Japan from the inside out

Cannibalism and torture part of everyday life in North Korea

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, May 12, 2009

THE ASIA TIMES has a curious article about the book Long Road Home: Testimony of a North Korean Camp Survivor, by Kim Yong as told to Kim Suk-Young.

From the descriptions, it would seem that North Korea is run like a concentration camp on a national scale. Mr. Kim’s personal experience shows:

“…just how drastically North Korea had regressed – to the point that unimaginable acts such as cannibalism and torture have become part of everyday life.”

He was once a member of the elite who drove imported automobiles, but wound up in a prison camp after being accused of treason. He worked underground at the camp and came to think of daylight as a luxury. After six years, he escaped with the help of old friends and made his way to the U.S. and agreed to be interviewed for the book to present the facts of North Korea to the world.

As the article points out, it is a North Korean version of Solzhenitsyn’s expose of the Soviet gulag. But the curiosity of the article is that the author, one David Wilson, spends almost as much time on Kim Suk-Young, the person who put the book together.

While Ms. Kim is to be commended for her work, readers would have benefited from a further description of the book’s content instead of a personality profile of the transcriber/interviewer.

The problem is compounded because Ms. Kim, a performing arts professor at the University of California, is a naive geopolitical lightweight:

“(She) describes the country as “strange”, noting that there is nothing you cannot buy if you have money despite the abiding power of communist ideology.”

There’s nothing strange about that–it’s a salient feature of every communist government that’s ever existed. What’s strange is Wilson’s use of the term “abiding power of communist ideology”. That ideology has no abiding power, and North Korea is obviously not run according to communist principles.

Ms. Kim also finds it noteworthy that North and South Korea are very much alike because they share the same sense of humor and respect family ties. Why shouldn’t they be culturally similar? They’re the same tribe!

Mr. Wilson calls this a “twist” for some reason.

“She is convinced that America is equally guilty of propaganda. Before making any uninformed assumptions about North Korea, the West should try to understand it, she said. Treat the country with respect is her message.”

Cannibalism and torture are everyday occurrences while the elite lives in luxury, and the country is always last in the World Press Freedom Index Rankings. It floods the world with date rape drugs and counterfeit currency, and adamantly refuses to end its unneeded nuclear weapons program. What “uninformed assumptions” from the “equally guilty” propagandist America could be worse? And why should a country such as this be treated with respect? Would she have also had us treat the apartheid regime of South Africa with respect?

But then what else would you expect from a UC drama professor?

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9 Responses to “Cannibalism and torture part of everyday life in North Korea”

  1. rants'r'us mac said

    Here she is;

    Nor do you have thousands of American women fleeing famine, hardship, and political repression crossing into, say, Mexico each year as North Korea girls and women are tricked, coerced, kidnapped and sold into marriages or prostitution.

    Nor women being sold to village collectives becoming “village property” …

    An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 such ‘slaves’ are currently serving ‘masters’ in China alone. Many are then trafficked on to sex shops in Japan, the US, South Korea etc. Repatriated victims face severe punishment or even death if they are caught and returned to North Korea.

    A risk worth taking just to survive rather than starve to death, something like 70 to 80 percent of female North Korean refugees claim to have experienced human trafficking in one form or another.

    In a perfect example of ‘market’ led ‘demand’ feeding off a vulnerable ‘supply’ of victims, you – or clubbing together with your brothers or neighbors – can now buy a fully functional North Korea woman for less than the price of a kitchen appliance to do with as you please.

    Think of it as a cooking and washing sex toy machine with a lifetime guarantee that if you don’t like any more you can send it back to the manufacturers for disposal and pick up the latest model instead.

    Actually, this is one area that I am very critical of and concerned about Japanese society. I appreciate that it was only 50 or 80 years where elements of it were having to sell off their own daughters if the rice harvest failed or father created debts … but it really should have moved on.

    Japan remains a leading destination for sex trafficked women from other Asian societies and Japanese men remain predominant consumers of sexual tourism, I don’t see very much being done ir said about it.

    * Hughes, Prof Donna. ‘Demand for Victims of Sex Trafficking’ University of Rhode Island, 2005. Any many other sources.

  2. Aceface said

    “Japan remains a leading destination for sex trafficked women from other Asian societies and Japanese men remain predominant consumers of sexual tourism, I don’t see very much being done ir said about it.”

    Because this “sex traffic” is very wide ranged.It even includes the Filipino hostesses working in the Philippine pubs.Japan got formal protest from the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo and Japan Embassy in Manila faced public demonstration from the Filipinas demanding to enter the country.

    Anyway,if I have to be a prostitute,I would most definitely chose coming to Japan than working in China just because of the money they can get.

    There has been a wide criticism on sex tourism to Korea in the 80’s and to the NGO is accusing Japanese men for their irresponsibility of Japino issue in the Phillippines.

  3. Aki said

    An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 such ‘slaves’ are currently serving ‘masters’ in China alone. Many are then trafficked on to sex shops in Japan, the US, South Korea etc.

    The cited article does not mention Japan as a destination of trafficked North Koreans. I wonder whether there is any other source.

    I sometimes see news reports on illegal immigrants being found in Japan and deported to their countries. If considerable number of North Koreans are working in sex shops in Japan, at least some of them must have been found by the police, and, if they are found, it would be newsworthy since they cannot be deported to North Korea, which Japan does not recognize. I have, however, never seen such news report.

  4. Bender said

    About so-called “American propaganda”, I agree. Let’s not be concerned about how things are in N Korea. Case closed.

  5. melmo said

    “On his travels, he witnessed corruption at all levels, among party officials and Japanese trade partners alike, and observed the illicit benefits accorded some and denied others.”

    And, a curious sentence from the curious article. Why “Japanese trade partner”??? Why not Chinese or Russian? OK, Japan was one of the major trading countries of North Korea several years back, but I do not think there were many “Japanese with a Japanese passport,” physically present in North Korea since there have been no diplomatic ties.


    What is your implication in the bold paragraphs? Do you think the Japanese possess an abnormal sexuality, cultivated by their own culture, and thus display inferior morality in that area?

    Anyway, Japanese “indentured servants (年季奉公)” are different from slaves.

    And, as you know prostitution as trade is different from forced labor, and sexual entertainment is a luxury item, and thus there is no question that Japan is the leading destination of sex workers in Asia, since it is the wealthiest country in the region.

    I glanced over her study, but she cites from many newspapers such as “Japan Economic News, (what’s this?) and (of course) “The Asahi Shimbun.” And these days, journalists do their fact checking with Wiki (as recently proven by a Scottish student). Do you consider this report to be a scholarly work?

    Nevertheless, I wouldn’t question that there are many sex workers illegally trafficked from overseas in Japan, as in the U.S. But why do you pinpoint only Japan?

    Certainly the sexual culture in Japan is perceived as weird especially for those who are raised with a religion where sexual desire is taboo.

    The current predominant customers of the Thai sex industry are Germans, followed by many other white advanced countries. According to the bad name given them in the 80’s, Japanese men are cautious about sexual entertainment overseas.

    BTW, if you have a blog, please let me know. Certainly your rants as well as Ampontan’s writings are good reading, though I sometimes disagree.

  6. mac said

    The Japanese Government was placed in Tier 2 in the 2007 U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report for not fully complying with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but making significant efforts to do so. (From memory, that is actually worse than South Korea). Debt bondage seems to the usual path.

    Google is your friend on this one really but there is another specific paper, here; Human Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation in Japan.

    I read it and I think I would have to apply a slight ‘reality filter’ to the way it is written because all the women are universally portrayed as “deceived victims”, which I actually do not believe. I find it hard in this day and age to believe that all these women have no idea what they are getting into and, frankly, if a woman does enter into such an agreement and then wants to break it by running tearfully to her embassy, I am not that sympathetic. I could accept that they may have bitten off more than they could chew and that, perhaps, some were economic victims back in the home countries but this is a very old and well established trade.

    As in all related topics, such as the comfort women issue, I’d like to see some very hard, honest documentation that admitted that some or many of the women were actually quite consciously aware of what they were getting into and a clear division between those that were and those that were clearly victimized.

    For me, the lack of honesty and clarity discredits the overly sentimental portrayals. Not all women are victims, many are quite capable of working a system to their own benefit. Sure, I agree that life is a much easier ride for ‘working women’ in Japan than in China or elsewhere in the Pacific-Asia region.

    As Aceface wrote, the South Korean ‘Kisaeng Tours’ of the 70s and 80s were very popular with Japanese, even as ‘corporate junkets’ to woo clients and bond staff together, after Taiwan was shut down as the preferred destination. Sure, the South Korean Government was right in there encouraging the sex industry, as it was a highly valuable source of foreign currency income for them (whores had attend government tourism training courses in order to gain their official permit). Since, both the Philippines and Thailand have become destinations. North Korea is in absolute denial of anything going on and does not supply figures. How much child exploitation goes on?

    The scale of sex industry in Japan is large. It is estimated somewhere US$ 20 to 90 billion per year (which would make it almost double the Defense budget!?!). The trafficking is closely related to this huge demand of the sex industry. There are said to be more than 150,000 foreign women in prostitution in Japan, 50% Filipinas and 40% Thai but also involving East Europeans and South Americans. (CATW-Asia Pacific, Newsletter Volume 1.2, Winter 1998) Personally, I have never been a consumer of such services but I have no ‘moral’ problem with it if was done fairly and ethically but the financial exploitation of women does seem to be universal.

    A subject for a different topic perhaps …

  7. ampontan said

    How do the statistics on Japan compare with those of Thailand on a per capita basis? From what people who have lived in Thailand tell me, men throughout the country go out for a shag together after work like men everywhere else go out for a beer.

  8. mac said

    I don’t know the Japanese figures, but on a quick look at the web, a survery of the Thai domestic use suggested that;

    81% of Thai respondents had visited a prostitute within 6 months prior to the survey,
    97% of military conscripts (2 year compulsory service) regularly visit prostitutes and
    73% of the conscripts lost their virginity to a prostitute.

    And those are only the honest ones. Its seems the figures for the general public are somewhere like 95% + of males have used prostitutes. And those, we presume, are only the straight ones.

    How many Buddhist priests do they have anyway!?!

    One thing for sure, already existing, the “industrialization” of Pacific-Asian prostitution surfed on a tide of US military sperm from Japan, post-WWII, to Korea and then on Thailand stroked on by the power of the mighty dollar and lubricated by local government and policeforces. All of whom have been in on the rake off.

    Call me an economic romantic might I would equate the women’s experience to the forced rape of the young post-colonial economies by the brutish global capitalism and at the hands of their own fathers.

  9. lola luna said

    Yeah, sex is a part of everyone’s life, but I like it more, thanks.

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