Saturday, March 19, 2005

Who is Ahn Chol?

The material in my earlier post about Ahn Chol dates from some time in the year 2000 as far as I can tell. I was curious to find out if he has survived. Running a Google search I was able to find some information on him, but none more recent than late 2003.

In January of 2003 MSNBC let Ahn Myong Chol tell us about himself in his own words.

Former guard: Ahn Myong Chol
North Korean prison guard remembers atrocities

Despite all efforts by that monstrous regime, even though he worked as a camp driver and later a guard, Ahn Chol did not lose his humanity.

He was at four different camps including Camp 22, which gas chambers I have already written about.

The article is not terribly long, but each sentence and every word that Ahn Chol says is important. I cannot even begin to do an adequate job of summarizing it. I don't read very many things that bring tears to my eyes, but this did. Some of it is strange as well as tragic;
At first I felt it was a movie film studio for the propaganda of North Korea, speaking ill of South Korean government. But actually the officer who brought me to the prison instructed me not to speak and not to smile. I was instructed if there is a prisoner who tries to escape or fight me, then I was allowed to kill him.

They call prisoners “re-settlers.” They called the prison the managing office for the “re-settlers,” and they call the prisoners non-guilty persons.
Some of it is only tragic;
The guard system is so strict there are few escapees, and sometimes we need to find out a way to be, get away from our guard’s life in the prison. And we try to find a pretext in order to go to college. One of my colleagues tried to make a prisoner escape by climbing the barbed wire fence, and then he shot him, and he went to college.
And then there is the story of Han Jin Duk;
At that time the tunnel was passing near the pig pen of the camp, and about 500 political prisoners were participating and there was one female named Han Jin Duk, 26 years old. I was in charge of giving food to the pigs. And my supervisor, when he saw the woman, she was beautiful. And he raped her, and he was found by the watchman officer. And he was investigated. My superior, his rank was reduced and the woman was sent to the detention center And then I didn’t see her for one year.

One day I was going to the place to load the coal, I met her. And I noticed she was exactly that woman, and I asked her, how you could survive. And she told me, that yes, I survived. But she showed me her body, and it was all burned by fire.

After six months I met her at the corn storage in Kusan district and found her putting on a used tire on her knees because her legs were cut off. Because of a coal mine wagon ran over her knees. And all she could do now was separate the corn grains from the cob.

The reason why she was forced to go to the prison is her father’s elder brother was purged at the Anbyon, Kanwhan Do province. She went when she was 5 years old. All of the family members were imprisoned. Her mother starved to death, and her brother also starved to death in the prison. I met her at age 26. So it means she was in the prison for 21 years. I think she no longer is in the world.
This is not even close to being everything in only a moderately long article. Go and read about what happened to two girls who were trying to take a piece of noodle out of a polluted pond.

But Ahn found his humanity;
I thought it is natural to punish or beat a guilty person. Because I was a driver, and I was a guard. But in the course of time, I had the opportunity to talk to the prisoners and found they are not guilty. And when I see the senior citizen kneel down in front of young guard, and he was treated badly, then my heart was breaking. And I thought this is not a humane thing.

Once I beat one person while training in tae kwan do. I kicked him with my foot, but fortunately he didn’t die.
And then;
My way of thinking was changed. While I was starting as a driver, before I took it as natural, and after a while I thought this is not the right way. So I was already changed before coming to the south. I didn’t change my way of thinking here in South Korea, in order to buy people’s hearts.

Because of Kim Jong Il and his subordinates and a small portion of citizens, the total nation of 20 million people are suffering such hardships. And the people are now changing to think that this regime is not right one. But they cannot speak out, because of Kim Jong Il’s atrocities.
This man has become a true hero.

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