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NK Defector`s Novel Tells of Sexual Abuse, Horrors

Posted March. 18, 2010 10:41,   


After getting married, a North Korean woman identified by her surname Kim learned that her husband had worked on North Korea`s nuclear weapons program since the early 1980s.

Whenever North Korean media blasted the U.S. and South Korea for pressuring Pyongyang to abandon nuclear weapons it did not have, her husband used to say, “We don’t have them? I`m making them...”

Despite being a newlywed, Kim did not see her husband for several months at a time since he worked at underground nuclear institutes in North Pyongan and North Hamkyong provinces.

Kim said she saw how her husband suffered physically and mentally due to exposure to radioactive matter. She fled to China in 1998, leaving him behind.

Her husband’s tanned skin turned white and his face got darker. He developed jaundice due to cirrhosis of the liver and had artificial teeth in his 40s. He had nightmares of being shot every night and hallucinations by day.

“I think he developed a mental illness because he had to keep the development of nuclear weapons a secret,” Kim said.

She said her husband drowned his pain in alcohol and slept for three days in a row, even having promiscuous relationships with other women.

It was not the severe economic crisis of the mid-1990s that made Kim disillusioned about her country, but rather watching her husband`s deterioration from Pyongyang`s nuclear development.

Kim was arrested in China in 2003 and repatriated to North Korea. She suffered physical abuse at a prison set up North Korea’s State Security Department for three years.

She escaped to South Korea in 2007 shortly after North Korea conducted its first nuclear test.

In the North, Kim described the sexual abuse she suffered. To save her husband, who at the time was in custody on espionage charges, she had sexual relationships with two ranking officials of the security department.

Recalling her experience, Kim sarcastically said, “It wasn’t that bad because I saved my husband and got to know what the real world looked like.”

After being repatriated to North Korea, she underwent a full body search by a female official. Such humiliation was nothing compared to the sexual abuse she suffered, however.

In February last year, Kim published the autobiographical novel “I Want to Be a Human Being.” Unlike most memoirs written by North Korean defectors, which revolve around politics to criticize the communist regime, Kim’s novel depicts the life of an intelligent woman and how she abandoned her country and her loving husband.

“I have many stories I omitted out of courtesy to my husband,” she said. “I wrote this novel under the conviction that North Korea must become a country where the ordinary, humble, weak and vulnerable are treated as human beings.”

Hwang Jang-yop, who became the highest ranking North Korean official to defect to South Korea in 1997, said, “Kim’s work has high literary value unlike other memoirs written by North Korean defectors.”

“Kim’s work is a historical saga about the victory of a person with conscience who endured the brutality of the North Korean dictatorship,” Hwang said in a written recommendation of the novel.

"Kim’s work is an enduring masterpiece that illustrates the inhumanity of the Kim Jong Il dictatorship most truthfully, conscientiously, and vividly in an artistic manner.”