Articles from the September 1997 Unification News

The Ordeal at Hung Nam Prison

by Sandra Lowen

For one month Father remained in the Pyungyang prison. Then he was transferred to the Tong Nee Special Labor Concentration Camp at Hung Nam, which is located on the northeast side of North Korea. This was not like an American prison, where prisoners might do light jobs and spend many hours in clean cells to write letters home, relax, or even work on their college degrees.

This prison was at a nitrogen fertilizer factory. There was a small mountain of hardened lime which the prisoners had to break up and haul to another place. They had to break up the lime, pack it into rice-straw bags holding eighty pounds each, weigh it, and take it off to the loading dock. Each group of ten men was responsible for loading 1,300 bags every day, which meant about one bag every half-minute. The bags were heavy. The lime made their fingers bleed with big sores.

You might think a man would simply decide not to work; but this was not possible at the Tong Nee Camp. If the team did not do its work, they didn’t get anything to eat that day. In order to live, they had to eat, and in order to eat, they had to do the work. They didn’t eat steaks or chicken or vegetables, nor any of the foods we eat to stay strong. They received each day just one small ball of boiled barley, or a few spoonfuls of rice or wheat. Even if a person was lucky enough to eat every day, it was still not enough food to live on. Within a few weeks, the men became so skinny you could see the shape of their bones. Their bellies became swollen from starvation. After six months in this prison, most of them were sick enough to die. At the end of one year, most of the prisoners had died. Father was sentenced to five years! How was he going to survive?

As soon as he arrived, Father began planning how he would stay alive. His plan was very unusual. Most people would think the best plan would be to find ways to save energy and get more food. That was not Father’s way.

First, he looked at the food. If he became desperate about this little lump of grain, he would surely die. He saw how the people acted around him. One day a prisoner, who had been very ill, died while eating his meal. When he fell over, two or three prisoners rushed to his side, opened his mouth, scooped out the grains of rice he had not swallowed and ate them.

Father decided that instead of trying to find a way to get more food he would eat less; then on the days when he ate the regular portion it would seem like a feast. For some time he would divide his little rice ball in half and give one half to one of the other prisoners. The surprise in that prisoner’s face must have been like food to Father.

The time before the Korean War was very difficult even for those who were not in prison. Disciples such as Mrs. Ok and Won Pil Kim were allowed to visit every two months, and they would sometimes manage to bring him a little bag of rice powder. He easily could have gone to a quiet corner and eaten the rice powder himself, but that was not Father’s way. Father would always share it with other prisoners. Sometimes he filled their pockets with the precious powder when they weren’t looking.

One day Father received a package of rice powder. Before he could share it he discovered it was missing. The other prisoners became outraged. Who would do such a thing? Finally they found the guilty man and dragged him before Father, so he could be punished. Father looked at him and said, "You must have been so very hungry to have to steal my food. He who is hungry has the right to eat. Give me your bag." Father then poured into his bag all the rice powder he had left.

Father looked at the work load. He decided to work harder than anyone at the camp had ever worked before. The nine workers on his team found that they could fill enough bags of lime when they worked with Father. Soon other prisoners were trying to get on Father’s team. Twice Father was given a special award by the communists for his hard work. So, even Satan had to admit Father worked hard!

Then Father looked at his spiritual life. He had suffered so much, but he never complained to God about his situation. He never prayed to God because he was weak. His first thought was that God must be suffering so much to see what he was going through. If he acted sad it would make God suffer more. So he spoke brave words to God.

"I will never give up, Heavenly Father," he prayed with great love. "Please don’t worry about me," He also told God he would fulfill his mission; he would be victorious.

The prisoners never got enough sleep, but Father used his sleeping time to meditate and pray. A prisoner later said that when they went to sleep, they would see Father kneeling to pray; when they woke up, he was still praying!

The prisoners came to love him. Many times tears came into their eyes because they loved him so much. Father could not say one word about his mission to them, or even speak about God or religion at all. The communists would have killed him if he spoke of God. Therefore, spirit world spoke out for him. Many prisoners were told in dreams that he was a very special person, and that they should become his helpers.

At least twelve prisoners became his disciples. One of these men was named Jung Hwa Pak. Mr. Pak was a leader over a group of prisoners. Father was in his group. He tried to give Father easier jobs and extra food whenever possible, but Father always refused these favors.

The summers were extremely hot. Father always kept all his clothes on. Mr. Pak kindly suggested, "Why don’t you take off your rubber shoes and long sleeved shirt? I’ll take you somewhere to wash."

"I cannot," replied father. "Heavenly Father directly told me not to expose my body to others."

At one point, Father got very sick with malaria. He could have rested in sickbay. But he said, "No, I didn’t come here because of my sin, but for my mission." He continued working, sweating greatly, barely having the energy to stay on his feet. No one else could have survived such punishment.

Father’s number in prison was 596, which-when translated into Korean, sounds very similar to the word which means "innocent," or "not being treated fairly."

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