Kim Hye Sook suffered unbearable pain and emotional suffering when she was detained for 28 years in a secretive North Korean concentration camp. Brutal executions, starvation — even mothers killing and eating their children to ensure their own survival — were regular occurrences.
Kim — who miraculously escaped from the Bukchang prison camp back in 2003 – granted CBN News with the first American television news interview to discuss these horrendous conditions. She now lives in South Korea, with the details of her escape remaining classified for security reasons. This summer, she released a memoir entitled, “A Concentration Camp Retold in Tears.”
When she was 13-year-old, her tragic tale began. The year was 1975 and in the blink of an eye the young girl was captured alongside her entire family. After years of suffering, she didn’t taste freedom until she was 41-years-old. Kim explains:
“My entire family went to prison. Some were taken to the mountains; others were put in different labor camps all because of my grandfather’s one mistake: he escaped to South Korea during the Korean War.”
Today, Kim wears dark glasses to ensure that her identity remains concealed. While she lost seven family members in the re-education camp, she currently has two sisters and a brother who are still imprisoned. She described a typical day at the camp:
“I attended indoctrination classes in the morning. In the afternoon the children were sent to push trolleys in the coal mines, often without any safety gear.
People were dying in the mines. There were numerous mine collapses, so many injuries, people who lost their legs, many who were buried alive. It was horrible.
I was treated like a slave and worse. I hardly slept. It was inhuman. But I never complained. I just followed all the rules. I had to find a way to survive.”
Kim claims that the conditions were so terrible that she thought about committing suicide “hundreds of thousands of times” during her 28-year detention. But because there was always someone watching her, this simply wasn’t an option:
“Each prisoner is assigned to watch four or five other prisoners. So if anything happens, the other prisoners would alert the guards because they didn’t want to get into trouble themselves.”
While her descriptions of executions are absolutely horrendous, nothing is more disturbing than her memories about those individuals who she saw kill their children in an effort to stave off hunger. In one instance, she recalls a mother boiling her 9-year-old daughter. In another fit of desperation, a woman killed her 16-year-old son, chopped him up and took him to a butcher to obtain some corn in exchange.
Kim admits that these details are difficult to share, but she bravely proclaims, “I want the world to see these images and to hear my testimony.” In describing the conditions in the isolated and volatile nation, she says, “I am living proof that there are no human rights in North Korea.” In September, she was invited to Washington, D.C., where she testified before a congressional panel about the conditions she faced.
Watch her story, below:
(H/T: CBN News)