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Thank You! Renewed by the Spirit

01-10-2017

Introduction…

[pic] Imagine being born in North Korea. North Korea is a difficult place to live. It is a closed off country under a totalitarian regime. Because of the centralized government, there is frequent famine because the people making decisions about what farmers grow and how they grow it aren’t farmers. It is cut off from trade with the outside world as well as cut off from communication too. It’s a tough place to live. When the US sends food aid, the North Korean people are told it’s “tribute” paid to North Korea by the Americans because the Americans are afraid of them. Nutrition and health is so bad in the North that on average North Koreans are 1-3 inches shorter than their counterparts in South Korea and life expectancy is 10 years less!

[pic] As difficult as life is there, it is made even worse by the atmosphere of suspicion. If you anger the wrong person or express the wrong view you can be thrown into a prison work camp where you will languish for years, maybe even the rest of your life, doing hard labour with no real trial or opportunity to either defend yourself or clear you name. People live in fear of being “reported on” and sent to one of these prisons, or worse. Imagine growing up in such a country.

It would be tough to live in North Korea. The people are regularly subjected to propaganda. They are limited in what they are allowed to see, hear or read. Many are sent to work camps. Here they are worked under horrendous, violent conditions. Frequently subjected to beatings, many prisoners are outright killed, all because they hold the wrong political beliefs or because they crossed the wrong person who accused them of being a political dissident. It is horrendous being sent to such a work camp!

Imagine, though, what it would be like to be born and raised in one of those work camps! Essentially bred to be slave labour, imagine being a child raised in a prison work camp. From the beginning of your life, you are surrounded by violence, misery and oppression.

[pic] That’s the story of Shin Dong-hyuk. He was born inside one of these political prison camps and that was where he was raised. Later on, he managed to escape to a large country next door, then fled to South Korea. From there he got to California. He told a reporter the story of his upbringing and his escape. There has since been some issues over the details of his story, he has added to, retracted from and altered some of the details of his account, but that is to be expected from a person whose entire childhood was spent in a political work camp!

Shin talks about his earliest memory being taken out to a field with hundreds or even thousands of other prisoners to watch the execution of a fellow prisoner who disobeyed in some way. That’s his fist memory! Talk about PTSD! He grew up being indoctrinated to obey the guards at all costs and to ingratiate himself with the guards with every opportunity. In one interview he said that his mother never hugged him, ever. Around him, children were beaten for stealing, sometimes beaten to death. Teenagers were killed in work accidents. Torture was normal. But the most frightening thing is that he knew no different. This was “normal” for him. It was all he had ever experienced. He had no idea the world was different outside the camp, or even that something different could exist! [Joohee Cho, “Born and Raised in a North Korean Prison Camp,” ABC News, Oct 30, 2007]

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