My classmates started dying during the summer of 1996. One girl spent her days by her dying brother’s bedside, going short herself so that he would have more to eat. She died before he did.
As time passed there were fewer and fewer of us sitting at the school desks. Sometimes there were only about 10 in a class of 35. The teachers themselves no longer had enough energy to take their classes. They sat shapelessly in their chairs, cane in hand, while we repeated by heart lessons we had already learnt about the childhoods of Kim Il-sung and his son and successor Kim Jong-il, the Dear Leader.
The famine encouraged the most selfish kinds of behaviour. My grandmother sold soya dishes and soups at home, a little trade that helped her to survive. I remember one father who regularly came to my grandmother’s house in secret to eat his fill far from the eyes of his family. Many parents left their homes in search of food, and most didn’t come back.
Many, however, don't even get a childhood.
THE North Korean regime’s obsession with racial purity has led to the killing of disabled infants and forced abortions for women suspected of conceiving their babies by Chinese fathers, according to a growing body of testimony from defectors.
The latest description of Kim Jong-il’s policy of state eugenics came from a North Korean doctor, Ri Kwang-chol, who escaped last year and told a forum in Seoul that babies with deformities were killed soon after birth.
“There are no people with physical defects in North Korea,” Ri said. Such babies were put to death by medical staff and buried quickly, he claimed. He denied ever committing the act himself.
Exiles in Seoul said Ri was now keeping a low profile, fearing retaliation by North Korean agents, who have assassinated foes in the South Korean capital before. But his account added to the evidence that the Kim family dictatorship is founded on mystical notions of Korean racial superiority rather than Marxism — a reality that explains its deepening estrangement from China.