Hello there! We warmly welcome you back to Ask a North Korean, theNK Newsfeature where you the readers email in with your questions and have them answered by our very own North Korean writers.
Todays question comes from Loren in Roseville, Minnesota, who asks about what money can and cant buy in North Korea. Can you use money to get yourself out of a prison sentence? Is there a price tag on freedom even for political prisoners?
In-hua Kim spent time in a reformatory in North Korea, and details her experiences about the potential and limits for how much money can help you out of trouble in the DPRK.
Got a question for In-hua? Email it to[emailprotected]with your name and city. Well be publishing the best ones.
North Koreans are taught that socialism provides for everyone and that capitalist societies are rife with corruption. This is what I believed for the first fifty years of my life.
I now believe that capitalist societies are places where people can succeed if they work hard enough, and that North Korean socialism is where the Kim family leeches off the blood and sweat of ordinary people for their own wealth and prosperity.
Ive noticed that there are some who yearn for the socialism of North Korea. I doubt they would survive one day in that socialist hell, where money and bribes are far more important than in South Korea.
In fact, when I was still in the North, I was living on money sent from my daughter in South Korea.
At the request of my daughter, I once liaised via telephone between a mother inSouth Korea and her sonin the North, delivering cash from her to him.
He was caught and arrested by the ministry of state security around three years later while talking on the phone to his mother.
During his interrogation, he told them that I was the one who gave him his mothers phone number. This was true, as I had written it down for him soon after I helped them transfer that money.
I wasnt summoned by the ministry of state security, but an inspector from the public security station came to my house with the son and I was arrested. There was no warrant.
There were three waiting rooms at the public security stations inspection department. Two were full of men, the other women.
They were all brought in on charges like unlawful border crossings, smuggling, unlawful cell phone usage, traffic accidents, and watching impure (foreign) videos. None of them seemed like true criminals.
Everyone was very distressed since they knew they were soon going to be sent to a reformatory.
A few looked quite comfortable and care-free though. It turned out that this was because they had paid a bribe to prosecutor Moon and would be released soon.
I felt miserable because I had no one in power who could help me out or pay a bribe.
On the third day at lunchtime, a guard called my name. Full of fear, I entered the stations office.
Inside the room was someone dressed in civilian clothes. He gestured for me to sit down and flicked through the papers on the table.
He pulled out one sheet and handed it to me to sign. It said that I had made contact with my defector daughter in South Korea via phone and received money on someone elses behalf.
I signed it and begged the man to help me. He smiled and said that wed have to wait and see.
There was something ominous about his smile.
Ive noticed that there are some who yearn for the socialism of North Korea. I doubt they would survive one day in that socialist hell
The next day, inspector Lee called and told me privately that prosecutor Moon said I would need 4,000 RMB to get myself out of the public security station.
I was choking on the inside but answered calmly. Yes, I will let my other daughter (who was still in North Korea) know about the money if you let her come and visit. Please, just let me live.
He looked satisfied with this and said that my younger daughter would be called over soon.
I returned to the waiting room and shared the conversation with someone who was there for illegal cell phone usage.
Hes right, she said, you can get out of here if you pay the money. The guy in the regular clothes you spoke to is prosecutor Moon. I hear he can get you off the hook even if youve murdered someone as long as you pay him.
My parents said they would pay and get me out of here, but no news yet. She was released around two weeks later.
I felt very sorry and ashamed to ask my daughter for money, but I was determined this would be the last time I would do so and then would leave the country.
My younger daughter was called over that evening. I had spent my nights worrying about her since she had been left at home by herself. I held her and wept.
I really hate to trouble you for this, but I can only get out of here if I pay a bribe.
She cried as well, assuring me that she would let her sister in South Korea know about the situation.
Two months later, I gave 2,000 RMB to the inspector. My daughter actually sent me 6,000 RMB, but others held at the station told me not to give the full amount all in one go because bribes often have no effect in South Korea-related cases. I promised to pay him the remainder upon my release.
I waited nervously to be released, but I didnt receive any updates. Meanwhile, those who had been sent to the cell after me were paying their bribes and being let go.
On December 30, 2015, my name was finally called again. My chest pounding, I entered the office.
In-hua, too bad. Your case moved on to the preliminaries. I guess the money wasnt enough.
My heart sank. Does that mean Im going to be sent to the reformatory? Please help, I begged in tears. Ill return the favor.
Well, I tried, inspector Lee said. But phone calls with the South are difficult cases. It costs a lot of money, and you cant afford it. He pushed my paper aside.
I was infuriated and speechless. By that point, I decided I would rather suffer in a reformatory than satisfy their greed at the cost of my far-away daughter who was already struggling by herself.
I was sentenced to two years of forced labor at the Gaechon reformatory. Had the 2,000 RMB reached prosecutor Moon, its likely I would have received a lighter punishment, albeit not completely released, but I found out later that inspector Lee kept all of that money for himself.
North Korean socialism is where the Kim family leeches off the blood and sweat of ordinary people for their own wealth
Someone else I knew of, who had killed a female teacher in a traffic accident and paid a bribe of 20,000 RMB, was sentenced to one year at the Gaechon reformatory. But even this was shortened to three months thanks to an official pardon.
Another, who was charged with watching an impure video, spent her term in a hospital room. This too was possible with the help of money, sent from her daughter in South Korea.
In general, once a case has moved on to the preliminaries, a trial must take place. People try to resolve their situation before they are sent to court.
Once youre sent to a reformatory, theres almost no way to cancel the verdict.
Bribes can make your time at the reformatory easier, for example, by getting you a position as head of the prison cell or in a hospital ward for prisoners.
Once in a blue moon, ones sentence can be changed by an order from a high ranking official to hold a retrial. However, such an alteration must be approved by all of the ruling elite, including Kim Jong Un.
Conditions for political prisoners are a lot harsher. If convicted, ones entire family is taken to a prison camp located underground. Most consider you already dead if you receive such a sentence.
One of my friends, however, was a rare exception. She was taken to a detention camp for political prisoners, but everyone was alarmed when she returned six months later after everyone had assumed she was dead.
My brother is the number one at a satellite building research center, she explained. He helped me out of the death camp.
Top talents are well protected in North Korea. Pilots, frogmen, scientists, and their families enjoy immunity from punishment in many cases, lest they turn against the state or defect.
Translated by Jihye Park
Edited by James Fretwell
See the article here:
- Freedom Day Bailouts Get Several Men Behind Bars Out Before Father's Day | 90.1 FM WABE - WABE 90.1 FM - June 22nd, 2020
- This Week in Technology + Press Freedom: June 21, 2020 - Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press - June 22nd, 2020
- The Juneteenth flag is full of symbols. Here's what they mean - CNN - June 22nd, 2020
- We Have to Talk About Liberating Minds: Angela Davis' Quotes on Freedom - AnOther Magazine - June 22nd, 2020
- Journalism Instructor Leading Online Freedom of Information Event - Ole Miss News - June 22nd, 2020
- Dozens gather for freedom march and rally in downtown Columbus - 10TV - June 22nd, 2020
- Justice Thomas concludes that the "freedom of speech" is a Privilege or Immunity under the 14th Amendment - Reason - June 22nd, 2020
- Freedom launches Pilot to simplify teleoperation on third-party robots - TechCrunch - June 22nd, 2020
- Gov. Stitt says Trump rally attendees 'have freedom to stay home' if concerned about contracting COVID-19 - Tulsa World - June 22nd, 2020
- Opinion: The freedom to take a knee - Houston Chronicle - June 22nd, 2020
- Politicized COVID-19 Response Imperils Both Freedom and Safety, States Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons - GlobeNewswire - June 22nd, 2020
- Julian Assange's fianc calls on the Australian government to secure his freedom - World Socialist Web Site - June 22nd, 2020
- 5th Annual Tybee Island Wade-In commemorates fight for freedom - WSAV-TV - June 22nd, 2020
- Pence to visit Texas for 'Freedom' event at megachurch - Monitor - June 22nd, 2020
- COVID-19: Freedom Means That We Can Do Stupid Things, Not That We Have To - Anchorage Press - June 22nd, 2020
- No restrictions on using firearms: India gives soldiers freedom along LAC in extraordinary times - Hindustan Times - June 22nd, 2020
- Aim to Achieve Financial Freedom in the Stock Market With This $30 Bundle - CT Post - June 22nd, 2020
- Freedom is never defined as mob rule | Opinion - nj.com - May 19th, 2020
- American freedom was tug-of-war from the start - York Dispatch - May 19th, 2020
- Finding the balance between safety and freedom in the shadow of COVID-19 - VentureBeat - May 19th, 2020
- In time of quarantine, we must resist Grand Inquisitors view of freedom - Crux: Covering all things Catholic - May 19th, 2020
- Freedom Does Not Mean Being on the Loose - Psychiatric Times - May 19th, 2020
- The van gives me such freedom: Custom conversion gives Eugene woman wheels on which to roam - The Register-Guard - May 19th, 2020
- Freedom is Never Free - The Hudson Reporter - May 19th, 2020
- Germany's flag burning ban is a threat to freedom of expression - Spectator.co.uk - May 19th, 2020
- What will we do with the new freedom to shop and dine? - cleveland.com - May 19th, 2020
- What does freedom mean in this moment? - The Irish Times - May 19th, 2020
- Event captures memories of Freedom Riders' heroic journey between Anniston and Birmingham - Bham Now - May 19th, 2020
- Are Contact Tracing Apps the Key to Lockdown Freedom? - Redbrick - May 19th, 2020
- Hundreds expected to gather for local Faith & Freedom Rally - KDRV - May 19th, 2020
- Freedom of information laws 'have failed to keep pace with public services' - Aberdeen Evening Express - May 19th, 2020
- Captain Tom Moore receives Freedom award during City of London's first 'virtual' ceremony - FE News - May 11th, 2020
- Boris Johnson's roadmap to ease lockdown will start with more freedom to exercise and back-to-work moves from Wednesday - Telegraph.co.uk - May 11th, 2020
- God alone is the source of liberty and freedom - Akron Beacon Journal - May 11th, 2020
- 'Deadly Dictatorship': How Rodrigo Duterte Has Attacked Freedom of the Media in Latest Closure of Main Broadcaster - The National Interest - May 11th, 2020
- Conjure Women is a tale of slavery and its aftermath - The Economist - May 11th, 2020
- Freedom Haven Emergency Shelter and Transitional Living Home - - KUSI - May 11th, 2020
- Freedom Festival events postponed to 2021, firework show will be held - Deseret News - May 11th, 2020
- Granite State confined at home find freedom and calm in the garden - The Union Leader - May 11th, 2020
- MSNBC contributor: Americans 'freedom-obsessed' to point 'we're blind to other types of threats' | TheHill - The Hill - May 11th, 2020
- Faith and freedom of choice are key ingredients for parenting - The New Indian Express - May 11th, 2020
- Just after Elon Musk denounced coronavirus lockdowns as infringements of freedom, research shows Britons are too scared to leave their homes anyway -... - May 11th, 2020
- Another Freedom Square resident has died of COVID-19 in Pinellas - Tampa Bay Times - May 11th, 2020
- Celebrating freedom in the same garden 75 years on - Jersey Evening Post - May 11th, 2020
- Freedom Is An Issue That Stirs Voters - America's 1st Freedom - May 11th, 2020
- How You Can Advance the Cause of Reason and Freedom - New Ideal - May 11th, 2020
- As Spaniards got their first real taste of freedom this weekend, hundreds of them got arrested and thousands were fined - MarketWatch - May 11th, 2020
- Lockdown phase one freedoms in Spains holiday island Mallorca - Euro Weekly News - May 11th, 2020
- Book Review: America, Guns, and Freedom - Accuracy in Academia - April 27th, 2020
- Accountability goes hand-in-hand with personal freedom, especially during adversity - Green Bay Press Gazette - April 27th, 2020
- Letter to the editor: Freedom & rallies to reopen - TribLIVE - April 27th, 2020
- From The Editor: Barriers to Freedom - America's 1st Freedom - April 27th, 2020
- Freedom binds us all. Today is all about the greater good - News24 - April 27th, 2020
- Watchdog: Pandemic worsening threat to global media freedom - The Associated Press - April 27th, 2020
- Theodore Gaffney, who photographed the Freedom Riders as they protested segregation, dies of Covid-19 complications - CNN - April 27th, 2020
- This Week in Technology + Press Freedom: April 26, 2020 - Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press - April 27th, 2020
- 15:32 Armenia Ombudsman on freedom of expression in the country - Information-Analytic Agency NEWS.am - April 27th, 2020
- Protesting for the Freedom to Catch the Coronavirus - The New York Times - April 27th, 2020
- From lions to lambs: Covid-19 reveals supposedly freedom-loving British to be anything but, as we happily clap away our liberty - RT - April 27th, 2020
- Outrage as thousands abuse guidelines on first day of freedom - The Leader Newspaper Online - April 27th, 2020
- Freedom, the first casualty in Covid-19 war - Free Malaysia Today - April 27th, 2020
- Hazel C. Boone of Freedom Twp., OH - The Weekly Villager - April 27th, 2020
- Freedom Day: We have a way to go to be truly free - Daily Maverick - April 27th, 2020
- Whither freedom? - The News International - April 27th, 2020
- The rising cost of religious freedom in Vietnam | TheHill - The Hill - April 27th, 2020
- Calls for NHS workers to receive the Freedom of the Borough for their tireless bravery - Wrexham.com - April 27th, 2020
- Passover, Freedom and the Coronavirus | Clifford Rieders - The Times of Israel - April 11th, 2020
- Shaw warns that Freedom Mobile isn't adding as many customers as planned due to COVID-19 - CBC.ca - April 11th, 2020
- America Must Prove the Future Is Freedom - American Greatness - April 11th, 2020
- Israelis mark Passover, a celebration of freedom, in virtual isolation - Reuters - April 11th, 2020
- Eric Johnson on Breaking Patterns to Play with More Freedom - Premier Guitar - April 11th, 2020
- Freedom for man who killed brother in 1996 in argument over smoking - SILive.com - April 11th, 2020
- Whitmer issues order allowing delayed in-person processing of Freedom of Information Act requests - MLive.com - April 11th, 2020
- Wife of imprisoned former congressman cites COVID-19 risk in plea to Trump for husband's freedom | TheHill - The Hill - April 11th, 2020
- Freedom From Facebook Expands To Take On Google - Oakland News Now - April 11th, 2020
- Freedom in the time of COVID-19 - The New Indian Express - April 11th, 2020
- Dispute in Ireland over academic freedom and internationalization - Inside Higher Ed - April 11th, 2020
- Married With Kids: Freedom in the age of the coronavirus - Canadian Jewish News - April 11th, 2020
- 30 Years of Freedom: The Opposition Roundtable Laying the Groundwork for Democratic Hungary - Budapest Business Journal - April 11th, 2020
- The cost to freedom in the war against COVID-19 - Pursuit - April 11th, 2020