Hell in Korean gulag, the Shin Dong Hyuk’s sad story

His first memory, at the age of 5 years, is the public execution of some of the detainees in a prison camp in North Korea. Shin Dong Hyuk, now aged 31, is a former inmate of the Pyongyang regime who was able to escape in 2005, along with others, from the violence and abuse committed in the prisons of the Asian country.
His only crime was that of being the grandson of a person who didn’t conform to life in the socialist state. His grandfather had lived in Japan, where he had accumulated considerable wealth, and although he had to return home and give all of his possessions to the regime of Kim Jong-un, his mentality had been irrevocably “infected” by capitalism.
During his imprisonment, he saw a girl (7 years old) beaten to death for stealing a couple of grains of wheat. He saw prisoners so hungry that their desperation lead them to eat live mice and the hooves of a goat.
Horrors, that the regime of Kim Jong-un continues to deny while denying entry in the country to international inspectors.


In the gulag family is not abolished, it is emptied of its meaning: sex is reduced to mating, the generation to reproduction, education to breeding. Relationship between parents and children do not exist. Shin was born November 19, 1982 because his parents were model prisoners. As a premium, “my father and my mother had been chosen by guards and locked in a room for five days.”
Shin is lucky enough to say to have had a family, even if it retains positive memories: “I’ve never felt loved, not even once. I called my parents “mother” and “father” because it was an usual procedure but there was no relationship between us. I’ve never been hugged my father, I was never brought to the shoulder. Mothers can only breastfeed. If babies cry, mothers beat them. That’s how I grew up: beaten by my mother. But it is not their fault”, Shin insists: “They can’t do otherwise because mothers are reviled and pounded at work, so when they come home to the children the beating is a result of the accumulated stress.”
Dramatic denominations, but not new. In recent years, in fact, many survivors of the North Korean prison camps like Shin and Jee have confessed similar stories in numerous conferences convened by organizations for the protection of human rights.
Shin has also revealed how many women have suffered forced abortions as a result of the beatings. Continuous torture and some of them were even forced to drown their child.
Ex prisoners contend that international worries about missiles and nuclear weapons programs should not divert attention from the plight of thousands of people living under “one of the most repressive system in the world”.
The hope that things will change is entrusted to the work of the Commissioners of the United Nations: “This is the only way to put pressure on the regime: our people can’t take up arms, as was the case in Libya and Syria, you are our last chance” said Shin.
In the meantime the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, has arrived in Pyongyang. It’s a historic mission, given that 21 years have passed since the last trip of the ICRC in North Korean territory. Maurer will be engaged to discuss a range of humanitarian issues placing particular focus in the problem of the complicated situation of thousands of families separated by the Korean War.
Erika Sciarra.


3 thoughts on “Hell in Korean gulag, the Shin Dong Hyuk’s sad story

  1. A very moving account of survival.
    As somebody said once, “There lies hope at the end of the tunnel”. I saw Shin smiling in the video towards the end, that signals hope, a hope that even the most shattered minds and souls who have always experienced adversities can regain their emotions. A lesson for us all who take favorable circumstances for granted and complain about trivialities. Have we really seen life? Do we understand what it is?
    Thanks for sharing this story Erika.

    1. Thanks to you, it’s true, it’s a very sad story but this story teaches us that we always have to get up again. We can’t understand Shin’s life but talking about it and writing about it perhaps won’t make him feel so alone

      1. You are right, we do have to get up again. Some are very strong and do it quickly, but for the others its a slow process. Stories like these motivate people about how to bounce back.

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