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March 9, 2002
Column #1071

North Korean Evil: Worse Than Nazi Germany

     "North Korean defectors were encouraged when President Bush said their country was part of an `axis of evil"' said Dr. Norbert Vottersten, a German physician who spent 18 months in North Korea. "They felt like Russians in the Archipelago who were encouraged by President Reagan's speech about the 'evil empire.'

     "That was the first step which led to the collapse of the Soviet Union."

     Reagan's "evil empire" speech was delivered to the National Association of Evangelicals.  And it was the NAE which gave me a two hour interview with Dr. Vottersten. His riveting tale, "EVIL Only Begins To Describe It," is the cover story of World magazine this week.

     He told World. "When I see the brainwashing, starvation, concentration camps, medical experiments and mass executions, I must say that Kim John Il's North Korea is an upgraded version of Hitler's Nazi Germany."

     Christianity is so feared that anyone found reading a Bible is subject to ghastly biological experiments, such as being given anthrax. "Young women are forced to look at their babies being beaten to death or strangled. The baby is then fed to the dogs," he told me.

     As a German born in 1958 whose father fought with the Nazis, Vollersten sees horrifying parallels between today's North Korea and Hitler's Germany. Two weeks after arriving as emergency medical team chief, Dr. Vollersten donated his own skin as a graft for a badly burned patient. His unselfishness stunned his hosts, who put him on the evening news. He was given a Friendship Medal and a special passport and driver with unparalleled access as a Westerner. 

     In overseeing eight hospitals and two orphanages, he drove 70,000 kilometers and kept a diary, published in Japanese chillingly called DIARY OF A MAD PLACE.

     How is North Korea a more sophisticated and upgraded version of Nazi Germany?

     "North Koreans learned from the mistakes of Nazi Germany," he asserted. "First, let no information from outside of the country come in. There are no newspapers, no television (except one government channel). North Koreans do not know there is an outside world. They think people in South Korea are savage and people in the United States are starving."

     "Second, there is no information going out. North Korea is the only place on earth where no journalist can travel.

     Like the Nazis, there are ghastly medical experiments. People are held under water to see "how long they can live without oxygen, how long they can stand food poisoning or anthrax." Unlike the Nazis, however, there are no crematoriums. Instead, they hide all the remains of their prisoners. After execution, their corpses are used to build roads. There are no mass graves to be found, as in Bosnia which are being used to indict Milosevic. "Bodies are fed to dogs and pigs, so there are no more remains."

     Dr. Vollersten did not personally witness these particularly horrifying incidents. He treated starving children and adults and took some pictures of them. Children diagnosed as having "toxic indigestion" actually suffered from serious malnutrition. He witnessed children, as young as five and six building highways.

     His most ghastly stories came from months of interviewing North Korean torture victims who escaped across the northern border into China. No outsider has seen any of the 18 concentration camps with an estimated 100,000 prisoners. 

     The nation's elite asked him for personal medical advice. That gave him exposure to a secret section of the city, blocked off by guards with fashionable streets, homes with swimming pools, satellite TV and sleek Mercedes. 

     Elsewhere, starving people are eating their own dead children and grandparents.

     Dr. Vollersten has courageously told the story of "North Korea's terrorism of its own people," risking his own safety. When Secretary of State Albright visited Pyongyang in 2000, he took journalists traveling with her, to see parts of the city off limits to Western journalists. For that, his driver disappeared and Dr. Vollersten was forced to leave the country. 

     He went to Japan, where a first and second volume of his DIARY OF A MAD PLACE are best sellers. Oddly, a Korean edition sold poorly and there's no English edition.

     Newsweek wrote a major story, as have U.S. reporters, who he keeps up with by e-mail, answering 752 e-mails in one day. No longer an active physician, he is sustained by book royalties and is absolutely determined to get the story out. 

     "I believe in the power of information. Journalists can change the world," he asserts. 

     Not without risk. At night he has calls threatening his life. 

Copyright 2002 Michael J. McManus.

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