Eyes of the Tailless Animals: Prison Memoirs of a North Korean Woman (ê¼¬ë¦¬ ìë" ì§ì¹ë"¤ì ëë¹) recounts the experiences of former North Korean political prison survivor and refugee Soon Ok Lee (ì´ìì¥). The title acknowledges the author's view that she and other prisoners were treated like animals.
Lee was at one point a senior member of the Korean Worker's Party in her home province of North Hamgyong, but was later detained on false charges. For more than a year she was tortured in a prison until she at last confessed. She was then tried, convicted, and transferred to Kaechon reeducation camp to serve a 13-year term.
Upon entering the prison, Lee was told she must forget she was even human if she were to survive. The memoirs graphically detail torture and human rights abuses during her incarceration; levels which are corroborated by Kang Chol-Hwan.
In 1992, after five years in the Kaechon prison, Lee was released. She was unable to find her husband, but with her son she took the commonest route to South Korea. She clandestinely walked across the frozen Tumen River on the North Korean-Chinese border, and was considered an illegal immigrant. Chinese policy is to deport illegal entrants back to North Korea, where they are usually imprisoned for leaving the country without a rarely given passport. Lee records she travelled to South Korea (a democratic society with a respectable human rights record) where defectors are cautiously welcomed. Since obtaining residence in South Korea, she has largely worked to raise awareness about the Kim regime, particularly in respect of freedom of religion.
Leeâs story was published in South Korea in 1996 in the original Korean. Whilst a Korean speaker indigenous to Pyongyang sounds antiquated in Seoul (without anglicisms and a romanization system from 1937, instead of 2000), the two dialects are mutually intelligible. Her story was subsequently translated into English and published in the United States in 1999. Lee has also testified about the North Korean human rights situation before the United States Congress, and advocated the case of Christians in North Korea, who receive especially vicious treatment. Unlike Buddhism, for example, Christianity did not originate in the region and there are a high proportion of Protestants in the dictatorship's chief enemy, South Korea.
Since its publication, the DPRK has ranked first in the Open Doors Worldwatch List, which ranks countries by their discrimination against the Christian faith.
First hand accounts of Pyongyang's justice system are rareÂ â" for example, only one prisoner is known to have both escaped a maximum security concentration camp and defected to South Korea. Another account is Kang Chol-hwan and Pierre Rigoulotâs The Aquariums of Pyongyang. An abbreviated version of Lee's story, based on her testimony to the US Congress, appeared in the 2002 edition of Harperâs Magazine.
- Human rights in North Korea
- Kaechon concentration camp
- Lee, Soon Ok. Eyes of the Tailless Animals: Prison Memoirs of a North Korean Woman. Living Sacrifice Book Co, 1999, ISBN 978-0-88264-335-9
- Made in North Korea. Harper's Magazine; Nov2002, Vol. 305 Issue 1830, p20, 3p
- Soon Ok Lee's testimony to the US Senate Judiciary Committee
- "A survivor: Soon Ok Lee," MSNBC