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[Opinion] Moving Images of a North Korean Defector

Posted September. 30, 2005 08:12,   


A woman is sitting on her knees. A North Korean soldier with an armband is battering her with a club. After the woman falls down, he kicks her all over and stamps on her head with his shoe. Next, scenes of the N.K. soldier interviewing her and kicking her again followed.

This is the sequential substance of the fourteen cuts of still images that show a North Korean defector being battered. The pictures were released to the press on September 26, and they provoked a dispute regarding the authenticity of the images.

Those who argue that the images were either manipulated or posed point out that the hair of the North Korean soldier was exceptionally long, the position of the armband had changed from right to left, and though the supposed date of the incident was in August, the woman is wearing long sleeves.

However, those who disclosed the pictures said that the pictures were taken secretly by an acting military officer at a guard post near the national border, and that he had to escape from North Korea because he felt his life was being threatened. They claim that the pictures are just a part of a 38-minute long film that, when disclosed, will soon prove the authenticity of the incident.

This is not the first time that the authenticity of evidence of human rights violations in North Korea has come under dispute. In January, when anti-regime graffiti over the poster of Kim Jong Il was revealed to public and when a videotape, which seems to have secretly captured the open trial and gunfire execution of North Korean citizens, was introduced in March, “real or fake?” issues were raised.

Every one knows that North Korea is a place where basic human rights are not guaranteed. Why do these arguments keep emerging? Is it because of the “Don`t care about the reality. See what one wants to see and believe what one want believe” distorted view of North Korea?

The woman was said to be caught while trying to return to her hometown after eight years of defection. In her bundle, 10,000 Chinese Yuan (est. 1.28 million won), liquor, cigarettes, and CDs of Korean movies and songs were found. That money would have made her family in North Korea well off for a while. Alcohol and cigarettes would have been useful for various purposes. A number of CDs would have played the role of the window to the outside world. She probably ached more about the shattered dream of making her family happy than being battered and stamped on.

Song Moon-hong, Editorial Writer, songmh@donga.com