Saturday, January 17, 2015

Taem Kim

My name is Taem Kim; I’ve been given the great honor of paper and pencil to write of my life. This honor has been blessed on me by the Sergeant of the guard Liu Kim. I wish to honor him; he is a great man. I have been sentenced to death by firing squad for my crimes against the State and I must hurry to get my writings down.

I was born October 23rd 1983 in cell block Six, Camp 9 by my mother who was a political prisoner of the DPRK. She and my father were kidnapped on June 16th 1983 along the western edge of Seoul, South Korea. My mother and father both were outspoken political writers against the the Kim dynasty of the North. I was told that they were returning from a speaking engagement and were stopped on a remote road by commandos of the North and taken over the border and imprisoned. Neither my Mother nor Father were given a trial; they were separated from that moment on.

My Mother was given to the Captain of the Guard shortly after arriving at Camp 9 as a wife/mistress as she was a beautiful woman. She was allowed to come to full term; a great honor given her by the Captain. I was taken from her at the moment of birth and only saw her once at my Fathers execution.

My first memory as a small child was being taken to the women’s side of the prison and forced into a small dirty cell with a woman that I was told was my mother; I was six or seven. I had no recollection of this woman as I had been taken away at birth. We spend one full day and night eating and sleeping together before being awaken early and marched to the execution yard. We were roughly shoved to the front of the execution yard between hundreds of prisoners ordered there to watch the Public Executions of the day. We were halted directly in front of a post that had been pounded into the ground and stood about six feet high; it was numbered 21 in a long line of identical posts running in both directions. It was covered in layers of old dried blood and was pocked with bullet holes. A small sickly tattered man with ripped rotten clothing was tied to the post by three Uniformed Guards; a torn label that read AO1271 was crudely sown to the right upper chest area of his shirt. He had horrible scars covering his arms that looked like thick twisted ropes Kris crossing both arms and running from wrist to upper arm and over both shoulders. Through his torn shirt I could see his chest was also covered in scars. Lesser new cuts and welts filled in the crevasses between the deep old scars on his arms and face, his head hung to his chest as they finished tying him; one guard turned and walked directly to my Mother and I. He asked if we had any words for the Prisoner. I remember looking up at my Mother and seeing a single tear running down her face; she said no. We were both grabbed and pushed backwards several yards.

He did not raise his head or show any indication that he understood his crimes during the reading of his sentence.

I jumped as the bark of the automatic rifles spit their death.

Directly after the ceremony I was taken back to the men’s side of Camp 9 and placed in isolation. I was beaten for four days before the Captain of the Guard released me to the infirmary.

I was moved back to my cell block after two weeks of healing from the beatings. There was a man in the infirmary with horrible wounds from beatings and torture; he was tied as I was and rode along with me in the bed of the truck to my block. The Sergeant of the guard Liu Kim met us at the gate. He ordered me to tend to the prisoners wounds; he explained my life was tied to the life of the new prisoner and if he died, I’d die too. I washed and tended to his wounds every minute of the day and night. Five weeks passed before he showed signs of recovery; he was very fat and of little fitness. He wished daily to die and be released from his torment.

At nine weeks my blessed Captain released me from my duties of the fat prisoner and he was taken away; I was returned to my work unit very fit after so much time at rest. I have not seen the unfit prisoner since.

We have a new prisoner in our unit; he’s fair of skin and of Political stature; we’ve been warned to treat him with respect. He’s been bunked along side of me and he speaks treasonous thoughts in the early hours of the night when no one but I can hear him. He speaks of great wealth and unlimited food; my stomach aches from his words. He says that food and wealth is unlimited for a hard worker outside of the prison and South of the DMZ in South Korea, just miles away from the wire of our Camp; no more than sixty miles from where we now lay.

I dream of such comforts.

I’ve been assigned to Southern wire cleaning and conditioning along with Dong Kim our soft political prisoner. Our jobs are to pull weeds and clear brush along the electrified wire. We with ten other prisoners cut and hoe everything back twenty feet from the wire to dust. Our group is charged with cleaning along fifty miles of the border fence that separates North and South Korea. We’ve been on this duty for three weeks as of this coming week. Kim continues to talk of escape in the early hours of the night and I fear of detection. I’ve decided to attempt to escape on our next one week posting to cleansing the wire, then flee South with comrade Kim.

On the night of the sixth there is little moon and we slip from our cell block and clear the parade yard without being seen. I’m surprised how few guards there are patrolling the prison; the guard’s houses are dark and the dogs are quiet. The night is warm and a slight breeze blows directly south; I dream as we walk of a full stomach and soft living.

The border fence appears out of the darkness and we stand just feet from it looking at its height and double wire. I’ve never looked directly at the border fence before as it is forbidden by the guards to even sneak a look while clearing debris during our work days; doing so warrants a swift beating and removal from the clearing team, soft easy work compared to others. There are innumerable electrical insulators with heavy wire crossing the face of the fence running taunt between the posts no more than a few inches between wires. Barbed wire covers the back of the fence facing the southern side its barbs each a full twenty centimeters long and razor sharp; fence top woven with feet deep of twisted concertina wire and cement post tops embedded with broken glass. A shudder runs through my body; Dong Kim picks up a small branch from where we cleaned the brambles two days earlier and touches an electrified wire. A loud snap and the branch erupt into fire and we both jump back; my bowels loosen. Electricity I know nothing of; it’s magic that I can’t comprehend.

“We must dig under.” Dong whispers quietly, he waves me to join him at a small natural dip in the ground. I grab a section of tree bark using it as a hoe pulling sand from under the lowest wire. I’m careful and handle only the farthest centimeters of bark keeping as far away from the wire as I’m able. I’m covered in nervous sweat before even the first telling of effort enters my arms and chest.

Dong Kim grabs my arm hard; his eyes barely visible in the dark are wide and scared. He nods his head towards the east; I hear it now also. A patrol is nearing where we are working. Our labor has only opened a hollow in the ground under the wire barely large enough to tightly squeeze under and shallower on the south side.

“Wish me luck!” Dong pushes me back and dives for the hollow. I fall on my butt and watch as he flattens himself and wiggles under the fence. His feet kick sand in the air and he pushes sand to the side as though he is swimming in sandy water.

The flash is blinding and a deafening snap hits my ears; my eyes adjust to the glare of the sun from the guards flashlights as a rifle butt impacts my forehead.

I now remember the stink of burning clothing and searing flesh; I sit tied tightly in isolation awaiting my next interrogation and torture. I hope for a quick death; my thoughts return to visions of warm food and soft blankets; my head lies softly on pillows as I drift gently to sleep.

Keys sound in locks; my time has come. I will dream of ample food and soft living as the click of safeties announces my ending; I taste sweet warm meat gravy….

From the Ramblings


1 comment:

  1. An unnerving glimpse into tyranny. You really captured the cringe-worthy aspect with the way honor and despair go hand in hand for this person.