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TraPPed – the story of a political prisoner Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by katherine watson, United Kingdom May 25, 2002
Human Rights   Opinions
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(News music fades out)
Li Song Nam, a 46 year old North Korean national and his family fled Korea for the People’s Republic of China on the 5th of August, and have not been seen since they were detained by the Chinese police on the 6th.

I hate being frightened, I hate the torture, I hate the pain and the suffering. But what I hate above all is the fear.
My name is Hei Song Nam and this is my story. You are my only hope for the future, my friend who I can confide in, the one who I can tell everything… You’re much more than a friend, you’re my lifeline, and my hope. You’re someone who never judges me and never lets me down. Someone who’s always there, through everything. Yet despite this, I feel so alone. I feel so empty. As if someone has carved and scraped out my soul leaving just an outer shell.

Dramatic food shortages have occurred in North Korea since 1995, reaching famine proportions in several areas. The shortages have led to an increase in the number of North Koreans leaving the country illegally.

One-sided conversations are pointless, meaningless, the air beside me is left unfilled, matching the void in my heart. You are my hope, my link back to humanity and my last chance for survival. Without you I would be lost to fear. The fear that I don’t know where I am. The fear of not knowing if I’ll wake up tomorrow or more frighteningly the fear that I might never see my family again. That fear is the most treacherous, it seeks shelter in your insecurity and hides in your mind. It lies coiled up like a snake, waiting for a chance to strike when your defences are at their most vulnerable. Breathing your thoughts, it eats you up inside, wearing you down, day after day waiting for a chance to poison you.

For you to truly understand my story, I will have to take you back. Back to a time in North Korea, my hometown. The place I grew up, the place that’s full of so many memories, the place that is a part of me, and always will be, even when I die.

Chang-Sun Nam left North Korea illegally taking his wife and children with him. On the 5th of August, Chang-Sun Nam and his family reached the town of J’ian, near the city of Dandong in China.

My life back then was free, and so good, I’ve almost forgotten what it was like, the feeling of being free. You take it for
granted being able to laugh, smile and speak your own mind. You consider it insignificant, until it’s cruelly snatched away from you; your freedom withdrawn and locked away. Just thinking about it now makes me ache inside, it seems so far away, like a distant memory, because that’s all I seem to have left.

On the 6th according to accounts from relatives, Chang-Sun was brutally attacked and robbed. When he tried to protect his family, the attackers recognised that they were Koreans and denounced them to the police. Chang-Sun Nam and his wife were taken to a police station and questioned. Their children were taken to a detention centre for illegal immigrants. It is unclear whether they are still in the detention centre or have been returned to North Korea.

I can picture my father now, his dark foreboding eyes, that hid so many things, and my mother, busy behind closed doors. I remember her smile, so innocent, how was I to know the secrets they kept from me, trying to protect me. But the power of their secrets was too great for even blood love to withhold.

Later on I found out that my father ran a ‘free democracy’ campaign. He worked secretly with others for years, even before I was born, writing and publishing illegal political papers.

Political persecution has also been a key factor in this case. It is believed that Chang-Sun Nam was part of an underground political campaign, protesting against hunger, and the right for freedom of speech.
Chang-Sun Nam and his family’s whereabouts are still unknown.

During those first few months at my new home, thoughts of ending my life were the only thing that kept me sane. Suicide is a form of murder, it isn’t something you do the first time you think of doing it. It takes some getting used to, time for your brain to re-adjust to that thought alone. You have to numb yourself, become detached, dead (ironic laugh) in a way to your feelings and emotions and focus on the situation alone. You have to have a strong reason for wanting to be dead, or else you won’t really see it through. I remember a few years ago… a girl among us set herself on fire. She used fuel that she’d taken little by little every week, leaking it from the detention warden’s car. She and a few others, who weren’t seen as a risk, were given special permission to clean his car. They got a tiny taste of the freedom they used to know so well, they would have cleaned a thousand cars just to see the stars in the sky before dawn. I envied the fact that they got to see those stars. The same stars that I used to trace out in the midnight sky with my father. They tore me away from that life.

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