'Don't Beat Her, She's Five Months Pregnant'

korea-jin-jye-cho-july-2014-600.jpg Jin Hye Jo in Washington, July 24, 2014.

Sixteen years after the trauma of escaping the world's last Stalinist regime into northeastern China along with her sister and mother, North Korean defector Jo Jin Hye, who was granted political asylum in the United States in 2008, looks back on the dark days of their incarceration in a detention center in the Chinese border city of Tumen:

A Chinese prison guard came in and said there was an inspection, to see what things we had with us. He was a man in his 30s, but he had been sent to do body searches of women. His attitude toward women was so casual.

In the detention center, the staff refused to give us sanitary products, so we had nothing to use when our menstruation came around. At the very least, in North Korea, we would be given old clothing to use.

Women are the way they are by nature, and who was going to help us if the guards didn't? Even not helping us out is fine, but [beating us?] We would use whatever we had to hand; bits of blanket, ripped off. Then, if they discovered it, they would force us to eat it. If we didn't, they would hit us really hard, until our faces swelled up and we were spitting blood, and couldn't walk.

Prison beating

There was a woman who was five months' pregnant, and she was sitting down, having a rest, leaning against a wall. There was also an old lady of 75 who tried to run away when she was caught, and they shoved her, and hurt her back, so she was sitting down too. She was always lying down after they brought her in.

I was sick at the time, and I couldn't get up, because I had a high fever. The prison guard came in and started beating us all with a baton. He beat the old lady nearly half to death, and the pregnant woman as well. The pregnant woman bled for several days after that. She was under a lot of stress when she came in, and fainted. She didn't dare to eat anything, and the baby was in danger, but the guards just beat her anyway.

I was afraid she would lose the child, because she had been trying for a child for three years. But she was brought in. I knew that child was very important to her. So I ran over there and grabbed the guard's leg, saying "Don't beat her. She's five months pregnant and not in good health, and she bleeds all the time. If you carry on, she'll lose the baby." He replied: "Who cares? It's not mine, anyway." That's what he said.

Reported by Jinhee Lee and Pan Jiaqing for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

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