May 282012

This BBC News story — The terrible price of a Korean defection — tells the chilling tale of Oh Kil-nam, a Marxist professor who defected from South Korea to North Korea with his family in 1985. Yes, you read that right: he defected to North Korea. Here’s an excerpt:

His wife Shin Suk-ja was horrified by the idea of going to the North and opposed it from the start. “Do you know what kind of place it is?” she asked. “You have not even been there once. How can you make such a reckless decision?”

But Oh replied that the Northerners were Koreans too – they “cannot be that brutal”, he told her.

So at the end of November 1985, Oh, his wife and two young daughters travelled via East Berlin and Moscow to Pyongyang.

When they arrived at Pyongyang airport, Oh began to see he had made a mistake in coming. Communist party officials and children clutching flowers were there to meet them. But despite the cold of a North Korean December, the children were not wearing socks and their traditional clothes were so thin that they shivered. “When I saw this I was really surprised and my wife even started to cry.”

Oh Kil-nam was able to escape, but as of his last contact with his wife and daughters in 1991, they were in a labor camp. They’re probably dead now — or so I hope, based on what I’ve read of North Korea’s labor camps.

At the end of the article, Oh Kil-nam says:

I hope there will come a day when I can meet my family again, hug them and embrace them, and cry tears of happiness. If it does happen it will be the happiest day of my life.

The man couldn’t possible deserve that, not in a million years. The evil that he did to his family is simply overwhelming: he delivered his reluctant family into the hands of the world’s most brutal dictatorship. He could never make amends for that. He could never earn forgiveness. He could never be redeemed. No suffering that he could endure in this life could possibly compensate for what he did to his family.

A person can overcome most moral wrongs… but some evils are just too heinous for that.

  • RT

    Netflix has a documentary about a U.S. soldier who defected to the North. It is shot in North Korea, and basically documents his life there and the lives of a few other such foreigners. By North Korean standards it is probably an upper-middle class life in that he has a small apartment, food stamps and medical care. It’s quite a sad life.

  • dbkenner

    What an evil man, a complete moron. If he wanted to sacrifice himself, fine. But to take his wife and daughters with him is unforgivable. And now he gets out while they go to a prison camp? If he had any decency, he’d offer himself to the North in exchange for his family’s freedom. Otherwise he should just shoot himself.

    This story also points out the folly of a wife (against her good judgement) deciding to follow her husband into uncertainty. The marriage contract is null and void when one party asks another to act against his/her best judgement.

    Those poor kids! If I were writing this as a cheap action movie the daughters would escape, find their father, and slit his throat.

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