North Korea’s Unique Educational System

From North Korea comes yet another witness of the reality of life there. All life? No. All the time? Of course not? But this man was there. He saw first hand things that should not be seen in our world. No attempt is being made to “defame” a nation, only to allow the West to understand that something must be done.

He is Kim Tae Jin, and comes to us by way of China, North Korea, China again , North Korea again (this time through the prison system including well-known Yodok), again China, Mongolia, Seoul. And that’s just the outline of his story.

His father was Chinese military, so he started out there. But he and his Korean mother returned in 1961 to North Korea when he was five. Went through the standard educational system, got a job, all in South Pyong-an Province. At age 30, a full grown adult, he decided to visit family in China. There he was arrested and forced back home.

Then he was passed through North Korea’s other “education” system, where one learns even more. The lessons are about fearing and then hating the government, though that is certainly not what is intended. First, there is torture in the “People’s Safety Agency” near Chongjin. Four months later, more torture at the “National Security Agency” . He was eventually accused of treason because of his family visit.

And the torture? According to this eyewitness (and who can know better?) Beatings. Sleep deprivation. Forced to kneel or sit motionless for hours. Not permitted to wash, thus fleas, lice. Freezing temperatures in the jail cells.

Then on to “university”, if I may continue using the analogy. The “Revolutionizing Process Zone” at Yodok. Four years six months. A slave labor camp. Helps the body. Helps the mind. Not only that, all this free labor helps to keep North Korea’s economy barely afloat. Farming corn. Cutting trees into firewood. Making furniture. Serving the whims of the government.

So what’s so bad about farm work for a prisoner? Hey, after 8 months in confinement as described above, that’s what the prisoners think at first. “I can move around!” But the food is meager, and was even before famine rations of the mid 90’s. To survive, he has to eat plants, grasses, rats, snakes, frogs. People around him are dying from starvation every week. He is personally witnessing public executions of those trying to escape. Still enduring beatings. Sit-down-stand-up exercises until he can barely sit up.

Four and one half long years. But at least, now free at last. Happy? No. His wife has to denounce him. It’s the rule. Denounce and divorce anyone suspected of treason or you are supporting him and may be punished yourself.

Five more years. Finally he must leave this cruel land. Off to China. Off to Mongolia. Seoul in 2001.

I tried to warn you. It’s not pleasant . Let us bear Kim Tae Jin’s name to the Father tonight, along with all the other Tae’s who are still at Yodok, Hoeryong, Chonjin, and all the others. How helpless we feel. But let us keep believing that God is working in all of this, having His perfect will. And as Mary said to the servants at Cana, “Whatever He says to you, do…”

Say the word, Lord. And give us your grace to obey it.

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