Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Aquariums of Pyongyang

I got The Aquariums of Pyongyang the other day. It is the eye-opening story of a nine-year-old boy who was sent, along with his father, grandmother, uncle, and seven-year-old sister, to one of the North Korean concentration camps. Their "crime"? The grandfather had been marked as a political enemy, which condemned the entire family (save the mother) to ten years in the gulag for "reeducation." It is nearly impossible for us to imagine life in the hellhole he describes, and what is even more astonishing is that the particular camp that he and his family were sent to wasn't even considered one of the hard labor camps. Imagine being brutally kicked and beaten for the merest infraction of the rules. Imagine being so hungry that you would literally eat anything that moved - centipedes, earthworms, salamanders, rats, frogs. Imagine working outside in single-digit (or colder) temperatures dressed in nothing but rags. Imagine cleaning out a latrine by hand. Imagine digging mass graves for the hundreds that didn't make it through the winter. Imagine plowing a field with rudimentary tools, and discovering rotting corpses in the overturned earth. Imagine that despite the horror of these conditions, there are other camps that are far more hellish.

The book is a very compelling read, and although I didn't intend to, I ended up reading the entire book from cover to cover in one day; it sounds like a cliche, but I really didn't want to put the book down. It should be required reading by anyone who thinks that man is basically good, or thinks that the efforts of man (i.e. socialism, fascism, communism) can create paradise on earth. It should be read by anyone who thinks that they can cozy up to a totalitarian regime and not get burned because they're somehow special or will be protected. (Liberals: You would do well to remember this about Islam.)

Listen: Whenever one of these despots gets into power, the first ones to be purged are always those who were unquestioningly faithful to the man and the principles - and the purge doesn't stop there.

Like excrement, a purge starts at the top and runs downhill, sparing no one.

May God have mercy and depose the tyrant of Pyongyang. May He bring freedom and righteousness to that tortured nation.

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