German activist Dr. Norbert Vollertsen was one of the first to
mobilize American advocacy for human rights in North Korea. In 1999,
volunteering as an emergency-room doctor in Pyongyang, he donated skin for a
graft for a burn victim. The North Koreans rewarded him with a “Friendship
Medal,” a car, and a V.I.P. passport, affording him the kind of access never
given to those on state visits. Vollertsen was undone when he saw the real
North Korea: the country of mass starvation; villages with no sanitation or
running water; no medical care; and orphanages full of dying children. Since
that time, he has devoted his life to efforts to bring freedom to that country.
He and other heroes regularly risk their lives helping North Korean
A 2004 BBC documentary, Access to Evil, provided another shocking revelation. A producer and an investigative journalist were invited to North Korea to film a political documentary in which the regime offered its perspective on the nuclear crisis. Undeterred by the propaganda the authorities organized for them, the filmmakers interviewed several defectors now living in Seoul and ended up revealing North Korea’s gas chambers and chemical experiments to the world.
The witnesses included a former prison-camp security chief who had watched parents and children die by poisonous gas injected into a small glass cubicle, and a doctor who had actually performed the experiments. Those the regime considered enemies of the state, including Christians, were selected for the experiments.
Christians and other political prisoners receive life sentences of hard labor, tantamount to a drawn-out, torturous death sentence. Soon Ok Lee, a former North Korean government worker and prisoner, witnessed the persecution and death of many Christians. She saw prison officials pour molten lead over one group of elderly believers. The uncompromising faith of Christian prisoners deeply moved Mrs. Lee, who has become a Christian and a tireless activist.
What would Cindy Sheehan say if her son died to liberate the North Koreans? How can one so weak raise one so strong? I must believe that he grew into a man despite his mother and not because of her.