cut down.

How much longer will we contentedly let our self-absorbed lives swallow their deaths?

Common Ground?

We need “open hearts, open minds, and fair-minded words” when discussing the issue of abortion.

But those who wish to prolong the “debate” over abortion are the ones wishing to still beating hearts, stop working minds, and unfairly silence the words of millions of children.

We need to find “common ground” on this issue.

How will that lead to resolution? The equator seperates North and South, it does not bring them together. Can there be any compromise when it comes to determining human life? The options seem pretty clear cut – dead or alive?  This “let’s hold hands and work together” nonsense is focused only on those people already living, with no regard to those not yet born, which is who the whole controversy centers around. But then, since those in favor of abortion often do not acknowledge the unborn as human, it makes sense that an admonition of this sort that focuses on the born living’s best interests will go over well.

“Is it possible for us to join hands common effort?”

What might that common effort be? One to improve the lives of those people already born?  Will there be any hands to hold?

The killing of tiny lives is humane.

The seeming selfishness of one person is really kindness ( depending on which way you look at it – you see, her selfishness is kindness to herself, and we all know that when individuals place priority on their own interests, they improve their societies).

 We are such a progressive society. We now give the mother sanction for her choice to kill an innocent while always before, people have had the “choice” to kill their children but never the “right.” We have now relieved members of society from their oppression of  guilt.

It is survival of the fittest, which means the strong can only look out for themselves, but don’t you know, humanity is evolving for the better.

After all, we want to make the future better for our children. At least, the children that we think will make our future better.

Sight

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

 -Anne Frank

 

 

Twenty pairs of envious eyes were watching me as I made my way across the room to the table set with china dishes, silverware, glasses for water and cups for coffee. The other twenty people in the room were fated to sit on the floor and eat cups of rice and beans while I and two others, randomly chosen, were to eat platefuls of pork roast, glazed carrots, fruit, stuffing, and our choice of tea or coffee. As I was sitting there, looking down at my friends on the floor, knowing that I was at this table through nothing of my own doing, I felt ashamed.

I was attending a Hunger Banquet, hosted by my Alma Mater, Cottey College. During my excursion this last weekend to Cottey, one of my best friends, Cassie, had mentioned that she would be giving a speech at this event, and casually asked if I would be interested in coming.

Although I have not had much experience with poverty or true hunger, having lived all of my life in prosperous Midwestern areas, I always considered myself to be fairly aware of the problem of poverty, and I prided myself on my idea that I had an understanding of how much we, as Americans have in comparison to much of the world. I thought I knew how bad poverty could be, but until this weekend, I had no idea.

When I arrived at the banquet on Sunday evening, I chatted with some old friends, paying little attention to my funny observation that there was only one table set up in the room but there were around 25 attendees. Later on, as several presentations were given about poverty and hunger, I continued to wonder what we were all going to do for dinner. After learning about a mission in Guatemala, some facts about worldwide poverty, and almost crying from pictures of emaciated infants and children, I began to suspect that I would be in for more than I had bargained for. 

Halfway through the event, the leader explained that, although there were 25 of us, only a privileged few, selected through a drawing, would be able to sit and eat a full dinner at the table I had noticed earlier while the rest of us would either eat a cup of rice and beans, or a cup of rice only. Once I realized that I had been selected to eat at the table, I didn’t want to go.

I cannot begin to relate the feelings I experienced while sitting at that table with two others, representing the 15% of the world that has enough to eat. When I understood what exactly 15% meant, how small it really was, and that there are over 80% of people in the world who are hungry – either because they only have a little food, or because they have nothing – I wanted to walk out of that room and never think about poverty again, never remember that my friends were sitting on the floor while I was sitting at the table. I was further devastated when I learned that approximately one person dies of hunger every 3.5 seconds. Yet this complete shock, this shameful devastation has actually encouraged me. Because now I know that I must make a difference, and now that I know I need to, I know I can. Thank you, Cassie, for helping me gain my sight.