Escaping From a North Korean Concentration Camp: VICE Meets Kim Hye-sook

Escaping From a North Korean Concentration Camp: VICE Meets Kim Hye-sook

Is this difficult to talk about? It is very difficult but the whole world
needs to know what horrible things are going on in North Korea. I take responsibility in sharing my story despite the hardship. Camp 18 in Bukchang is
North Korea’s oldest and arguably most infamous concentration camp. Few people ever leave it,
but Kim Hye-Sook, a woman who spent a majority of her life
in the camp, and not only escaped in 2009, finally defected to South Korea
soon after and has been making haunting marker drawings of
the atrocities she’s witnessed ever since. Why did you decide to make these drawings? I got much better since I
came to South Korea but before I came here,
I had worked in a coal mine from when I was
14 to 30. Suffering from pneumoconiosis, I just could not speak. I thought hard for
the best way to tell my stories, of all my experiences and decided to show it in
drawings. A picture is worth a thousand words, so despite my lack of talent,
I started drawing. And where were you? What camp was it? I served from the end of February 1975
to August 15, 2002 in Bukchang in in Bukchang-guen Bongchang-li,
South Pyongan Province, at Camp 18. And why were you sent there? I learned that it was because
my grandfather had gone over to South Korea during the Korean War. Can you tell me what’s going on here? I went to China in 2005 and
was caught in 2007, and this was in 2008. This is Chongjin Concentration Center and
there was a torture room upstairs. They tortured people to know
who they met in China or if they had intention
to go to South Korea. They tortured using physical force,
mostly hitting. What’s going on in this
picture right here? I was all alone and
here comes a woman I’d known before! A guard came in and
started cursing out the woman, calling her a “bitch
that ate her own son.” People were eating people,
especially children at Camp 18. What was the perception or reputation of the Kim family, the Kim dynasty in the camps,
did people hate them? Well, I was born there and
raised being brainwashed. I lived believing Kim II-sung as god. Even when I lived in a camp
fr such a long time, I didn’t realize it was the government, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jung-il’s fault. When I first got here,
I could not dare call Kim Il-Sung or Kim Jung-il only by their names. And the U.N. has used those drawings to
confirm where that camp actually was. Since nobody can actually go there,
they sent a satellite. It took 8 months for it to get the photos. When they compared them,
everything fit right in. When the UN told
North Korea about Camp 18, the North Koreans strongly denied it and
I drew a map so precisely that the satellite
photos exactly match it. We’re at the Unification Observatory and
we’re actually going to go up to the observatory and
take a look at North Korea at a distance. Here, right here. It’s here. This is Daedong river, where they
held public executions non-stop. They announced the public executions for
us to all gather and watch. Even the people from Camp 14 would
line up and watch the executions. It was impossible for
anyone to leave Camp 14. I lived at Camp 18 for 28 years but
no one has ever tried to escape. These black lines are all
barb-wire fences. The fences were 4 meters in height. But here (around the edges),
they put 3300 [volts] of electricity. You’d hear the electricity running through
and I ran when the vibration stopped. While it’s on, if anyone gets close, it would suck them right in and
burn them to death. So who would dare to? Nobody’s ever escaped here. Right now, we are mere kilometres
from the North Korean border. It’s a really strange feeling because that
means from a stone’s throw, basically, I can almost picture myself
swimming across that. It’s just this total that’s taken on this
completely different meaning to me now, and in fact, it’s surreal,
cuz we have all these vacation binoculars. You can see it in Staten Island or
Niagara Falls. Just peering across it
as if it’s some sort of spectacle because frankly, it kind of is. Are you in touch with a lot of
people in North Korea still? In December, I found a broker to find
my younger siblings in North Korea. He brought my youngest
sibling to the border. But the snowy weather wasn’t
permitting our meeting and he had to go back to work
after a week of leave. And my parents are both buried there. So, to be honest, of course,
I want to go visit. What’s your new life and soul like in comparison? I’m doing alright here. But my family is always on my
mind When I eat, or feel happy, or watch TV, my family is always
on my mind at every moment. It’s already been over 5 years since I
came to South Korea, but I still only see North Korea, and the scenes from
the concentration camp in my dreams. It’s strange but I’ve never seen my
life in South Korea in my dreams yet.

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About the Author: Sam Caldwell


  1. America will attack Iraq because, they "might" have weapons of mass destruction, but they will not attack North Korea with all of the damning evidence of torture on its people? LOL at all the stupid American patriots.

  2. When it comes to human rights the UN is fairly weak and has a poor track record of powers to extinctions or action against those countries that commit the worst human rights abuses. Charges need to be brought against North Korea at The Hague on genocide and human rights abuses what the UN should not. Allow China impede this process. It's just mind boggling to realize that in the 21st century World War 2 type Nazi concentration camps exist. The UN needs to bring genocide charges against Kim Jong Un at the International Court in The Hague.

  3. People say that North Koreans are brainwashed, but you believe everything you're told about them without question. This women is a confirmed liar. Oh, the irony. Stupid people.

  4. What if the whole thing about North Korea having weapons of mass destruction is is all a show to put on? We need to come together and surprise attack and save the innocent North Koreans.

  5. I think south korea & the U.N & China should just compeletely sorround & buttrape north korea and take it over and south korea will just have its big korea.

  6. North Korea doesn't even have proper electrical supply or food to feed its you really think they can make nukes?

  7. I love the bitching people who whine about USA not doing something,yet they say nothing to China and Russia that support them,making it impossible for USA to do anything.
    Hell,I bet if USA would do something all of these hypocritical scum will probably return bashing it.
    USA does something:MONSTERS,TERRORISTS.
    USA does nothing:WHY WON'T YOU HELP,WHYYYY??

  8. Not trying to be a dick here but i don't believe everything she said, she've been in camp 18 since she was 14-30, she basically has little education and she's able to draw a map ? How ?

  9. 2:00…what are vice trying to cover up…you've got subtitles directly over subtiltes that are clearly saying something…hrmm.

  10. this is why we shouldn't make fun of north korea or communism. That seth rogen movie about kim jong il was not funny and and stupid and so are the 2 white guys who made it. Actual people are being tortured and executed, when was it ever okay to make that into comedic material.

  11. The only way the North Korean government controls there people is by putting the members of the same family is prison that try and escape, They offer anyone a chance to leave to south Korea and 95% of north Korea would be empty. And Poke…. The USA isn't afraid of China…

  12. i know how some of you feel when watching something like this… you feel like hating the north korean leader.. wanting him to suffer.. to die slowly and painfully. ooh the anger i feel… at the same time. please. please remember… Fire plus Fire makes more fire. Our world has enough of it.

  13. Look out Vice viewers, retarded inbred Brits are going to write stupid comments like they do on every Vice video. Go back to your island, ugly cunts.

  14. I knew conditions in North Korea were bad but I had no idea that it was so bad that many resorted to cannibalism, that's horrible. I don't even know what to say.

  15. what a strong beautiful inspiring woman.
    I deeply hope she finds peace and happiness in her life.
    best wishes and all love from the bottom of my heart.

  16. 2015, This still happens around the world. I wonder what could have been if more mass media coverage of these crimes was broadcasted.

  17. It infuriates me that North Korea get recognised as a State in the U.N despite the never ending list of fucked up things they do, but Palestine does not.

  18. What she says can't be backed by physical evidence. The horrible things she mentioned in the video are questionable before they are proven.

  19. How about we take NATO and anyone else who wants to join in, roll into North Korea blow that fat fuck's head off and if China tries to step in we'll wipe them out too.

  20. Guys we need to realise how fortunate we are we get almost what we want we have all the basic rights in this world that people from NK don't have. So please feel blessed😊

  21. North Korea is a million times worse than ISIS and they have nukes! How the hell did we allow a regime like that to develop nukes! God help those poor people

  22. +Luke marrone where were your troops that are worth a thousand of ours when the Germans were bombing Britain. they were hiding underground like little bitches. we have navy seals. the greatest soldiers on earth and look it up our military is the best in the world. sure in a scenario that we went to war with both Russia and China and no allies there's a very little chance we'd win but that would never happen. enjoy the fact that your overlords are a frail old woman and a tiny baby.

  23. Despite all the anti war people, this is the reason why war is some times the only option. Only war saved the Jews from the concentration camp. If it was not for the war, we would be looking at Nazi Germany knowing that they are killing millions of Jews and we would not have been able to do anything. Just like north Korea, we know what their doing but cant do anything about it.

  24. Bless her. What an awful life she's live and witnessed horror, but please dont make the mistake of going back ever. I think she is unable to be happy because her family has been killed, thats what they always do someone whose run aways family

  25. It's the duty of the rest of the world to liberate North Korea from this madness. Save people from ISIS in Middle east and Africa from disease, warlords and poverty.

  26. I wish you would have asked what it felt like moving to a country that was entirely different from what they believed? In other words, how did she transition from being brainwashed to, I guess, normalisation (if I can say)? How did she start critically thinking?

  27. the only thing that makes me curious about these defectors is if they have any scars from the beatings or barb wire fences that they cross. I heard that a defector's story lost credibility because she changed a lot of her story

  28. This provides perspective, all of my problems would be a dream come true for any one of them. We are so lucky to be so spoiled. Think of her next time you feel overwhelmed by life.

  29. Makes me happy and sad. Im feel glad for her that she escaped, and that she is still strong talking about it. But at the same time i feel sad that sick minds still do this to people and also, that i do not have a story to tell. This makes western civilization look like a spoiled child.

  30. We could easily overthrow the government, NK's Tech is 1950s level, their guns and ever their rockets are stuck in time.

  31. Hmm… i don't believe north korea can all day put the electric fence since they barely have any lights

  32. That little fat Korean kid ruler needs to go and north koreans need to be liberated. Getting rid of his joke of a regime and fighting al shabaab is some fighting i could support. Im all for kicking ass for human rights

  33. Lol people saying we need to stop this. WE like your lazy ass will get up and fight a fat rat with his henchmen. The only ones doing the fighting will be the military you keyboard warriors taalking aall this shit wouldn't dare start a rebellion like your in a star wars film cause youd definitly be killed along with 4 generations of your family.

  34. Some Americans : Christian
    Some Middle East people : Muslim
    Some Indians : Hindu
    Some Chinese : Buddhist
    North Korea : Kimnism

  35. These poor people being tortured and killed in North Korea; its simply horrific. The only thing that is worse is that these crimes are all committed while the rest of the world stands by and does absolutely NOTHING to stop it. The UN and others condemn it and denounce it with harsh language but these cruel inhuman acts of carnage continue at the hands of the North Korean dictatorship. Can you imagine a world where Nazi Germany was allowed to continue its concentration camps? Oh wait I can. Its over 70 years since WWII and nothing seems to have changed. The North Korean regime is begging to be taken down and the people of North Korea desperately need to be liberated.

  36. What a wonderful, brave lady! Thank you for sharing your story so that we can understand what is happening and why it must stop.

  37. I am highly disappointed in China for their lack of empathy. Escape North koreans usually go through China to get to south Korea but unfortunately, the Chinese would send them back to the North if caught.

  38. That smells misinformation. Several "deserters" say they were tricked by agents from the south! They say things are not what they seem, plus United States are the reason their country is so poor.

  39. I'd say that she would be one of the defectors that shares the honest truth on how North Korea is so FUCKED UP


  41. Sad that people have to live under living hell just because of a minority with crazy ideas…can't imagine what its like living there… no freedom of speech, religion, press… makes me think again about the things I took for granted

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