At a point in our lives, we all have seen on our television screens the aftermath of a natural disaster, like a tsunami or an earthquake. But sadly these are not the worst kind of disasters, simply because there was nothing that anyone could have done to prevent them.
The more atrocious kind is the ones carried out by mankind, like terrorist attacks, bombings, and even vicious massacres and genocides. Each and every country has been struck by a disaster at some point in time, others more and others less, some recover and some do not.
One such country is Korea, which after the second world war, was divided into a South and a North part respectively. Both countries have suffered from multiple wars and environmental destruction but managed to get back on their feet. As of now, North Korea seems to be winning the competition due to having Kim Jong-un as their nation’s leader, because let’s face it, this has to be a disaster on its own.
The national leader may be a bit, emphasis on the “bit”, capricious and sometimes overly critical but he must be doing something right, as he is basically worshipped like his ancestors once were. Though both civilians and political figures have something in common, they are all hard working people and that can be seen by the fast rate they recover from said disasters.
Today we take a look at the 15 worst tragedies to happen to North Korea.
15. The Korean War
The Cold War sculpted the world in many ways as we know it today. One of the outcomes was the division of Korea, that after the conflicts between the US and the Soviet Union, was split into two distinct regions, each with its own government. Both regions supported their government to be the rightful choice and were not accepting a permanent border. So after that, the North part proceeded to the invasion of South Korea, and that was the starting point of the so called Korean War.
Many conflicts took place in the three years the war lasted and both sides suffered gigantic losses. Western sources estimate that approximately six hundred thousand people lost their lives and eight hundred thousand were wounded. On the other hand, data from official Chinese sources state that the casualties of South Korea and the US were by far more than the North Korea ones. One thing is for certain, over 1.2 million people, including both army and civilians, lost their lives during the Korean War.
14. The North Korean Famine
The famine that North Korea faced occurred in 1993 to 1998. It was compiled by a plethora of elements, including for the most part floods and some times droughts, accompanied from the Soviet Union stopping their support to the nation. The status was so critical that Seo Gwan Hee, at the time Minister of Agriculture for North Korea’s government, was even believed to be a spy for the US government and purposely sabotaging the crop field. He he was eventually killed in public.
At the same time, all the countries that used to provide food aid to North Korea started to give less every year that passed during 1993 to 1998. The public distribution system of the food had to be altered every now and then in order for the nation to be able to give equal rations to everybody. Due to this, more and more people started to die from starvation. By the end of the famine in 1998, an amount of 600,000 to 1 million deaths was measured, that was 3 to 5 percent of the pre-crisis population.
13. The Onsong Concentration Camp
The Onsong concentration camp was operated as a place where political prisoners would go after being captured. It is said that it housed almost 15,000 inmates. To the locals, it had another name, Kwalliso (penal labor colony) No12.
Information about the camp is sparse, but according to the testimony given by a guard of a similar camp and a resident of the nearby region, a riot started when a prisoner beat a guard to death because he couldn’t take the torture anymore. Then 200 others joined him and they took out another guard. At the height of the riot, the horde was compiled of 5000 prisoners.
Joined by forces from a second camp, guards proceeded to kill the rioters. Even though the government said all of them were killed, it is said that only a third of them died. Two years later the prisoners were moved to the Hoeryong concentration camp as the Onsong one was shut down due to its close to proximity to the border of China.
12. The Hoeryong Concentration Camp
The Hoeryong concentration camp, better known as Kwalliso No22, was no joke. It was a maximum security prison completely isolated from the outside world. Not only the prisoners but their whole families had to be put in the camp, where they would have their human rights taken away and were constantly submitted to routine torture, forced labor, and medical experiments.
In the 1990s the population of the camp consisted of 50,000 prisoners, 1,000 guards and about 500 to 600 administrative agents. Every prisoner had to work in order to get his meal rations, even children and the elderly. If someone got ill, he was put to quarantine and left to die.
The worst part of living in the camp was the inhuman tortures. The torture with water and the torture of kneeling were the worst ones. If put to the water torture the prisoner had to balance himself on his or her toes while being in a tank filled with water to the brim for a whole day. In the case he gave up he would simply drown. If put to the torture of kneeling the prisoner had to kneel down while a piece of wood, most times a wooden bar, would be embedded close to his or her knee hollows in order to stop the blood’s circulation. After a few days have passed, the prisoner couldn’t walk and many, after a while, would even die.
11. The Ryongchŏn disaster
On April 22, 2004, in the town of Ryongchŏn, the train station went up in flames due to an explosion of flammable cargo. The government quickly declared a state of emergency and neither foreign or the country’s own media were allowed on the scene.
The sole agency allowed to help was the Red Cross. In their official statement, 160 people were killed and another 1,300 were injured. The next day the number grow by 54 and 1,249 respectively. The Red Cross also reported that 1,850 building and houses had been destroyed and another 6,350 damaged. This all happened possibly as a result of the airborne debris.
The accident’s cause and nature were reported with a variety of ways by the media. In the beginning, the reports said that two trains carrying gasoline and liquefied petroleum gas collided. Later another report stated that there was a leak of ammonium nitrate, a flammable substance used in some explosives.
10. Kim Jong-Il’s Death
Kim Jong-Il was the supreme leader of North Korea from 1994 to 2011 at the age of 70. He died from a massive heart attack while traveling by train, but his death wasn’t announced publicly by the media until 51 hours after it occurred. According to the press, the heart attack was caused by his rage over construction faults at a crucial power plant project.
However, the head of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service said that the surveillance footage revealed Kim’s personal train wasn’t moved the day of the leader’s death, leading to conspiracy theories.
During the 3 hour funeral and 25-mile drive of the limousine carrying the casket draped by the Korean Worker’s Party flag, the skies were pouring snow, which newscasters described as “heaven’s tears”. Soldiers could be seen pounding their chest and calling out “Father, Father” and millions of people across the nation were mourning for hours.
9. Forced Prostitution
Even though prostitution is considered illegal in North Korea and the government supports that it doesn’t exist, it is still practiced in a discreet way. Prostitutes consist of teams called manjokcho (or known as “satisfaction teams”). They consist of girls drafted from the party of kippŭmjo and are 14-20 years old, all virgins, who are trained for 20 months or so before they “hit the market”. Even if a girl is a daughter of a Korean official she cannot refuse if asked to join the party.
Not all citizen have access to their services, they are allowed to have sexual intercourse with an official from high-ranking parties only. A part of them, instead of prostitution, can become massagers or half-naked singers and dancers.
8. Forced Labor
In North Korea, it is not unusual for someone to be forced into labor. Many political prisoners and tourist, as normal civilians, are victims to this unfortunate luck. They are forced to work, sometimes without even getting paid for their troubles, in factories or sold like a piece of meat for human trafficking and slavery.
Another department is the mining industry were thousand of workers are put to. Keep in mind that a big percentage of North Koreas economy is based on ore exportation.
Generally, small children are abided to work in slavery and forced labor, most of them coming from the so called Kwalliso, a.k.a. concentration camps. Furthermore, there is also an export of people who are used to work in slavery. According to surveys, North Korea performs $975 million worth of forced labor each year that passes. So next time you complain about being tired from working remember that at least you have the choice to go to work and you are not forced to do it.
7. Typhoon Ewiniar
Like any other Eastern country, North Korea has been a victim of Typhoons and floods over the last decades. One of the harshest ones that hit multiple countries was Typhoon Ewiniar also known in the Philippines as Typhoon Ester, over his lifespan he had hit part of China, Japan and both North and South Korea, as well as some other small countries.
In 2006 it completely isolated big part of North Korea as it killed up to 10,000 people by floodings it created and 4,000 people were missing. The amount of money needed to restore the damages that were made was at the height of tens of millions of dollars.
Although, as always North Korea’s media kept the number of damages in secrecy, an unofficial report states that Typhoon Ewiniar left 60,000 villagers homeless. Causing a disaster of “biblical proportions” as it was described, as many as 54,700 people were killed mainly by landslides created by the typhoon.
6. Forced Abortion
On top of all the prostitution, human trafficking and slavery that goes on daily in North Korea, women have to take even more pressure from the society. First of all, it is considered illegal for a North Korean woman to have any kind of romantic relationship with someone of different origin.
Secondly, if impregnated by someone from any other country than North Korea, the woman will be forced to abortion. There is also a law that states every couple can have a specific number of kids and if the woman is pregnant, once again there will be an abortion.
Any woman who doesn’t comply with these laws will be urged to imprisonment or police detention. This is also the reason why North Koreas population is steadily increased by a specific increment over the last decade. So remember if you want to visit North Korea do not take the risk to make love to a local woman under any circumstances.
5. Human Experimentation
It is widely known that the Nazis have been conducting experiments of every kind on humans, especially Jews, during the Holocaust in World War II. These were no simple experiments. Instead, they were gassed to death and all kinds of torturing devices were tested on them.
The same is happening nowadays in North Korea mainly on political prisoners and criminals. Imagine no boundaries whatsoever. Ranging from heavy medical procedures without anesthesia to testing of deadly chemical weapons.
Sometimes the prisoners would be studied by young doctors to check their physical resistance by starving them to death. These and much more inhumane things are submitted to prisoners every day in North Korea without showing any sign of mercy.
An example of a deadly experiment reported by a former guard is that poisoned cabbage leaves had been given to 50 women and they were made to eat them or there would be deadly consequences both for them and their families. After 20 minutes of agonizing pain, spitting blood and anal bleeding all of the women had died.
4. Prohibition of Religion
In the majority of countries across the world, religion is something that almost each and every one of us is taking for granted, meaning the ability to practice it. Either you are Christian, Muslim or an Atheist society is eager to accept you as an equal member.
In North Korea, things aren’t that simple, unfortunately. Most of the population believes in Buddhism and Confucianism, but there is also a minority of Christians. Allegedly, there are rumors based on strong facts that 50,000-70,000 Christians are held captive in various prisons and concentration camps.
On top of all that, Kim Jong-un and many of his precedents, along with their teams, constantly put press to the public to worship their political leader as a God. If you publicly admit that you don’t love the leader of the nation, even though not actually illegal, you could go to jail or even get executed publicly by the army or police forces. This mainly happens because the Kim dynasty has the habit of ruling like dictators, rather than democratic superiors.
3. 2006 North Korean Floods
As it seems North Korea’s luck isn’t the best out there as they have been struck by multiple environmental disasters, mostly over the last decades. After the famine, the multiple droughts and floods that the nation had to cope with in the 1990s, fate had another card up its sleeve left to play.
In 2006 a vast number of floods hit North Korea, resulting in thousand of people losing their homes and fields as well as their lives. According to the legitimate authorities, there were about 3,000 injuries and about 54,700 deaths and missing people.
The floods also hit South Korea damaging multiple properties and having a deadly outcome there too. The damage cost was in the amount of tens of millions and proved utterly destructive for both of Korea’s nations. Let’s hope that the disasters will stop and that people will not have to see their houses and cities get destroyed and families getting killed, once more.
2. The Sinchon Massacre
Probably the worst thing to ever happen to the people of North Korea was the mass murder of civilians in the city of Sinchon. The North Koreans believe the residents of that town have been murdered primarily by South Korean military forces under allowance from the U.S. military.
The event took place during the second phase of the Korean war, when (according to North Korea) the American military forces killed about 35,000 citizens of Sinchon in the course of 52 days. That amount was about one-quarter of Sinchon’s population at the time.
There are also plenty of statements that the Americans had beheaded 300 civilians give or take using Japanese Samurai swords. The Air Force also used bacteriological warfare in Korea resulting in plenty of casualties for the Koreans.
One thing is for certain, North Koreans certainly know how to work hard and get back on their feet in no time and that can be shown from the fast rate of development in their technological industry and army training and welfare.
1. The Division Of Korea
The division of Korea’s nation to two separate nations was devastating for most of the population because many things would have to change. Including laws, political parties and members, as well as many families that would have to choose in which nation they would reside an leave the other behind them.
This all happened as a result of World War II in 1945. Until then the whole of Korea was ruled by the Japanese from 1910, but the victory of the Allied forced drove to the division of the Nation. One-half, the north had support from the Chinese and the other half, the south, had supported from the UN.
Both parts thought their government to be the better one, as we already explained previously and that resulted in the outbreak of the so called Korean War, which left hundreds of thousands of both army and unarmed people and their families dead.
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