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PROFILE OF NORTH KOREAN CHILDREN: 'PITHED' NORTH KOREAN CHILDREN
The following is an excerpt from David Hawk's 2003 report, The Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea’s Prison Camps Prisoners’ Testimonies and Satellite Photographs.
"Former Detainee #24 is a sixty-six-year-old grandmother from Chulan-kun, North Hamgyong Province. In 1997, her children were starving, so she fled to China with her husband, who was a former soldier, and five of her children. Two of her children were caught crossing the border, but the rest of the family lived in China for three years. Two of the children who made it with her to China were later caught and repatriated to North Korea, and her husband eventually died of natural causes. Afterward, she lived with her granddaughter in Yangji until they were apprehended by Chinese police while visiting Dandong.
Former Detainee #24 was eventually forcibly repatriated in a group of fifty North Koreans, some of whom were pregnant women, bound together by their wrists. They were taken, initially, for eighteen days to the Namindong bo-wi-bu (National Security Agency) police ku-ryu-jang in Sinuiju, who initially accused Former Detainee #24 of being corrupted by capitalism in China. She convinced them that she had gone to China only for food, so she was sent for one month to the do-jip-kyul-so in South Sinuiju run by the In-min-bo-an-seong (People’s Safety Agency) police. Though she had heard that Kim Jong Il had recently said North Korean repatriates should not be treated harshly, there were beatings.
Detainees were fed the usual steamed corn, and as it was midsummer, most prisoners were sent out to work in the rice fields. This grandmother was too old and weak for such labor, and as she herself had had seven children, she was taken in the mornings to a nearby medical building to help care for the pregnant detainees. She helped deliver seven babies, some of which were full-term, some of which were injection-induced abortions. All of the babies were killed.
The first baby was born to a twenty-eight-year-old woman named Lim, who had been happily married to a Chinese man. The baby boy was born healthy and unusually large, owing to the mother’s ability to eat well during pregnancy in China. Former Detainee #24 assisted in holding the baby’s head during delivery and then cut the umbilical cord. But when she started to hold the baby and wrap him in a blanket, a guard grabbed the newborn by one leg and threw it in a large, plastic-lined box. A doctor explained that since North Korea was short on food, the country should not have to feed the children of foreign fathers. When the box was full of babies, Former Detainee #24 later learned, it was taken outside and buried.
She next helped deliver a baby to a woman named Kim, who also gave birth to a healthy full-term boy. As Former Detainee #24 caressed the baby, it tried to suckle her finger. The guard again came over and yelled at her to put the baby in the box. As she stood up, the guard slapped her, chipping her tooth. The third baby she delivered was premature — the size of an ear of corn — and the fourth baby was even smaller. She gently laid those babies in the box. The next day she delivered three more very premature babies and also put them in the box. The babies in the box gave her nightmares. Two days later, the premature babies had died but the two full-term baby boys were still alive. Even though their skin had turned yellow and their mouths blue, they still blinked their eyes. The agent came by, and seeing that two of the babies in the box were not dead yet, stabbed them with forceps at a soft spot in their skulls. Former Detainee #24 says she then lost her self-control and started screaming at the agent, who kicked her so hard in the leg that she fainted. Deemed unsuitable for further hospital work, she was returned to the detention center until her release several weeks later.
Upon release, Former Detainee #24 returned to China but was again caught and this time repatriated to Hoeryong. Separated from her granddaughter, she became hysterical and started singing Christian hymns that she had learned in China, and ranting against Kim Jong Il for making Koreans leave their native villages while God took care of Korean people in China. Fortunately, her guards regarded her as a crazy old woman, not an enemy of the regime. Indeed, they took pity on her, even reuniting her with her granddaughter and helping the two of them to again cross the Tumen River into China. This time, she met some South Korean Christian relief workers who helped enable her and her granddaughter to make the trek through China to Southeast Asia. She arrived in South Korea in March 2001.
The interviewer had difficulty finding words to describe the sadness in this grandmothers’ eyes and the anguish on her face as she recounted her experience as a midwife at the detention center in South Sinuiju."