Disclaimer: This article discusses serious and potentially upsetting material. It will talk about the harsh reality of human rights violations that exist in North Korea such as torture and executions. Read the article at your own discretion. – Editor
Written by: Aymen Sherwani – Grade 10
“North Korea is not a country, it is a prison.”
In the light of 2015, Sony Pictures had captivated people globally when the trailer for the Interview was released. Together, Seth Rogen and James Franco travel to North Korea to “assassinate” the North Korean regime leader for the CIA, and single-handedly turn a terror state reality abundant with political prisons into a Saturday night comedy. Not to mention they also put the 2011 Dictator film to shame in the sense of college fraternity humor.
After watching the self-proclaimed comedy, which is now on Netflix, I noticed a few reoccurring comedic concepts, including Seth Rogen’s obsessive fascination with rectal jokes, appearing almost 5 minutes apart for the entire duration of the movie. I think the only reason this movie was categorized under comedy was due to the fact that the cinematography is so terrible it’s laughable; moreover, you’d have to be tasteless to think it’s funny. However, to the disappointment of many, Kim Jong-Un is not actually a Katy Perry-loving, uptight leader, motivated by daddy issues. (Shocker.)
As a matter of fact, 5 North Korean defectors, including the personal bodyguard of Kim-Jong-Il, beg to differ. Many understand that this movie is for comedic purposes, but what lies behind the barbed walls of the North Korean borders wouldn’t be suitable for public audiences here. Those who have luckily escaped the terror state have lived lives in hardship and torture, starved and confined in torture camps for often no reason at all.
“I worked for the Ministry of People’s Security from 1998-2003, so I went to Camp 18 several times. When I saw the lives of the prisoners, I’d be the first to kill myself if I had to live there,” and anonymous source had stated in an interview with Human Rights Watch.
According to Phil Robertson, Asia Deputy Director, the regime is sectioned into a prison system by the name of Kwan-Li, designed to hold political prisoners. Researchers believe that as of 2015, there are 150,000 – 250,000 individuals being held there.
Former bodyguard of Kim-Jong-Il, father of Kim-Jong Un, Lee Young-Kuk was confined in Camp 15 for 10 years after making scathing comments against the regime. In attempt to flee to China, he was tortured and sent to one of the many political prisons in North Korea. During his years serving for the dictator, Lee Young-Kuk recalled how guards had dealt with citizens attempting to defect.
“It was around 9PM, guards were running back and forth with radios and guns, saying a prisoner had escaped in the direction of Baekdu Mountain. A battalion of forces blocked the perimeter, the escapee was captured and brought back – not in a car, but dragged behind a truck, covered in blood. Then they executed him.”
Ahn Myung-Chul, former prison guard in Camp 22, informed that, police forces were not allowed to show sympathy to the prisoners, who often had done nothing wrong, or do them any type of favors. Death is common in the camps, as any hint of resistance, whether it be from man, woman or child, would result in death. Ahn also stated that one way the regime has sustained it totalitarian rule is due to “death by association”. This being said, if one citizen was suspected of treason, their entire family would be executed or confined in these concentration camps. That way, the entire nation is too instilled by fear to do anything, not even cry for their families during executions.
As was the story of Kang Cheol-Hwan, interned at the age of 9, along with his entire family, due to the fact that his grandfather was accused of treason.
“At the camps, many lose their minds. Those near death looked like living corpses, but this was ordinary. There were people who were just waiting for death. Family members were forced to watch executions and if they cried, or showed any sadness, they too would be tortured and killed.”
“They would signal us to come over and make us sit down in a special way. We’d put our hands behind our backs and kneel. Then guards would spit phlegm into our mouths, if we swallowed, they wouldn’t hit us. But if we gagged, they treated us badly. They didn’t care about any human rights. They were taught to treat us cruelly,” Kim Hye Sook, prisoner of Camp 18 for 28 years, informed Human Rights Watch. She also drew pictures of her experiences being interned, as shown below.
Apart from life in North Korean concentration camps, citizens who are not confined are ordered to devote themselves to their leader in power, prohibited to have any contact with the outside world, including the viewing of Hollywood movies. While MP3 players and T.Vs are on the market for civilians, it is illegal to listen to anything other than North Korean propaganda.
So while the Interview’s Kim Jong-Un worships Katy Perry, the real one worships himself, and forces everyone else to do so as well.