I was ten when I saw my first public execution. I sat there thinking, "He committed this crime, he threatened our paradise, he should be punished." The man was my classmate’s brother-in-law. They said he’d been to China and stolen something from a Chinese museum. The whole school had to witness it. Everyone had to go to public executions, so they’d do them in big stadiums.
One idea the government keeps pushing is that, in North Korea, no one dies of starvation. As a captain, I had to report soldiers’ deaths, but I couldn’t say they’d starved. We wrote that they'd had acute colitis—an inflammation of the colon that can lead to weight loss, fever, and bleeding, among other symptoms—on their death certificates. A lot of female soldiers died, and a woman's hair will fall out before she dies of starvation. So when they died, they would be bald and totally flat chested, meaning you could no longer tell by looking at [the bodies] whether they were women or not.