This article contains important spoilers, so please be careful if you haven’t seen the work yet. I watched the English version.
Synopsis and supplement of the work
Until you reach the camp
A man talks about his own experience at TED. He says, “I’m from North Korea, I don’t talk about politics. I want to talk about my life.” Wearing a beautiful suit and leather shoes, he does not look like a very poor North Korean defector. Still, everyone is drawn into his story and learns about his hardships and the darkness of North Korea.
The main character, Park Johan, and his sister, Mihi, live in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, with his mother Yuri and father Yongsung. Living in Pyongyang means they are elite. Only a limited number of people are allowed to live in the capital. Yonson lived in Japan. Therefore, there were pictures written in Japanese such as “Pachinko” in his room. They were always suspicious of the authorities because of their origin. Eventually, the suspicion became a reality, Yonson was arrested as a political prisoner, and Johan and his colleagues were detained in a political prisoner camp. “Your father has committed a serious crime against the nation and its party,” they say.
The house they arrived at is very hard to call a “house”. The floor is dirty, the windows are small, and it’s full of spider webs. Still, the house was a completely private space with minimal privacy. Hard labor is imposed regardless of age or gender. There is a strict quota for work, such as the Siberian detention carried out by the Soviet Union immediately after the war, and if the team does not reach that quota, it will be punished with violence and violence under joint responsibility. By the way, the word norma was introduced to Japan by those who survived the Siberian detention.
Taken to a fully controlled area, public execution, hell that humans do not think
The camp is a scene of hell itself, but there is something they are most afraid of. It is the line of sight of the guard who puts Director Han at the top and the “fully controlled area”. Being repatriated to a fully controlled area means dying after torture. It is almost impossible to get out of full control and be free. There was a person who cut a cross at the camp. She is a Christian (like me). However, in North Korea, there is no freedom of religion other than Christianity. So she is taken to her guard. She is taken away saying, “I hate only the completely controlled area! Please!”
One day, a public execution was carried out and several people were shot dead. Seeing that, the boy shouts, “Mom!” His name is Ins. The loss of his mother, his only family, makes him stutter. Johan and his friends warmly welcome him and treat him like his family.
Death of mother Yuri
The seasons change and it becomes winter. The food in the camp is minimal enough to fill a child’s stomach. In winter, crops stop growing, and people starve like beasts.
An old daughter is debilitated by the cold and her malnutrition. He stole the rabbit she was raising for her. Johann tells it. This is because whistleblowers are given a small amount of food as a reward. To protect his family, Johann made a tough decision. The environment of the camp is more than enough to make people lose their minds.
Johann is promoted to a watchman in the camp. When he becomes a watchman, he gets a little preferential treatment in terms of food and so on. It is a principle similar to Capo under the Nazi German regime. He turns into a ruthless human depending on the environment of the camp.
The old man is severely violent by his guard and dies. His wife couldn’t forgive Johan for telling him.
One day, Johan’s mother, Yuri, gets a nice red comb from her guard. It was a reward for her working hard. Its beauty was exceptional in the monochrome environment of the camp. The old man’s wife doesn’t think about it and stabs a lily. Yuri loses a lot of blood and is about to die.
Sexual violence, pregnancy, and childbirth
Johan’s sister Mihi falls in love with the orphan Ins. It was Johann who arbitrated it. Lee, the guard, is in love with Mihi, but Mihi loves Ins. No matter how much Lee loves Mihi, it’s a crush that won’t come true. Lee, who didn’t like it, commits sexual violence to her in her power. Ins attacks Lee, but she can’t beat the difference in power. Ins is captured by guards such as Lee and forced into a feared, fully controlled area. Waiting there is death and intense torture. Still, Ins wanted to protect Mihi. There can be no condoms in the camp. As a result of sexual activity, Mihi and Ins face the challenge of childbirth.
Birth is only allowed for a limited number of people. Many are aborted or killed shortly after childbirth. Even if they were born, the children are in the camp, so they cannot even hope for the happiness of others.
Mihi and Ins think about the happiness of the born child and decide to escape from North Korea. “I want to be free,” they come up with the idea of hiding under a minecart in a coal mine. Johann, Mihi, and Ins. The three were always friends, but only two can be in the minecart. Johan wishes the young couple happiness and gives the ticket to Mihi and Ins.
They were at a rally of self-criticism with a military general who received many medals. Johan raises his hand and expresses his gratitude to Mihi. Seeing Johan saying, “I knew the importance of loving my brother in this camp,” Mihi said that Johan was thinking, “Depart with Mihi and Ins alone.” Notice. Meanwhile, Mihi and Ins escape from the rally and begin their path to North Korean defectors, or freedom.
It’s Ins, not Johann, who’s talking on TED. Ins and Mihi have successfully defected and live in Vancouver, Canada. Mihi listening to Ins is holding a child. They don’t know where Johan is or whether he is alive in the first place. This is where the story ends.
Why did Johan’s father, Yong Sung, live in Japan?
From around 1950 to 1984, Koreans in Japan and their spouses returned from Japan to North Korea on a return ship. They said, “North Korea is a paradise on earth, and even if you get sick, you can get medical care for free.” “Japanese people can return to their homeland after three years.” “A good life is guaranteed.” I decided to return to Japan. In fact, the discrimination they received from the Japanese was worse than we could have imagined. At that time, more than one-seventh of Koreans living in Japan received welfare (RdC). From the perspective of the Japanese government, their return to North Korea means that they can reduce their livelihood protection costs. Therefore, more than 90,000 of the approximately 500,000 people who were in Japan at that time returned to North Korea. However, as you all know, North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world, and they are forced to live in poverty. Moreover, there is almost no freedom for citizens. And they went with a one-way ticket: only a few people escaped from North Korea and returned to countries such as Japan.
The fact that Johan’s mother is named Yuri suggests the possibility that she is Japanese or a second-generation resident of Japan. The name lily is common in Japan. In fact, those who went to North Korea for their return business (also called the North Korean business in South Korea) went to North Korea with their Japanese spouse. Many of my spouses were women. In the return project, about 10,000 Japanese returned to North Korea.
North Korean caste system: Songbun
Songbun is an identification system in North Korea. This status system, which is said to be the strictest in the world, ranks the people in detail. At the top are Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un. The Workers’ Party of Korea supports it. At the bottom are the bereaved families of those who committed suicide and those from Japan. Japan was the perpetrator of the war and treated the people on the Korean Peninsula severely. Therefore, the Japanese are placed at the bottom of the social division system in North Korea. Authorities understand that a low songbun means that you are more likely to be a rebel. As a result, Yonson and his family are constantly under close scrutiny by the authorities and even the slightest suspicion.
Suicide with North Korea
Suicide in North Korea means rebellion against the nation. As a result, families who commit suicide can be sent to camps or their origins can be downgraded. Therefore, even in movies, there are scenes where people who say “I want to commit suicide” are preached “Don’t commit suicide.” This is a forbidden phrase that should not be said to people with mental illness in the TOP3, but there is such a background in North Korea.