The Words The Kwak Family

An African Missionary's Prison Testimony

Chung Hwan Kwak
July 1989

Father, Rev. Takaru Kamiyama, and Dr. Bo Hi Pak at Danbury.

The military presence and control was obvious everywhere. The streets were constantly patrolled by armed soldiers. Anyone entering the post office was searched by armed soldiers and questioned as to what business they had in the post office. The post office also housed the telecommunication system. All the public buildings and particularly the government ministries were guarded heavily by tanks and artillery, as though they were expecting an invasion. The atmosphere was always serious. People wanted to be lively and happy, yet their external surroundings forbid such expressions. Life was very difficult for these people.

We often felt we were being watched. Men in parked cars would sit outside in front of our apartment for hours watching the apartment complex. Several times I felt someone watching me as I walked along the streets in the afternoon. There was a curfew of 8 p.m. which was gradually lifted to 12 midnight, so we seldom went out in the evening. Then on July 27, 1975, our apprehensions were proved correct.

The morning began like most Sunday mornings. The town was silent. The street vendors do not come out on Sundays, so the noise from their clanging carts was absent. The dawn was shedding golden rays over the rolling hills of the town. The silence was broken by the calls of a rooster.

Unexpected Visitors

We had offered our pledge as usual at 5 a.m. After pledge I entered the kitchen to light a fire to make some tea. I sat down to plan the day. I was thinking, "Who should I see? Who should I write?" If only I knew that starting in a few minutes I would not be able to write or to see any of my friends or contacts for fifteen days hence.

Then a knock on the door ended all our meditations. Who could it be at 5:45 a.m.? Our German brother went to the door to see who our unexpected visitor might be. Unexpected to say the least. I heard several voices so I left the kitchen to see who it was. There standing in the entry way were 15 men. The man doing most of the talking was dressed in a police uniform. The others were all dressed in regular street clothes. They barged their way in and told us to sit down and not to move. They ransacked the apartment looking for our books, journals, notes and contact listings. It seemed more of a show than a serious investigation. We had nothing to hide and fearing nothing incriminating would be found we sat calmly and watched the bizarre morning unfold. They collected our reports and writings as well as our Principle books. Most everything else was left scattered on the floor. A few of the intruders gathered up an article or two of clothing, but nothing more. Finally after the search was over they led us out of our apartment into the street. Cars were waiting to drive the three of us to the national security building to begin an odyssey never to be forgotten.

The morning went relatively fast as they moved us from room to room as though they didn't know where to keep us. We continued our silence not knowing whether or not the rooms we were in had been bugged. The entire morning passed before we met the inspector. Then about 1 p.m. we were told that we had been arrested for stealing government documents. They never said what government documents or from what government agency the papers were taken so I knew the charge was just an excuse to keep us there. The real purpose for our detention came to light much later after several days of intensive interrogation. Like a chapter out of The Gulag Archipelago come to life, we were held as puppets to be directed as they wished. We had absolutely no voice of our own. No rights, no choices.

On Monday, July 28th, the interrogation began. It continued day after day for 11 days. The same questions were asked over and over. "What are you doing here?" "Why is Reverend Moon interested in this country?" "Where is the CIA here?" "What is your purpose?" "What are the Japanese and German doing here?" "Why do you live together?" "What do you think of communism?" "Who sent you here?"

A Long Interrogation

They asked us questions about groups and organizations that I knew very little about. Day after day the same questions were asked. Every few days we would have a new interrogator, but his questions were the same as the preceding interrogator. All testimonies and questions were recorded with six typewritten copies. At the end of each day all the testimonies had to be signed as did the six copies of each page.

At night, we would be driven back to the jail. There we were searched and had our belts and shoes removed. Our bedding consisted of what we were wearing. Placed in cells measuring 8 feet wide, 12 feet long and 10 feet high, our physical existence took on a new limitation. Nonetheless, our spirits were determined and strong. The cells were filthy and never washed out. We were separated from each other but not alone in our cubicles. Each cell contained at least ten other prisoners, mostly common thieves, drug peddlers, and drunks. Often one of the cell companions would be cut or beaten so badly by the jailers that his moans would cut the night air. One night I returned to my cell to find one man with a three inch cut in his forehead. Blood was trickling down his face. His clothes were soaked in the blood he had lost earlier. We tried to comfort him and bandage his cut. We were successful, but it was a very uneasy night.

Most of the men could not speak any English, and some could not speak French either. At night the food ration consisted of only rice. If a prisoner had family or friends who knew he was in jail they could bring him food. The three of us were given more food and some fruit during the day at the national security building. At times we would have some rebellious youths in the cells who would take their portion of rice and in defiance throw it against the wall or the jailer. The cell was decorated in an early dungeon motif, complete with graffiti, dirt, dead insects, old rice, and blood. The cells were never cleaned out the entire 15 days that we were there.

At night prisoners would bang on the cell door hoping the jailer would come to let them out so they could use the toilet (a hole outside the cell). Many times the jailer would not come so the prisoner would urinate inside the cell, adding to the unbelievable smells and unsanitary conditions that already existed. During the night we would sleep closely together to keep warm. The only thing separating the cold concrete floor and us was a wood pallet normally used in warehouse storage. This time the stored "goods" were comprised of 11 men.

On the night of August 5, 1975, I had a dream that we would be executed by a firing squad the next day. The dream was so real and vivid. Then on August 6th, we were actually sentenced without trial. The decision was that we were an internal and external threat to the security of the country and that we stood to endanger the relationship between our own countries and that of this nation. This was exactly opposite of our real purpose for coming to this island nation. Nonetheless, we were given written notice to leave the country within a period of 48 hours. What exactly would be the next step no one knew. And our interrogators and jailer would tell us nothing. After the decree was handed to us they returned us to jail. There they kept us for the next 48 hours in total suspense, so the 48-hour notice expired. We had disobeyed their command by staying over the requested time. It did not matter that they held us in custody for the period.

On August 11th they finally took us to the apartment to gather our belongings. The police guards first took what they wanted and then we were allowed to pack.

Everything ended so abruptly, like a knife cutting through an umbilical cord. The once warm feeling received from the surroundings and the people was now gone. The memory of the people and the beautiful countryside remained, but now from a distance. 

Table of Contents

Tparents Home

Moon Family Page

Unification Library