Gareth Morgan needs a good long chat with this fellow

Gareth il-Morgan recently provided good propaganda value tot he totalitarian regime of North Korea with an ill-advised visit and his media prognostications about just how great the place is.

When he gets back perhaps he might like to sit down and have a wee chat with this fellow.

Shin Dong-hyuk was born in a North Korean punishment camp, where he endured appalling brutalities until he escaped, aged 23. Now his story is told in a harrowing documentary.

Documentary-makers generally tackle torture at a distance. Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, for instance, introduced us to a charismatic killer from Indonesia’s anti-communist genocide who dances the cha-cha on the rooftop where he murdered hundreds of victims almost 50 years earlier. Camp 14: Total Control Zone is different. The German film-maker Marc Wiese’s film tells of horrors that could be happening as you read this, in North Korea, in prison camps so vast that they show up on Google Earth.

Some are “re-education” facilities, where the inmates can hope to be released after a period of hard labour and immersion in revolutionary doctrine. The “total control zone”, however, is a life sentence, with death the only exit. Other, that is, than escape. Shin Dong-hyuk was born in the camp and fled, aged 23, in 2005. Wiese’s film gives a harrowing account of life in a world where people like him are regarded as lower than worms or flies.

Shin, who recently gave testimony before a UN commission, would rather not talk about the past, but he cannot be free of it. Physically, in the film, he is in Seoul. Mentally and emotionally, he is still back in camp 14. To date, he is the only known person to have been born in a total control zone camp and escaped, and some have questioned his story. “We made something like 15 lie detector tests with him,” says Wiese, who first read about the young Korean in the Washington Post. By now there can be little doubt of his veracity, or that his experiences weigh heavily on him.

The producers wanted to shoot him talking in a studio, but that was “impossible”. “I had to build him a setting where he felt comfortable,” says Wiese. Instead, they worked in Shin’s home, in a bare space with bedding on the floor, similar to the way he lived with his mother, as a child, in the camp. Even then, “it was complicated for him”.

They talked for two hours a day, with long pauses, for two weeks. At one point, having described how, at 14, he was tortured with fire, Shin went missing for two or three days.

When you read these harrowing tales you really just want to punch Gareth il-Morgan in the face to make him understand the stupidity of his outrageous claims.

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