Date: July 26, 2012
I have the privilege to be an honorary member of the newly formed Committee for the Release of the Daughters of Tongyeong. The committee was formed to advocate for the release of Shin Sook Ja and her two daughters Oh Hae Won and Oh Kyu Won from the Yodok concentration camp. Tongyeong is a city on South Korea's southern coast and is the hometown of Shin Sook Ja.
In the early 70s Shin Sook Ja was working in Germany as a nurse when she met and married Dr. Oh Kil-nam, a professor specializing in Marxist economics. Marxism also dominated Dr. Oh's political leanings and in the mid 1980s he was persuaded to defect to North Korea after being promised an important position as an economist as well as medical care for Shin's hepatitis.
Overriding Shin's protests Dr. Oh took her and their two young daughters to North Korea, where the reality of North Korea's poverty and brutality made Shin's worst fears into a reality. Instead of a job for Oh and treatment for Shin, the North Korean regime forced the couple to undergo indoctrination in "Juche" the totalitarian political ideology of the North Korean state.
After their captor's judged them sufficiently conditioned, the couple were used as radio broadcasters in the propaganda war between North and South Korea, spreading the same lies which had made Oh willing to defect. Eventually, the North Korean regime chose to send Oh back to Europe to entice more South Koreans into coming to North Korea.
Shin Sook Ja, a daughter of Tongyeong was done submitting to the murderous North Korean regime. She told her husband to escape and work to get their family out from the outside. Despite her failing health this valiant woman rejected the idea of helping their captors capture others.
Oh did escape in November of 1986, but he was unable to free his family. A year later his wife and daughters were taken to Yodok or Camp 15, an infamous camp which houses about 50,000 prisoners considered to be enemies of the North Korean regime. Other prisoners who later defected to South Korea reported seeing them until they were moved to the "total control zone" two years later. Prisoners in "total control zones" are never released and only one person is known to have ever escaped from such a zone.
The Committee for the Release of Daughters of Tongyeong believes that the best way to motivate North Korea to free Ms. Shin and her family is through international pressure coming from governments around the world. To that end this September the Committee will be holding a rally outside the North Korean mission to the UN in New York.
We want you to participate in this effort by sending the following letter to the North Korean Mission urging them to free Shin Sook Ja and her daughters. Those of you who live in countries with North Korean embassies may feel free to edit the letter appropriately and send it there instead.
In HIS Grace and Peace
Ann Buwalda, Executive Director
Letter to the Permanent DPRK Mission to the UN
Ambassador Sin Son ho
Permanent Mission of Democratic People's Republic of Korea to the United Nations (UN) in New York
820 2nd Street, 13th Floor
New York, NY 10017 USA
Fax: (1) 212 972-3154
I am writing to you on behalf of Shin Sook Ja and her two daughters Oh Hae Won and Oh Kyu Won who were imprisoned in November of 1987 in Yodok. This imprisonment was not done as a result of any crime but in response to the defection of Dr. Oh Kil-nam in November of 1986.
The imprisonment of Shin Sook Ja because of her husbands actions is in violation of international law. Punishing their innocent daughters is more than a violation of international law, it is a violation of human nature itself. In light of the recent transition which your country has made I urge you to release these three innocent women.
These women have done you no harm and are no threat to the DPRK. I ask that you allow them to seek asylum in a neutral country.
I understand that Shin Sook Ja has been reported dead, which is understandable given the nature of the DPRK's political prison camps. In that case I ask that you return the body or at least permit an independent examination of the body so that it can be identified.