June 9th, 2009
05:57 PM ET

An inside look at North Korea

Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more from Mike Kim on North Korea on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

Mike Kim at the Tumen River which straddles North Korea to the right, and China to the left. Kim would visit this area two to four times each month.

Mike Kim
Author, Escaping North Korea
Founder, Crossing Borders

"In Escaping North Korea," one of the few Americans granted entry into the secretive country, Kim came to know North Korea and its people intimately. Posing as a student studying Tae Kwon Do, Kim recounts his four years from 2001-2003 on the border where he was running an underground railroad, helping North Koreans escape.

His North Korean friends entrusted their secrets to him as they revealed the government’s brainwashing tactics and confessed their true thoughts about the repressive regime that so rigidly controls their lives. Civilians and soldiers alike spoke of what North Koreans think of Americans and war with America. Children remembered the suffering they endured through the famine. Women and girls recalled their horrific sex-trafficking experiences. Former political prisoners shared their memories of beatings, torture, and executions in the gulags."

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/09/art.vert.kim.book.jpg width=292 height=320]

Read excerpts of his book, Escaping North Korea: Defiance and Hope in the World's Most Repressive Country, here.

There are major food shortages in the North Korean prisons, which should come as no surprise. If there isn’t enough food in the homes, there certainly isn’t going to be enough food in the prisons. Mr. Yang, a former prisoner, says, “People there are so hungry that they would eat the maggots in the outhouses and even earthworms in the manure….I saw it in my very own cell. Some people would get so hungry that they ate centipedes.”
(p. 104)

“In the beginning, there wasn’t enough food. There weren’t enough spoons either, so they would pace only a certain number of spoons per group. I sat at the very front. All the newcomers had to. The front was the coldest, because the guards left the windows open for ventilation. Those who sat near the windows felt the freezing wind blowing on them. Only small spoons were given because the guards feared the prisoners might commit suicide by eating a spoon.” [quote from a North Korean prison survivor] (p. 105)

“Even if there was no work for us to do, they made up meaningless work for us. There was a big pile of large rocks. The guards would say, ‘Separate the rocks! Move all the big rocks to the right side and all the small rocks to the left side!’ Hours later after we finished, they would then say, ‘Now put the rocks back into one big pile!’ When we finished with this they instructed again, ‘This time reverse it. Move all the big rocks to the left side and all the small rocks to the right side.!’” [quote from a North Korean prison survivor] (p. 108)

Women, children, and the elderly are all subject to beatings and torture. Mrs. Lee, a refugee, explained, “When it comes to beatings, they don’t look at men and women differently.” Ms. Lim, another refugee, added, “However, it is only the men who are electrocuted with cattle prods. Women aren’t electrocuted, but we are kicked, hit with sticks, and have our hair pulled out until we bleed.” Another former prisoner showed me a bald spot on the right side of her head. “I was hit on the head repeatedly with a hammer,” she said. (p. 109)

North Korean National Security Police captured Missionary Lee and imprisoned him for five months. He was starved, beaten, and tortured, and he suffered unbelievably in prison; he nearly died more than once. Several of the guards were students in tae kwon do and judo and used him as a punching bag to practice whenever they got bored.

To learn more about Kim's book, go here.

Editor's Note: Mike Kim is the founder of Crossing Borders, a faith-based organization that provides aid to North Koreans. After helping refugees for the past four years, he now travels and speaks widely to raise awareness of their plight. Kim resides in Washington, DC, where he is a full-time MBA student at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business.Recently got his MBA from Georgetown, lives in DC but will be doing us from Seoul, where he had a speech planned.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Global 360° • North Korea
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Rocky

    Well, if Pakistan can have nuclear weapons and can get billions of dollars why cant N.Korea get the same treatment in exchange for the girls to come home?

    June 9, 2009 at 10:50 pm |
  2. James P.Njoroge

    we still living in the bad old days of communism! If ur people want to run away frm your country at the any oppourtunity,then smell the coffee,u just not fit to rule or misrule!

    June 9, 2009 at 10:31 pm |
  3. Roland Ign

    J.S. I believe u now!

    June 9, 2009 at 10:30 pm |
  4. Brian Cuyno

    A word of caution, CNN like all media is open source intelligence the use of high profile individuals such as Gov Richardson and other's providing commentary on an issue that is still developing may only incense the situation.

    Commentary is that and unfortunately...the North may be using CNN as a mean's to guage and measure the governments posture...Much of what Gov Richardson may be correct but not appropriate...we do not know if the North want to negotiate, that may be the most logical position from our point of view...however their is no logical rhyme or reason...do not for a minute believe that just because they have followed a particular avenue that, that will be the choosen course of action...you will only cause them insult...they are a proud people and the last thing that we should be doing is assuming that we know what they are up too.

    June 9, 2009 at 10:26 pm |
  5. Ellen

    N. Korea is getting very scary! Now people trying to receive sanctions from Japan are being dragged away from the embassy by – no other than our "good" friends "China"! It amazes me that this United States can stand by a watch people in such need have their lives crushed in the name of Corporate Greed. Corporate America seems to think this conduct is fine as long as they make their large profits from a communist country and that human existence is a non-profit.

    June 9, 2009 at 10:22 pm |
  6. Sriram

    Hi Anderson
    The Iraq war was preceded by a media charade that chronicled Saddam/s atrocities. Your coverage of North Korea appears to closely parallel the efforts of the neo con embeds in the media earlier. Hope you're not sowing the seeds for another war.

    June 9, 2009 at 10:22 pm |
  7. ananymous

    Anderson, this is for Mike Kim. Mike how can I support your organization. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

    June 9, 2009 at 10:21 pm |
  8. nicole from cebu, phils.

    Just saw your clip on Han mi's family's attempt to get inside the Japanese embassy. This so heart-wrenching!

    June 9, 2009 at 10:18 pm |
  9. Keith

    I have to say. Personally I find your coverage of the DPRK very one sided. I lived in China from 2000 to 2008 and during that time have made 4 trips to the DPRK. I've also been dozens of time to the China/DPRK border. If you ever want information on my experiences please let me know.
    Keith Perron

    June 9, 2009 at 10:07 pm |
  10. john shelton

    Becareful gentlemen that first step is a real doozy.

    June 9, 2009 at 6:17 pm |