Category: International

My Way

I woke up Thursday morning around 4:30 to get all my things together and start the last minute rush to make it to the Minneapolis Airport on time for my 7:45 AM flight. A little over four hours later, all my good byes had been said, I had made it to Chicago, and I was on board a 777 Boeing, settling in for a 14 hour flight to Seoul. Even when the plane began its ascent, it did not feel real that I was actually going to Korea. I was just grateful that the sinus decongestant that I had picked up 30 minutes before my flight was actually working and the head cold that had previously prevented my ears from equalizing was finally not interfering this time! (The flight from Minneapolis to Chicago had been brutal.)
On the way over, I rehearsed the plan numerous times in my mind: get through immigration checks, get through customs, get my luggage, find a payphone, call Ho-Seok, find the bus station, buy a ticket, and board the bus to Pohang. I would have to be ready to board the bus in an hour from landing. Thinking of all that could go wrong (I randomly end up on the wrong bus, I miss the first bus and have to wait 3 hours until the next, I get kidnapped at the airport by sex traffickers, I never get picked up from the bus station at Pohang by Ho-Seok, I somehow get kidnapped while traveling on the bus, etc.) was easy to avoid for the first 2 hours of the flight. Talking to my neighbor, Kim, was incredibly fun. She was a graduate of Liberty University, a few hours away from Regent, who was headed to Korea to teach English. After talking with her for an hour, we ate dinner and both decided to bravely try the Korean option: bibimbop, a dish with rice and mixed vegetables and various side dishes. One of the side dishes was dried fish of some sort that more closely resembled tiny minnows without tails. Their eyes and vertebrae were still very much intact, however! As I ate two mouthfuls, I merely thought how much protein I was eating.
After trying to sleep a few hours, reading, talking, and not finding anything interesting to watch, I was bored out of my wits and began watching a Korean thriller that showed a police officer’s daughter being kidnapped and trafficked in Seoul. After this. the doubts were much harder to silence.
I began thinking long and hard about my way. Was this “my” way, or God’s way? Would he let me be trafficked here, or did he have a plan apart from that for me? Was this me reading too much into everything, or should I be legitimately concerned? Could I ever live with myself if I were to become a heroin-saturated trafficking victim? Would I lose my God as I lost my mind?
At 4:00 PM Korean time, our flight landed promptly in Incheon, near Seoul. My first glimpse out the plane window showed a few green mountains, an overcast sky, and a huge airport. I went through immigration and customs just fine and ended up even getting my luggage within 20 minutes of getting off the plane. Next, I found my way to the currency exchange station, then found a payphone, and dialed Ho-Seok’s number. He never answered. I had about 20 minutes left to find the bus station, buy a ticket, and board. I couldn’t risk missing that bus. I would figure something out on the way. My ears had decided they didn’t want to cooperate any longer, and they never equalized from the plane’s descent. I felt deaf and stupid as I had to ask people to repeat themselves when I would try to get directions.
I hurried to the door I’d been told was the bus station exit. I crossed the street, and voila! There was the ticket booth! After purchasing my ticket to Pohang, I stood in line for the bus. In my head, I was rehearsing options: did I write Ho-Seok’s number down incorrectly? I didn’t write the second contact’s phone number down (Why didn’t you remember to do this, Sarah????) and I never wrote the school’s address down (Again, Sarah, brilliant. What am I supposed to do when I get to the bus station and have no idea where to tell the taxi driver to go???), so my options were becoming more limited. It didn’t matter: I was where I was supposed to be, and I was on my way. Nevermind that my cell phone didn’t work, and I had no idea how I would contact Ho-Seok.
The bus took off right on time. I watched, fascinated, as mountains rolled past my window, along with some water, a few large apartment complexes, and some dilapidated looking houses. About 20 minutes into our drive, we passed a very modern looking city that had a Starbucks on a corner road… I immediately thought of my friend Candace and our adventure at Starbucks in Switzerland last month. Then I remembered what Candace is always telling me: “Jesus has this.” That relaxed me a bit, and I became incredibly sleepy.
I slept on and off until the bus pulled into a bus stop around 7:30. Everything was dark by this time. The driver parked, then barked out some Korean that sounded like an order, and then people began getting off the bus. I had no idea where we were, but I knew it wasn’t Pohang (because that was supposed to be 5 hours away!) and although I was incredibly thirsty and having difficulty breathing (the air was incredibly humid and my nasal congestion wasn’t helping anything).
A Korean woman walking by my seat looked down at me and very sweetly explained that we had 15 minutes to get out and then the bus would leave again. What an angel she was to take pity on the poor confused blonde! I rushed off, found a payphone, dialed Ho-Seok’s number again, and this time, he answered! I told him where I was and he explained that he’d be at the bus stop. Feeling much better about life, I then found some apple juice and reboarded the bus. A few hours later, the bus again pulled into a stop, but this time, it was merely a city corner, and I had no idea whether it was Pohang or not. Again, I simply waited, and sure enough – it wasn’t Pohang. Next stop was my destination.
When we finally pulled into another stop, everyone acted like they were collecting their belongings and preparing to leave, but the “stop” was a gas station, and there was no one there to meet me. I decided to simply wait yet again, and sure enough – the bus driver had merely stopped to talk with someone at the station for some reason. He climbed back in the bus, and away we went again! FINALLY, we arrived in Pohang, and I got out and collected my luggage. I still didn’t see anyone, but by the time I’d lugged all three of my heavy duffel bags onto the sidewalk, I heard someone ask whether I was Sarah, and there was my hero, Ho-Seok!
We took a taxi to the university, and I entered Bethel Hall – my home for the next week. I was a day early, I learned, so I needed to pay $5 extra for the night. NO problem! At this point, I was a hot, sticky mass of sweat and frizz, and I just wanted a shower and a clean bed. Ho-Seok, my valiant hero, translated everything for me and told me that I was assigned room 422. Unfortunately, he was sorry, but he could not help me bring my bags to the 4th floor because it was an all-girls’ floor and he was not allowed there. I took the elevator to the 4th floor, and was greeted right away with dozens of shoes and sandals all over the floor right before the hall way. I remembered I was in Asia, and removed my smelly sneakers. Then I walked up to 422 and of course, no one opened the door. I had no key code, so I walked back downstairs (taking the stairs because the elevator didn’t work) and while dripping into a puddle in the hall’s main office, tried to explain that no one was in the room to let me in. The office worker followed me back and had similar luck. She then said that I could stay in her room for the night. She helped me get all situated and I learned that her name was Hyo-Hyung, but I could call her Clara because that was her English name.
My first night in Korea was a blur of sweat, confusion, and thirst. I did manage to take a shower in a public shower area (something to get used to for the week), and I unpacked and slept surprisingly well on a tiny 2-inch thick substitute for a mattress. Clara had told me about church the next morning, so I woke up around 8:00 and found my way to the campus chapel for service. It was very enjoyable, despite stifling deep coughs and sniffles during the sermon and prayers.
After it ended, I met an extremely kind 2L named Esther who volunteered to show me around campus a bit. She brought me to the campus convenience store which happened to be in the basement of my dorm, and then took me to the law school classroom building where I was finally able to access wireless internet! I then met a professor and his wife and family, the Mundys, for lunch. They were incredibly kind and made delicious eggs and biscuits – a very welcome reminder of the States!
Then I walked back to my dorm and was found by another 2L student, Rachel, who was going to give me a campus tour. Rachel and I hit it off immediately. She is from Kenya and can identify with the adjustment that “Korean time” creates. In her words, “Korean time is supposed to be about flexibility – that you are flexible and just have to go with it. It isn’t that way. Instead, everything is last minute and either it works or it doesn’t. There is no flexibility!” I couldn’t agree more. BUT, I’m learning that if it works, it was supposed to, and if it doesn’t, be prepared next time!
Talking with Rachel was the first time I really felt at home here. I love the friendly people, especially Clara, but everything was so different and required some sort of adjustment from me, that it was nice to simply be with Rachel and not worry about whether I had to be somewhere or do something or somehow make up for someone else’s mistake or miscommunication.
After our tour ended, I got a computer converter and ethernet chord at the campus store and returned to my room in much better spirits. Clara was there, and we began talking.
She opened up to me and shared her background and come to find out… she’s an International Studies major who toured Europe for a month in January! What a small world. We then began talking about what Clara calls “our visions” and “ways.” She said she didn’t know what her way was, where she was supposed to work, what she was supposed to do, etc. I told her that I didn’t know mine either, but I felt very sure of my focus.
She didn’t know, but just a few hours earlier, I’d been discussing my plans with a professor and was yet again overwhelmed with how many options there are and how impossible they all seemed. I had begun to seriously doubt whether I was even supposed to be here.
But talking with Clara totally reaffirmed that I do in fact know my way. I do not know where it will take me, but I do know that I am supposed to be taking it. God has led me this far, and despite appearances, I think I will learn to fit in well here. Everything was new, yes. But I expected it to be. I really love the people at the school here, and I can learn to live with the humidity. The mat I have already gotten used to, as I slept a full 10 hours before waking up at 4:00 AM here to write.
I am blessed beyond measure. I have a chance to find more of my way. And I am now confident that my way leads to Korea.


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 –
>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 –
Christian Solidarity Worldwide –
International Justice Mission –
Persecution.Org –
Barnabus Aid –
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”
To read the 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, click

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

“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.”

“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

Zhao Ziyang was the third Premier of the People’s Republic of China during 1980-1987. He was then placed under house arrest for 15 years until his death. He argued widely for economic and government reform.
He says:
In order to revive the rural economy and enhance incentives for farmers, the prices of agricultural goods were raised. The aim was to reduce the urban-rural income gap. I was still in Sichuan when the policy was put forward, and I participated in the discussion. There were two key points. First, prices for agricultural and other rural products had to be raised, or else farmers would not have incentive to produce. Second, even though it was impossible at the time to remove the state monopoly on agricultural and other rural products, the quotas for mandatory procurement had to be reduced, especially in major grain-farming areas… After the Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee, there were good harvests several years in a row: 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1984. The rural areas experienced a new prosperity, in large part because we resolved the issue of “those who farm will have land” bu implementing a “rural land contract” policy. The old situation, where farmers were employees of a production team, had changed; farmers began to plant for themselves.

The rural energy that was unleashed in those years was magical, beyond what anyone could have imagined. A problem thought to be unsolvable had worked itself out in just a few years’ time. The food situation that was once so grave had turned into a situation where, by 1984, farmers actually had more grain than they could sell. The state grain storehouses were stacked full from the annual procurement program.
(Taken from Chapter 2 of Part 3:The Roots of China’s Economic Boom, pages 97-98)


I then reviewed the problems of our economic development since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. In 1980, as compared with 1952[the year at which the economy was considered to have fully recovered from civil war], industrial output had grown 8.1 times, GDP had grown 4.2 times, and industrial fixed assets had grown 26 times. However, average consumption had only doubled. It appears that though industrial assets had grown a great deal, industrial output had not grown as much, not had GDP; average consumption even less. The GDP growth rate was much lower than the growth rate of agricultural and industrial output; the rise in living standards was also significantly lower than GDP growth, yet industrial fixed assets had grown much more.

This showed that our economic efficiency was very low. The improvement in living standards was not commensurate with what people had contributed with their labor. Therefore, I believed that the key problem with our economy was our efficiency and not the nominal speed of production growth.

Later, at the All China Industrial and Transportation Conference held in Tianjin in 1982, I gave a speech on issues of economic efficiency. I pointed out: “The prolonged neglect of efficiency in industrial production, and the blind pursuit of production output and the pace of growth have resulted in many absurd undertakings. Often we have fallen into the situation of ‘good news from industry, bad news from sales; warehouses are full and finances show a deficit.’ In the end, our banks have had to print money to patch up the holes, bringing harm to the state and the people.” I proposed a concept for approaching the economic efficiency issue: “Produce more products than society truly needs, using the least amount of labor and material resources.” That is, cut waste as much as possible while increasing social wealth, the key being that the products we make must actually be in demand. Otherwise, increased production just means more waste. There had been too much pursuing rapid production for its own sake. Factories produced large quantities of things that nobody wanted to buy. These were then stored in warehouses and finally ended up as trash.

How could economic efficiency be improved? How could products be made that were suitable to the needs of society? There were many aspects to this, but fundamentally it was related to the economic system. The solution was to adjust the economic structure and reform the system. There was no other way.

The reason i had such a deep interest in economic reform and devoted myself to finding ways to undertake this reform was that I was determined to eradicate the malady of China’s economic system at its roots. Without an understanding of the deficiencies of China’s economic system, I could not possibly have had such a strong urge for reform.

Of course, my earliest understanding of how to proceed with reform was shallow and vague. Many of the approaches that I proposed could only ease the symptoms; they could not tackle the fundamental problems.

The most profound realization I had about eradicating deficiencies in China’s economy was that the system had to be transformed into a market economy, and that the problem of property rights had to be resolved. That was arrived at through practical experience, only after a long series of back-and-forths.

But what was the fundamental problem? In the beginning, it wasn’t clear to me. My general sense was only that efficiency had to be improved. After I came to Beijing, my guiding principle on economic policy was not the single-minded pursuit of production figures, nor the pace of economic development, but rather finding a way for the Chinese people to receive concrete returns on their labor. That was my starting point. Growth rates of 2 to 3 percent would have been considered fantastic for advanced capitalist nations, but while our economy grew at a rate of 10 percent, our people’s living standards had not improved.
(Taken from Chapter 4 of Part 3:The Roots of China’s Economic Boom, pages 112-113)