Skip to comments.ABUSE- Oppression and Horror Inside North Korea
Posted on 03/23/2002 3:34:32 PM PST by Ragtime Cowgirl
Oppression and Horror Inside North Korea
By Melissa Charbonneau
White House Correspondent
March 21, 2002
When President Bush named North Korea in the "Axis of Evil," some say the cord of silence was broken.
CBN.com - WASHINGTON, D.C. President Bush's State of the Union address provoked national and international outrage, in part, for naming North Korea as one of the three "Axis of Evil" countries. But his comments also focused attention not only on North Korea as a security threat to the United States, but also for its questionable human rights record.
Human rights observers have known for some time that North Korea is entangled in a crisis. Except for carefully choreographed visits, North Korea traditionally keeps foreign diplomats and journalists from seeing much of its country or speaking with its citizens.
Now, a German doctor who served 18 months inside North Korea with a volunteer medical team brings shocking reports of what he witnessed during 1999-2000, before he was expelled by the communist government for speaking out about what he saw.
What Dr. Norbert Vollertsen observed may just scratch the surface of one the worlds most tragic and horrifying tales of starvation, torture, and persecution.
Haunting pictures show the pain behind the hollow eyes of dying children, their emaciated bodies with skin stretched tight over tiny bones. The children of North Korea are trapped in a crisis, and for 18 months, Vollertsen was their doctor.
"I took care of several hundred children in those kindergartens and hospitals and they were literally dying under my hands. Most of the time I was too late because they were so weak," Vollertsen said. "They were looking like ghosts, so skinny; no more emotional reaction, they can't cry anymore, they can't laugh anymore."
In 1999, Vollertsen led a German medical team through the hospitals and orphanages of North Korea where he witnessed appalling conditions, including unsanitary operating rooms without basic medical supplies.
He describes fly-infested clinics filled with emotionally stunned children, infants on intravenous drips rigged from discarded beer bottles, listless boys in striped pajamas reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps, their wrists bruised purple from malnutrition.
Vollertsen saw these horrors and more when the government awarded him the prestigious Friendship Medal after he donated his own skin to help a Korean burn victim.
Party officials also issued a driver's license that gave him unprecedented access to corners of the country usually off-limits to foreigners.
"There was no need even to open it, because this symbol, and this driving license, this stamp is such high importance that every soldier immediately saluted," he said.
Travelling in his white jeep, Vollertsen saw hunger so severe that families scavenged the woods for any sign of food. "The people are eating rats, snakes, little animals, insects, whatever they can find," he said.
Over the last decade, millions of North Koreans have died from mass starvation hunger brought on by years of drought, flooding and economic mismanagement. That has increased the nation's reliance on food and medical aid from the international community.
But Vollertsen believes Kim Jong Il's communist regime is using that food as a political weapon.
"The North Korean government is starving their own people, starving mainly their own opposition in order to give their whole money and whole food to the military, in order to increase military power," he said.
Vollertsen says the regime spends untold millions on its suspected war machine, while starving children endure party indoctrination and mandatory military training.
"Those children are raised in some orphanage to be brainwashed in order to be the next generation of soldiers in North Korea," he explained.
North Korea's Kim dynasty enjoys a cult-like status. Its leader, Kim Jong Il, is worshipped as a god. Those who refuse to submit may suffer torture or imprisonment in communist labor camps.
Vollertsen says his first hint of the brutality came with the discovery of a corpse on the roadside. Describing what had happened to the person, he said, "All these marks of cigarette burns, where he was whipped, old scars and fresh scars where he was beaten. He was looking like a 12-year-old child, so skinny because of malnutrition. Those last months before he died must have been terrible months."
Then came the horror stories he heard at the Chinese border, where refugees say they fled to escape inhumane abuse.
"Seven-year-old children, 70 year old ladies they all speak about torture, concentration camp, mass execution, rape, about baby-killing, about every cruel biological medical experiment you can imagine, how they are using human beings as guinea pigs to develop anthrax for example," he said.
Vollertsen learned the regime singles out dissenters who have a religious bent.
"All those defectors told me that the Christians in North Korea in those concentration camps were treated in the worst way," he said. "They were talking about all those executions, about all those people in their family, their grandparents, their children who went to a prison camp because their father was reading a Bible."
He continued, "They will not allow a second generation of Christians, so when there is a young woman who delivers a baby and she is a Christian, she must kill her own baby with her own hands, or some border guards will beat this baby to death and afterward they will feed this baby to the dogs of the guards."
The reports of oppression and poverty are stark contrast to the plenty in Pyongyang, the nation's capitol. Here, Vollertsen says, the elite live in luxury.
"Pyongyang is a showcase city. There is a casino, a diplomatic shop. There is a nightclub, a Chinese nightclub. And you can get everything in those diplomatic shops," he explained.
Vollertsen believes foreign aid is diverted for the pleasure of party officials. "European medicine, French champagne, Danish cookies whatever you like, and stuff that was distributed from international aid organizations," he said. "I saw German medicine we distributed to the hospitals. It was re-sold in one of those diplomatic shops and one of those fashionable hotels in Pyongyang."
Pyongyang is the image shown the world, the image former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was shown by Kim Jong Il in 2000, when she toured kindergartens brimming with healthy, well-fed children and danced with smiling youth in the public square.
Vollertsen says they were nothing but carefully choreographed scenes designed to hide the nation's darker secrets secrets Vollertsen showed to journalists travelling with Albright and for which he was later expelled.
Because of government secrecy, there is not much evidence of prison camps or diversions of foreign aid, but reports keep trickling out.
But when President Bush named North Korea in the "Axis of Evil," some say the cord of silence was broken. And that could begin to shed new light on the unforgettable faces of those who live and die in this communist land.
"And when we hear all these stories we will be ashamed," Vollertsen said. "We will be shocked that we were so ignorant for nearly 50 years now, that we simply didn't care because we did not know. "
Vollertsen is now in Korea trying to assist the latest round of refugees in their pleas for asylum. He praises President Bush for calling North Korea evil, and is calling on the world to investigate his allegations in hopes of helping those left behind.
It is notable that the Christians are being treated the worst. The devil probably lives in Pyongyang.
His eyes bugged out. I don't he had heard of that before.
The foreign aid goes to the communist leaders, families, their "showcase" capitol city (for the visitors)- and to the military.
I saw this interview on television. The N Korean uniformed military, marching in vast numbers and gathered in public assemblies saluting giant statues of their ruler (a la Hitler Germany-but even the Nazis didn't call Hitler a "God") were eye-opening.
When Madeline Albright visited she happily celebrated N. Korea's 50th anniversary of Communism with parades and pageantry, given the "dog and pony show". Journalists traveling with Ms. Albright talked with the Dr. who wrote this article. She knew how bad it was. The journalists knew. Yet she blasted President Bush for including N. Korea in the Axis of Evil, and the journalism community has kept this secret. How can anyone learn what's happening in this country and remain silent, or worse, like Ms. Albright, paint a happy face on it?
Those who are living this nightmare are thrilled that our President recognized and publically called N. Korea evil. What Madeline thinks seems irrelevant, doesn't it?
This one goes into the audacity of Korean agents, who brazenly go into China after runaways -- and how the Chinese don't even look at the practice with a jaundiced eye.
It is painfully ironic that Kim Il-Sung the founder of N. Korean regime and the daddy of the current leader was born to devout Christian family. His mother was especially a devout Christian during the time when a majority of people around his hometown were Christians. The region around Pyongyang was the stronghold of Christians. Naturally, he must have gone to Church every week and prayed frequently. Some anecdotal source even claims that he worked as a Sunday school teacher when he was a teenager.
But he turned around and liquidated all those christians because he became a communist and they were their enemies. He only cared about power and how to keep it. Nothing else mattered. He went to great extreme to ensure it. That is why N. Koreans were suffering so much. He only rewarded those who are absolutely 100% loyal to him but not somebody who can do better job at running organization or solving problems. All yes men all around. So does his son, the junior "god".
There is an universal maxim: All yes men are either crooked or dismally incompetent. This applies to N. Korea perfectly.
Amen. Great observation, satchmodog9.
Here in the USA, we wait till they are five years of age, then throw them into the kindergarten of Pharaoh, from which system they will never emerge as Christians.