Cham Bumo Gyeong: Episode 179

Cham Bumo Gyeong
Book 7: True Parents’ Course of Suffering and Victory
Chapter 1: Suffering and Victory during the Japanese Occupation and in Communist North Korea
Section 3: Pyongyang and Hungnam, Paragraph 11-21

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11  In Hungnam, in the winter the temperature dropped to minus 23 degrees Celsius. Although I wore only thin, unlined clothes, still I did not think it was cold enough. The way I fought to overcome the cold was to think, "Let it get colder! Let it get colder! Let it get colder!" I had a pair of thick pants and a cotton-lined jacket, but I gave them to others and I worked wearing only unlined clothes. I always tried to find the most difficult work. Others tried to find the easiest work, but I went around looking for the most difficult jobs. I thought that if I could not overcome this, I would die. I had to have that kind of mind-set, otherwise how could I think that I would be able to subjugate the Communist Party or the fallen world?

12  If you look at my teeth, you will see that some are chipped. They chipped in prison when I used my teeth to make a needle. Needles were scarce in prison. Since we could not buy them, we had to make them. In the fertilizer plant, we used hooks to bind up the bags filled with fertilizer. We used those hooks to make needles. We had to gently beat the end of the hook thousands of times, not strongly but rather gently, until it eventually became flat. We used a piece of broken glass to cut off the barb of the flattened hook. Then we sharpened it. The needle hole should not be round, so we bit it strongly with our teeth to make the hole oval-shaped. Finally, we had to cut it, but since we did not have any tools, we used our teeth again. While I was doing that, my teeth chipped. Now when I look at my teeth, I recall my life in prison.

Once I made my needle, news about it began to circulate. Every Saturday, inmates came to me to borrow my needle. Then, sitting like a king on his throne, I would lend the needle to them, saying, "You, take this and go! You, take this and go!" Because I helped people like this, they greeted me as I went out for work in the morning. You too should be able to make a needle in such circumstances. I thought that my needle worked better than any other needle in the world, since I had made it with all my devotion.

13  There is no way for you to know what life is like in a communist prison. After the Soviet revolution, many Russians suffered doing forced labor. According to communist ideology, there should not be any bourgeoisie or reactionaries. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union wanted to kill all who opposed them, but they could not do so outright due to worldwide public opinion. Therefore, they mobilized people into forced heavy labor and waited until they died. The place I was imprisoned in North Korea was a forced labor camp. The communist Workers' Party of North Korea imitated the Soviet Union's practice of subjecting prisoners to forced labor and working them to death.

14  The strategy of the communist government was to force people to do heavy labor until they died. Almost all prisoners in Hungnam Prison died within three years. They were almost certain to die within that period. Without providing adequate food, they forced them to do heavy labor. Being sent to the camp was like a death sentence. In a normal situation, if people ate three good meals a day, then a group of ten would be able to fill 700 bags of fertilizer per day at best. But in the labor camp, we had to fill and carry almost twice that amount. The ration of food we were given was so small, it amounted to three big spoonfuls. Since we did heavy labor every day, we often staggered on the way to the factory after breakfast. Each morning I dragged my legs to the factory and started to work. It was unimaginably miserable.

15  There was a huge square in the ammonium sulfate fertilizer factory of Hungnam where I worked. After the white ammonium sulfate fertilizer was made, it was carried on a conveyer belt to the middle of a large open area, where the white fertilizer was dropped to the ground like a waterfall. It piled up to about 20 meters high. The fertilizer dropping from a high place like that wide conveyer belt was a magnificent sight, just like a waterfall. It had to drop down from a high place so it would cool, because if it were too hot, it would not harden properly.

The fertilizer piled up like a pyramid, and our job was to put it into bags. The fresh pile was soft, but once it had been there awhile and the crystals had melted from the heat, it became hard as stone, just like a mountain, and turned deep blue like an iceberg. We stood around that big pile, digging the fertilizer and putting it into bags. In that big square, there were about 800 to 900 people working. It was incredibly hard, like breaking a mountain in two.

16  I worked at heavy labor in the fertilizer factory at that North Korean communist prison for two years and five months. The fertilizer was carried in on a conveyer belt from the ammonium sulfate factory to the middle of a large open area, where the powder dropped from the belt to the ground. Our job was to put the fertilizer into sacks, weigh them on scales, and load them onto a freight train.

The ammonium sulfate manufacturing process produced heat, so the fertilizer that dropped from the conveyer belt was quite hot. As it formed a pile, it cooled and hardened. After a couple of years, it became like rock. It was such difficult labor. Every day we worked for eight hours, and each one of us had a responsibility. Ten people made one group, and each group was responsible for filling and loading 1,300 bags in eight hours. If we did not achieve our quota, our food ration would be cut in half.

17  The ammonium sulfate fertilizer factory where I worked was filled with sulfuric acid gas. The sulfuric acid ate into our flesh to the extent that if we squeezed our flesh, water would come out. This meant the cells were half dead. In such an environment, you could not endure without a strong mind. In that camp, even if you ate well, after three years your lungs would deteriorate and you would get lung disease. If you say you wouldn't, it would be a lie. That kind of sulfuric acid gas filled the factory. Therefore, after six months of working there, if you coughed you would see blood in your phlegm. That was typical.

In such conditions, despite the hard labor, you could survive if you offered devotions and maintained your physical health. However, the young inmates generally did not know this, so I guided them continually, based on my own experience.

18  My task at the fertilizer factory was to put the material into bags, weigh them on a scale, tie them shut, and load them onto freight trains. Our team set up a base where we started digging. We did not make it near the center of the pile, because people were constantly scooping out the material there. Rather, we set our work base about 10 to 15 meters from the edge of the pile and started working. After we loaded the bags onto the train, the train took them to the harbor, where they were loaded onto waiting Soviet ships.

Every day, several tens of thousands of tons were loaded, and the bags needed to be counted correctly. If we did not meet our quota, there would be a big problem. That is because it involved a diplomatic issue between the Soviet Union and North Korea. Therefore, no matter what, we had to meet our daily quota. If for some reason an inmate could not fulfill his portion, he would be demoted to a second rank and sent to a place where the prisoners had to make sacks with straws; they received only half their food ration. If he failed again, he would be demoted to a third rank and sent to braid ropes out of straw, and with this task, his ration of food would be reduced to only one-third. When that happened, it was like a death sentence.

Ultimately, the reason the prisoners went out to work, mustering all their energy, was to get one whole ration of food. When they came back in the evening, their greatest hope was to receive the same portion of food as the others. But when they received only one-half or one-third of a portion, their spirits were crushed. Being desperate for food, they had no choice but to work until they died.

19  Even when I suffered from malaria in prison, I did not pray for help. Rather, I fasted and thought, "Let's see what will happen." There was no medicine for the malaria, and I was sick for 24 days, but I still managed to do my portion of the work. In the morning when we came out of our cells, the guards would gather us into the yard for inspection. They would check our bodies thoroughly for any contraband. This took one to two hours. The work started at 9:00 a.m., and we had to walk four kilometers to the work site, which took about an hour to an hour and 20 minutes. Including eating breakfast, it took more than two hours. So in order to get to the job site by 9:00 a.m., we had to get up at 4:30 a.m. When I was sitting in the yard, sick with malaria, my head was spinning round and round, and I could not stand by myself. I had to grab on to the shoulder of the person beside me to stand up. Even at the work site, I did not work by my own power.

North Korean Labor Camp

The inmates received only a small quantity of boiled grains and salty soup. The grains were not sticky, but even if lumped together they would amount to only three spoonfuls. Despite that small ration, even if an inmate was sick he would force himself to go out to the work site, for if he did not, his ration would be cut in half. Hungnam Prison pushed people beyond all human limitations. People were so famished that if someone died while eating, others would rush to scrape the grains of food from the dead man's mouth. Even in such a place, during the first two weeks True Father shared half of his meal ration with his fellow inmates.

20  In prison, I did not talk because I knew how the communist system worked. My most difficult time was listening to propaganda speeches and writing reflections on them. The prison guards were always focused on me, trying to find any condition, they could to accuse me. The communists put a spy in my cell to check on me. That was why I did not say a word. It was very easy for the guards to turn an inmate into an informant by giving him more food. In the communist world, they control people with food. I guess you may have had experiences where you bit down on a stone in the rice and spit it out. But in Hungnam, when people spit out stones, others picked them up and sucked them. People were starving to that degree. It went on and on like this.

21  I cannot forget the days from December 17 to 21, 1949. At that time, the people who entered prison were usually given boiled corn, oatmeal mixed with other grains, and leftover ground beans. Because they could not kill us, they fed us poorly. But during that period, we were given half-ground buckwheat. That was what we got as a meal. When I ate it for the first time, my body became bloated. You will swell up if you eat only buckwheat. Those prisoners who were obsessed with hunger ate greedily without thinking of their stomachs. They did not care about their stomachs because they were so hungry. Being hungry, and the buckwheat being difficult to chew, they just swallowed it and got sick.

I already understood that potential problem, so I ate three times slower than usual. I husked each grain of buckwheat and chewed it well. Others just ate quickly, and since they could not digest the food, their faces became swollen. I figured out that I needed to salivate more than twice as much as usual and chew the grains very well. I will never forget those days, when I husked and ate buckwheat one grain at a time. All the while, while eating such food, we continued our heavy labor. I realized at that time how precious food is. I realized that even one grain of rice is priceless. Even now, whenever I sit down at the dinner table, I am reminded of that time.

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