I remember reading a book once by an author named Ira Levin called, “This Perfect Day.” It is presented as a work of science fiction, but if I were classifying books, it would be a work of horror worthy of inclusion with Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”
“This Perfect Day” takes place in some artificially perfect global utopia (reminiscent of Orwell’s “Big Brother” society) in which uniformity is the defining feature and ethnic differences are abolished. In Levin’s creation, there are only four names for men and four for women, and last names are an alpha-numeric code. Everyone eats “totalcakes,” drinks “cokes” and wears exactly the same thing – every day.
The world is ruled by a central computer called UniComp, which has been programmed to keep every single human on the surface of the earth in check. People are continually drugged by means of regular injections so that they can never realize their potential as humans. They are told where to live, when to eat, whom to marry, when to reproduce and which job they will be trained for.
Everyone is assigned a counselor who acts somewhat like a mentor, confessor and parole agent. All violations against “brothers” and “sisters” must be reported at a monthly confession meeting.
In this society, children learn to pray to their gods: “Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei, lead us to this perfect day, Marx, Christ, Wei and Wood, make us happy, make us good.”
That’s enough about the novel’s plotline to make my point – it was more horror than science fiction. The science exists – it is what gets done with it that is more horror than fiction.
A news report that has just come to my attention is even more horrible than fiction. It is about a young North Korean man named Shin Dong Hyuk who recently escaped from a prison camp in North Korea’s infamous “Total Control Zone,” and it immediately brought Ira Levin’s novel to my mind.
North Korea’s prison camps are divided into two zones. One is the “Revolutionizing Zone” where those of little threat to Pyongyang’s regime are “re-educated.” After a period of forced labor, they may eventually be re-integrated into society.
Then there is the “Total Control Zone.” This is where those deemed incorrigible are sent. Once banished to the Total Control Zone, it is a life sentence. Until now, nothing was known in the outside world about the Total Control Zone.
Shin Dong Hyuk was born in the Total Control Zone. His parents were inmates. Here’s a brief description of this world and how he came to be in it.
His parents were given the “highest reward” possible for inmates “fortunate” enough to be considered “exemplary.” Two exemplary inmates are selected for “marriage” and permitted to share a “marriage cottage” for five days. They are then separated, but permitted another five days on special occasions like the Great Leader’s birthday.
Shin Dong Hyuk was the product of one such union.
At age 11, he was separated from his mother and put in a barracks with others his own age. He says his only memories were the windows covered with plastic and regular meals of corn and cabbage soup.
When Shin was 13, his mother and brother were caught trying to escape. They were publicly executed. His brother was shot and his mother strangled to death. Shin was forced to sit in the first row and watch.
At his mother and brother’s execution, he testified that he could only remember one emotion toward them – fury! Why? Because he knew rules. The zone leaders would punish him to atone for his family’s sins.
Shin was subsequently tortured in many ways, including being barbequed over a grill to the point of near death while skewered with a meat hook near the groin to hold him still. Then one of his fingers was amputated above the knuckle.
He said this sort of thing was all he knew or expected. In the only world he ever knew, that was the appropriate punishment. In his world, children were routinely beaten to death in front of him for stealing five grains of rice. He had no concept of another world in which civility and caring existed.
In 2004, he met a prisoner who had escaped to China, but had been recaptured and repatriated. He was the first to tell him that such another world existed. So in January 2005, motivated “more by curiosity” than anything else, Shin joined his new friend in a fresh escape attempt.
Shin made it. His friend didn’t. He was electrocuted trying to get by the security wire. Shin had to crawl over his dead friend’s body to shield himself from the electric current. He eventually managed to make his way into China where he sought refuge at South Korea’s consulate in Shanghai. His testimony there stunned even human rights groups well-acquainted with North Korean barbarity.
Actually, it should stun the entire civilized world – even a world already acquainted with such North Korean practices as stringing repatriated prisoners together by jamming a stiff wire through their collarbones. This is a practice so repulsive that anyone assigned to turn over a defector to the North Koreans considers it a disciplinary detail.
I don’t believe that Ira Levin could have crafted a more horrifying fictional reality.
There is a very important lesson Western leaders should learn from this unveiling of the North Korean leadership’s sadistically cruel, psychotic minds. People with a mentality like this should never be allowed to have their finger on the trigger of nuclear tipped ICBMs, especially with the range to hit the USA and Europe.
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