When I heard that two Current TV journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, were sentenced to 12 years hard labor in North Korea, the first thing that came to mind was the testimony of former prisoner Ms. Soon Ok Lee.
Soon Ok Lee was not spying or trespassing. By her own admission, she was a “normal gullible North Korean citizen, loyal to Leader and Party” who believed that “North Korea was a people’s paradise.” She had a good job for 14 years prior to her arrest in 1984.
During a 14-month investigation, Soon Ok Lee was tortured until she confessed to the false charge of embezzling state property. She was convicted in a kangaroo court and imprisoned.
She was released in 1992. Ten years later she recounted her ordeal before the US Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary. To say conditions at the North Korea prison were horrific would be an understatement.
There is more – much more – and I suggest you read the testimony for yourself. Soon Ok Lee’s account of life as a North Korean prisoner will leave you shaken and feeling helpless, but maybe that’s better than uninformed.
We live in a time of very high stakes. While it’s important not to demonize our enemies, it’s equally important not to idealize them.
[originally published by Politics Daily in 2009]