Father's Course and our Life of Faith

by Won Pil Kim


Chapter 10
Father's Job in Hung Nam Prison

This morning I'd like to tell you what kind of job Father had in the prison. Mr. Pak, who came to know who Father was, recommended the easiest job in the prison. He didn't accept it, but chose the most difficult job instead. Father decided to choose and fulfill the most difficult job, thinking of the many ancestors who did their best to the point of death for God's will in the providence of restoration. Father had a strong determination that he had to liberate all the people who had worked hard and had died for God's Providence. It was a way of restoration through indemnity.

The meals were very poor and the work was hard. Father could tell how long each prisoner could survive by his appearance. When Father thought a person would survive for only seven more months, then he would die within seven months. There were piles of fertilizer from before the war, but they had become as hard as rock because nobody used them during the war. The prisoners had to dynamite them to pieces to pack them into bags. The fertilizer was nitrogenous.

It was said that the laborers who had worked there before the war could live for one year on a seven months' salary; you can imagine how hard the job was. They organized 10 people into one team and there was a work quota, as is usual in a Communist society. When the quota was not fulfilled, they halved the already small amount of food. The 10 people on a team were divided into pairs: the first pair dynamited the fertilizer into pieces and bagged it up in rush bags; the second pair carried the bags to the weighing machine; the third pair weighed them and took them off the machine; the fourth pair stacked them and the fifth pair carried them into the train. The most difficult part was done by the second pair who had to carry the bags and lift them onto the weighing machine, which was high off the ground. Each bag weighed 40 kgs. The more the piles of fertilizer were destroyed, the longer the distance between the fertilizer and the weighing machine. Father had to carry 1,300 bags in eight hours. If he couldn't fulfill, all 10 members had their food reduced by half.

In the developed countries people are sensitive to public health hazards, but think of Korea 33 or 34 years ago when the war had just finished and the country had not been rebuilt. They didn't care about things like that which might affect public health. People saw the yellow sulphurous smoke rising up from the chimney and the smell was so pungent and bad that people had to run past the factory. The air inside the factory itself was incredibly dirty. After Father got out of prison, he coughed for a long time, I remember.

You don't know what kamasu (a straw bag) is like in this country. I'll explain. You can imagine dried barley. Two or three hundred years ago in Korea there were houses with straw thatched roofs, since Korea was an agricultural country. There wasn't anything like hemp or nylon rope, so they made ropes and sacks out of straw. Last night you saw the film called "Father in Korea", where you saw the piles of fertilizer and the prisoners bringing the kamasu bags to the train; you saw how the Communists were working in the same factory. The skin of kamasu is very rough and hard, not smooth like nylon. Gradually Father's hands became chapped and torn and started bleeding. Nobody thought that medical treatment was necessary; they only thought of how to finish 1,300 bags a day. Father told me that he could see his bones. Ammonium sulfate penetrated the wounds; the pain was indescribable.

It was such hard work that the prisoners, dressed only in trousers, were dripping sweat. In this situation Father caught malaria, which causes a high fever, then shivering with cold in turn. Have you ever had such a disease? You can't get any strength. You can't imagine how it is now, can you? The fever tormented Father for 10 days. The principle of Communism was: "Those who don't work, don't eat". This is their motto or philosophy in life. They gave only a half portion of food to those who couldn't work because of sickness. Therefore even sick people with so much pain went out to work because they didn't want to get their portion reduced by half. Father, who was also sick, was not absent for even one day. He worked extremely hard, with a strong determination that he should fulfill his responsibility.

"Unless I can become victorious over this hardship," he thought, "I won't be able to restore the people who have died in the Providence, nor clear their resentment." Thinking in this way, Father was desperate to get a victory. "If I fail, God's providential history won't be able to go forward any more." With this kind of determination Father worked hard, day after day.

I visited Father and saw him walking from the prison to the working place. Six people made a single file, watched by armed jailers along both sides. All the prisoners had to hold hands so that they couldn't escape; it was a human fence. If one of them tried to run away, the prisoners on either side got the same punishment. They also had to walk with their heads down, so that they couldn't make any sign with their eyes or make any contact with the ordinary laborers who were also working in the factory.

They got up at six o'clock. When Father was weakened by malaria, he fell to his knees many times in spite of himself, since he couldn't find the strength to walk properly. When you become extremely hungry, your saliva becomes very viscous and you slaver. Father was given a prize for being a model worker three times, under these severe conditions. You can see how hard. he applied himself to his work.

Sunday was a holiday for the prisoners too. Mr. Kim -- do you know which Mr. Kim this was? He was together with Father in the prison. Have you forgotten already, Mr. Kim and Mr. Pak? This Kim was Won Do Kim. On Sundays all the prisoners slept like logs, but he hardly ever saw Father sleeping, even on a Sunday. He said Father was sitting and meditating. Father chose the hardest prison life. What tortured Father more than the hard life was to have to write a reflection. Upon what did he have to reflect? The prisoners had to write a composition. They were supposed to write that they could not devote themselves enough to Communism. Father wouldn't write the composition for the entire length of his sentence. It was the most difficult thing among the various difficulties in the prison. Somebody else wrote it instead of Father.

Father didn't say anything, but many prisoners came to follow him, being attracted, without knowing why, by themselves. The authorities made one of the prisoners a spy in order to check on the activities of Father, who was a marked man. By being a spy, a prisoner could get more food. In such a prison, food was a messiah itself; the prisoners would do anything if they were given more food.

Some prisoners saw visions of their ancestors or of an old man with a white beard from whom they received a revelation that they should bring the food, brought by their relatives, to the man No. 596. As a result, Father was given much food by people he didn't know. Father had to return something for the food he was given and he wrote to us to bring him some food or clothes. In those days in Pyongyang there were some old ladies who kept their faith firmly; they brought much food and clothes to Father and then Father shared them with the other prisoners. The old ladies became doubtful as to whether Father himself received the things, since he was always wearing the same clothes whenever they visited him. Actually, Father gave them to his disciples, like Mr. Kim and Mr. Pak, and over 12 other followers.

Conditions in the prison were crowded. There was one toilet in the corner of the room. Of course, there was most air around the entrance, where everyone wanted to sleep. In the prison there were all sorts of criminals, like thieves, who also stole from their fellow prisoners. The prisoners were supposed to leave the food they had got from outside in the room. Then some prisoners would steal the food and eat it during the night. They usually put it under their heads like a pillow, while they were sleeping. Father left his food in the corner.

One day, the other prisoners noticed that some of Father's food had been eaten. They knew better than Father how much of the food remained. Why do you think this was so? (Because they were most interested in the food?) That's right. But if they had not eaten any of that food, they would not have known how much of it was left over. When Father ate the food, he always shared it with the other prisoners. They began to think that the food belonged to them, rather than to Father. They always watched it very carefully and remembered the amount given each time. In this way they discovered that one day some food had disappeared. Can you understand their psychology?

They found out who did it and told Father that they would like to beat up the culprit. Why did they want to beat him up? If the food belonged to Father, they wouldn't have thought in this way, but they felt that the food belonged to them and so they thought to punish the thief. As the food was actually Father's, they had to ask him whether he would permit the beating or not.

That night, after supper, Father made the thief sit in front of him and he put the food between them. He gave him a bowl and told him to take as much as he wanted. The other prisoners were not happy at all because they were expecting that Father would punish him, but, on the contrary, he gave him more food. The thief wouldn't take the food and so Father scooped up a bowlful and gave it to him. The thief realized that he had done wrong. We should never accuse a person who has already realized his sin. Father gave him more food, which was a hundred times more effective than any punishment in preventing him from stealing again and he was grateful for Father's treatment of him.

I'll continue this story tomorrow. Thank you very much.


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