Call Them Concentration Camps

I’m partaking in an example of supreme 21st century decadence and reading an ebook on my cellphone while walking around on a mossy grassy lawn barefoot. The book is Escape From Camp 14, only the third book I’ve read about North Korea but, like the rest (The Cleanest Race and The Aquariums Of Pyongyang), nearly impossible to put down, except when there is blogging to be done.

This is a brand new book, completely up-to-date, and all about a man who was born into a North Korean concentration camp—usually but not always referred to as gulag or prison in English, the North Koreans call them Kwaliso, or what I think translates to Management Stations—and who somehow managed to escape.

Although these Management Stations are not gassing people by the millions, as the Nazis were, plenty of people are still dying there, and while the resemblance of these places may indeed by closer to Soviet gulags, there is still a certain charm to that Russian word—since Russia is the land of gorgeous onion domes stacked on top of one another like wedding cakes, vodka in the cold winters, beautiful women, charming accents, intellectuals, brilliant writers and composers, the only military that poses even a remote threat to America’s, and wailing choral music that must be played on a movie’s soundtrack whenever that movie’s characters visit Moscow. They never go to St. Petersburg, because most Americans probably wouldn’t recognize the frozen canals. It’s not to say that gulags weren’t awful, but there’s a lot of positive cultural baggage riding behind Russian words that have entered into the English language. Even though they were our worst enemies for decades, we still beat them, and as with Japan, Germany, and even Vietnam, Americans are usually quite fond of the nations they have defeated in the contest for world domination, so long as they know their place.

Prison is too generic, but concentration camp is pure evil, and I wish more news sources would use this term when describing North Korea, as this kind of rhetoric might help to galvanize a movement to free that nation’s people. As the author of this book writes, people today debate why FDR never bombed the railroads leading to Hitler’s concentration camps, and in the future, after North Korea falls, if North Korea ever falls, people will wonder why we never did anything about it (though the answer is obvious: they have no oil, and the cost to the world economy (a flattened Seoul) would probably be felt for decades).

Anyway, I was walking around outside in this peaceful beautiful place I used to live in, and a part came up in the book (which is inevitable in any book, practically any mention, of North Korea), where the author speculates about when the government is going to fall (like the rapture, it could happen five minutes from now), and I briefly felt a faint surge of fear, because life for me would probably become far more interesting than it already is if that were to occur, to say the least, but then I looked up at the windy sunlit trees and remembered that I was in America, on the other side of the planet, in a town where it’s not completely necessary to lock your doors, and then another inevitable event occurred: I began to think of not going back.

The last time I seriously considered doing so was in Chiang Mai, some time ago; the only thing that stopped me was the fact that I had left my computer in my apartment in Busan. This time I brought my computer with me.

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4 thoughts on “Call Them Concentration Camps

  1. Ollie says:

    You’re a fucking idiot. You advocate a war that would kill millions in an attempt to free thousands. Do you really the “flattening of Seoul” a city of some 27 million people is really only an economic issues. Moron.

  2. hiddenconnections says:

    I see where you’re coming from, even though your mind isn’t quite subtle enough to understand that I was speaking from the perspective of those who usually choose to fight wars of liberation, and not from my own (because I obviously care much more about the health of the world economy than the lives of twenty million people), but your main problem is that you are an asshole, and your parents did a terrible job of raising you, because you seem to think that the anonymity of the internet gives you the freedom to act cruelly and idiotically without the usual consequences you would face if you were to act this way in the real world—i.e., a slap on the back of the head. But rest assured, Ollie, Christ will repay.

  3. Jennifer says:

    I hope you come back. But, dude, Ian, you gotta learn to take comments on your blog less to heart. Maybe you should moderate them before they’re published. Keep updating! Love, Jen

  4. hiddenconnections says:

    Usually I try not to be mean, online or offline, but the idiocy of random commenters gives me the opportunity to exercise a particular muscle that I usually suppress. How should I have responded to him? I don’t like people who simply delete comments that are clearly distasteful, because even the dumbest assholes are still entitled to their dumb asshole opinions.

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