We see in the news, the occasional updates of North Korea when there is something sensational/worth covering, such as the recent murder or assassination of Kim Jong-un’s older half-brother Kim Jong-nam, or when he ordered the execution of his uncle. And because how these issues are usually sensationalised by the media, we often forget the bigger picture that beyond these sporadic events, there lies a pressing, enduring issue of North Korean citizens being oppressed day by day.
Autobiographies and accounts by survivors help us keep things in perspective, and while no one likes to be reminded of depressing, unhappy events, it is important to know them. To ignore or dismiss that these events ever happened, is one of the greatest indignities that human beings can inflict on each other.
The preface by Robert McAfee Brown, in Night by Elie Wiesel, puts into words the importance of remembering such events rather nicely: “Among the few who survived the onslaught of that formidable shadow turned substance, was Elie Wiesel, whose deliverance condemned him to tell his story to an unbelieving and uncaring world. But because of his telling, many who did not believe have come to believe, and some who did not care have come to care. He tells the story, out of infinite pain, partly to honour the dead, but also to warn the living – to warn the living that it could happen again and that it must never happen again. Better that one heart be broken a thousand times in the retelling, he has decided, if it means that a thousand other hearts ned not be broken at all.”
Let us not so quickly dismiss the accounts/testimonies of these North Korean defectors. Let us find it in ourselves to believe and care for them, and to open our doors if need be. Just because they live on the other side of the world with their own unique set of issues, does not make them any less important or valuable. We do not know how long the Korean unification will take, but let us not forget our fellow brothers and sisters in North Korea. And whatever may come or whatever it may take, let us journey with them until the very end.