Until the 70-year-old North Korean woman was stripped, beaten, and charged with dissent, Park and her family were patriotic, loyal, ordinary. They were true believers in the ruling Kim family's "juche" ideology, which holds that Korea must be separate from all nations and that total obedience is owed to the Kim family. Mrs. Park's eight kids worshiped Kim Il Sung, the "father of their minds."
Yet today Mrs. Park (not her real name) is in South Korea, an escapee. Her family is broken. So are her ideals. She's been captured in China - sent home to the North, made to endure camps, and witness horrific acts.
The Park family left North Korea for China in 1999, when they got too weak to work. "I had the feeling if we didn't leave North Korea right away, we would die. I didn't leave out of disloyalty to [North Korean leader] Kim [Jong Il]. I left for the family."
Back in the North, Park expected only a rebuke. Instead, the family went to an interrogation center for 18 days, then 22 days at a police camp. The camp separated "political" from "ordinary" criminals. At every step the Parks were beaten and suffered torture designed to "break" them.
Park was told to strip her clothes in a large yard. She thought the police were looking for weapons or contraband. But it was money they wanted. Along the border Koreans hide money in body cavities. Prisoners had five rules: Work from 7:30 to 7:30. When not working, sit on your knees. Keep your head down. Never move, not a finger, or you will be hit. Finally, confess your mistakes constantly. "We were told to say over and over, 'I am sorry, I am sorry for what I have done.' "
Park eventually escaped to Seoul via an underground Christian group. Today she leads a refugee group for women. She is implacably opposed to the Kim regime. "I complain when Kim tests these useless missiles while we in the millions are poor, having nothing. This is something unforgivable."
[Christian Science Monitor]