Memoir: “The first time I had to bury a person I was fighting back my tears …”

From Kim Seon-I’s memoir. She is a survivor of a North Korean death camp:

The first time I had to bury a person I was fighting back my tears but another inmate whose name was Bok-soon, who was in charge of herbal medicine, told me to spit and trample on the corpse. I asked her why, and she said it was a kind of ritual to drive out the ghost of the dead person so they would not come after me. It told the ghost that ‘I won’t die here like you’. That day on the way back, I was weeping alone. One of the male inmates, who was making wooden boards from a log to give to the warders who sold them for extra money, asked me why I was crying. He warned me not to let anybody see me cry as I will be punished and get beaten up. He said that female inmates were actually better off as they could be buried in the ground. The dead bodies of male inmates often got stuffed inside the boilers and burned with coal.

 

(Kamsahamnida)

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