Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Real Hunger Games

The movie,"Hunger Games" has been no. 1 at the box office for three weeks now. Suzanne Collins created a work of fiction but this post is about the real hunger games going on in North Korea, and there are uncanny similarities. 

North Korea is isolated and hungry, bankrupt and belligerent. It is also armed with nuclear weapons. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people are being held in its political prison camps, which have existed twice as long as Stalin's Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. Very few born and raised in these camps have escaped. But Shin Dong-hyuk did.
Author Blaine Harden

In Escape from Camp 14, acclaimed journalist Blaine Harden tells the story of Shin Dong-hyuk and through the lens of Shin's life unlocks the secrets of the world's most repressive totalitarian state. 

Shin was born inside Camp 14, a camp that holds political prisoners and it is a `no exit' camp; all of the sentences are life. Those in the camps have no rights and in many respects have already had a death sentence passed on them.

Melanie Kirkpatrick in her excellent Wall Street Journal review of Escape from Camp 14 writes: 
"Prisons in North Korea are known for starvation-level rations, backbreaking work and brutal treatment. But unlike most prisoners, who, if they survive, at least have the possibility of release, everyone at Camp 14 is serving a life sentence. The camp ranks as a "total control zone," where prisoners are deemed "irredeemable."
 For children at Camp 14, schooling consisted mainly of memorizing the camp's 10 rules. Rule No. 3: "Anyone who steals or conceals foodstuffs will be shot immediately." When Mr. Shin was in the first grade, his teacher discovered five kernels of corn in a classmate's pocket. The girl was required to kneel down in front of the class. Mr. Shin and his classmates watched as their teacher beat her to death. She was 6 years old.
Shin Dong-hyuk
At 14, he was forced to witness two other executions: those of his mother and brother. They had been arrested for violating Rule No. 1: "Do not try to escape." His mother was hanged, and his brother was shot. The only emotion Mr. Shin felt was anger. He blamed them for his interrogation and torture after their arrests. Guards bound his hands and feet, hoisted him into the air by means of a hook pierced into his abdomen and dangled him over an open fire. 
His escape from Camp 14—in 2005, when he was 22—came about because of a chance encounter with a new inmate, a man who had held a high-ranking government position. The two men shared a desperation to get out of the camp, whatever the risk, and plotted to reach China, a country Mr. Shin had never heard of but one where his friend had relatives.
His friend, though, was killed during their escape over the electric fence that surrounded the camp; Mr. Shin crawled over his corpse to freedom. Thanks to luck as well as to skills he had honed at Camp 14—stealing, lying and fighting—he managed to travel to the border and cross into China by himself. In that country, he was helped by ethnic Koreans, local Christians and, eventually, a South Korean journalist who escorted him to the South Korean consulate in Shanghai.
Shin Dong-hyuk
I have yet to read this book, but it's on my list of must reads. We have so much to be thankful for, and this book is a reminder that there are more important things going on in this world than worrying about the possibility that your Oreos might contain transfats or arguing about whether-or-not McDonald's meals are healthy. In North Korea, they dream of meat and they die fighting over a few kernels of corn.

I am told that if you watch Google Maps and see the night images of North Korea, it looks like a black hole--it's so dark because they can't make enough electricity.
One person reviewing the book writes: "The worst day you've ever had, will likely pale in comparison to a normal day in the life of this guy."
If you believe in the power of prayer, please join me in praying for Shin Dong-hyuk. Pray that Christians in So. Korea will reach out to him and help him to know the love of God. Pray that Shin would get to know the good news that he was created in the image of God and that God would bring him emotional healing as well as restoration to wholeness, that he would truly experience the "shalom" peace that Our God offers.

Also, join me in praying for the North Korean people, especially those in the prisons. Pray that the God of Mercy and Comfort would make himself known to them in dreams and visions. Pray that our Omnipotent God who is our Deliverer--that He would deliver these people from darkness and despair. Pray that the stronghold of this evil regime would be broken by the power of El-Shaddai, the Almighty God.
I'm confident that as you wait on the Lord in prayer, He will give you wisdom and insight as to what and how you should pray for the people of North Korea. 

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