Sunday, 26 February 2012

Yodok Stories. A review.

Father, don't just go to South Korea! Father, come to Yodok too!

  • My girlfriend beautifully danced and sang ever since childhood. She dreamed of musical career. Her father was accused of espionage, all his family was sent to Yodok. My girlfriend was raped frequently and starved to death in the camp. My parents were killed because I escaped. 
  • You cannot sympathise with the inmates. If you take pity on them you will be punished just like they are. 
  • When I was in Yodok I looked at other people as animals. Imagined them as boars or pigs so I could eat them. Outside the camp I met two people that ate others. One man grabbed the girl on the street, skinned her and ate her. 
  • I was Kim Jong Il's personal bodyguard for 10 years. He treated us well, we did not miss anything. After 10 years I was released from the army and came back to my village. Nothing changed there, nothing changed for 10 years. I could see holes in the floor and people around me were dying of hunger. I escaped to China but was caught and this is how I ended up in Yodok. 
  • I was sentenced for the camp because I was a friend of Kim Jong Il's wife. I knew too much of his actions. 
  • Only picture of South Korea we see are homeless people and beggars on the streets. When I ended up at Incheon airport I could not believe I was there. I saw people were smiling at me. 

Can you imagine you can make a musical on these stories? Nightmare, starvation, rape, humiliation, death? And yet there was a musical made about the stories mentioned above and during preparations to the musical, a documentary called Yodok Stories was done by established documentary maker Andrzej Fidyk.

Fidyk’s film alternates between rehearsal sessions and testimonies by other former prisoners that flesh out the harrowing, invisible reality of camp life. 7 stories show former inmates and their memories from the camp. Life in the camp is shown on the stage and former prisoners teach actors everything about what they had gone through.

Everyone could end life in Yodok camp. Former Kim Jong Il's family friend, former personal guard, a person that said remark about scarcity of food, or even someone who did not put the Dear Leader image on the wall. 

Yodok Concentration Camp is oficially known as a Penalty Colony number 15. The only one from which few prisoners could get out after serving their sentence.  From others, Fidyk says in first minutes of the movie, noone goes out unless escaping. 

Group of defectors who took part in preparations to the musical combine several inmates, but also a guard. He says stories on how he was taught about class enemies and that inmates were evil people in his eyes and how he took pleasure in harassing them until his own father one day had few drinks too many and critisized the regime for food shortages. It was enough for the entire family to end up in the camp. 

Guards escape also because they can take no longer. They are forbidden showing human feelings, forbidden normal human reactions, they are taught hatred round the clock. 

They met in the restaurant in Seoul, all of them who defected and took part in the movie. Former inmates and former guard. Their talks reveal horrible stories but serve as reconciliation. 

The guard is later shown during preparations and try-outs between the musical as he teaches about life in the camp and beating methods. He is portrayed crying secretly when he watches the show. 

The rest of the movie is a must watch for everyone. Fidyk is a masterpiece maker. Music is great, idea of the musical made success both to the defected artist who directed it and to Fidyk who did not worry much for the music part of his movie, he used scores from the musical for most of it.. 

North Korean regime lasts because it is isolated. But also because South Korea is not happy about perspective of having 20 million starving people knowing nothing about modern life or economy becoming citizens. Hardly anyone in the South knows anything about what happens in the North.


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