Honourable Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for having me.
First of all, I would like to apologize for my maybe poor German physician's pronunciation. Hopefully you can understand. You have a lot of material there in your packages. You can see this is not a garage sale, as I was just asked; these are my documents and evidence. I would like to show them to you. I have so much to tell, but limited time, so I will speed up.
I'm a German emergency doctor--a physician by training. I lived in North Korea for one and a half years. I was a member of Cap Anamur German emergency doctors, and we took care of five different hospitals, ten orphanages, and several hundred kindergartens.
When I entered North Korea I experienced nothing. There were no trees, no birds, no rice, no meat--only a broken, failed state of starving people. When you think about hunger, most of you think about hunger in Africa. It's like Africa, but it's cold outside, like here in Canada right now, and that will kill the people in North Korea--the coldness in winter and no input, no calories, and no heating system. In summer there's diarrhea because of all the bad water. There's contamination all over, and all the people are dying because of spreading infections.
On the conditions in the hospitals, the first Korean word I learned was obsomida , “We don't have anything; it's not available.” Imagine a hospital without any running water. Imagine a hospital without any heating system and it's as cold outside as it is right now here in Canada. Imagine a hospital without any soap, medicine, and patients. Normally all those buildings were empty. When I arrived there were no patients. What would they do there? Why would they go to such a hospital when there was no medicine?
My main medical diagnosis in North Korea was starvation, no medicine, tuberculosis, and all the spreading diseases. But my main observation as a medical doctor, as a general physician by training in Germany, was that there was depression. All the people looked fed up and exhausted, with no future, no hope for any change, drawing propaganda from early daytime until the evening, with parade after parade. They were fed up, and there's a lot of alcoholism and despair.
As a German it was very convenient for me in North Korea, because I could speak in German without an official translator. There are many North Koreans who studied in the former East Germany. They were trained in East Germany. North Korean doctors with East German accents--very funny. I could speak in German to the professors at the university, sometimes in secret in the evening. After some glasses of beer or soju they were quite outspoken about the government. Guess what they told me? They don't like Kim Jong-il. They know that it's mainly the fault of Kim Jong-il that there is no medicine, water, or food.
As a medical doctor it was quite easy to get closer to the people. They always needed assistance, medicine, and friendship. I tried to be different. I didn't want to be like the snobby westerners who know better--especially the Germans. I didn't want to be a stranger. I wanted to make real friendships. It was a huge opportunity to make real friendships.
Because North Korean hospitals lack everything, there is no sophisticated medicine. There is no amputation set, or whatever. They have no treatment for burn patients. Once, a factory worker burned by molten iron was rushed into the hospital. Of course there was no treatment, and he was just hidden in a room. Kibun. The North Koreans didn't want us to see that they couldn't treat him. They were ashamed. So I rushed into the room and wanted to do something. Of course we gave all of our western assistance.
But the North Koreans are doing skin grafts in cases like that. They will donate their own skin. It was an unbelievable scenario. The whole hospital, including the doctors, all their assistants, and the nurses, lined up to donate their skin. I thought, hey, that's an opportunity to create real friendship. Let's create a patchwork North Korean with some western skin and North Korean skin. So my colleague and I also donated our skin. Of course, it was a little bit of a bloody procedure, with no real disinfection and no real anesthesia. But we were recognized as friends.
One week later, we were asked to do it again. Whoops, the whole hospital lined up. Everybody was there. We did it again, and there was state television. Now comes the spin, the North Korean spin. There was state media, and then there was the story of two foreigners who donated their skin--wow, what an act--to show their gratitude to Kim Jong-il. It was something like a true tribute. That was the first time I recognized the North Korean propaganda style. Okay, don't worry, forget about it.
We were rewarded. One month later, we were awarded the so-called North Korean Friendship Medal. It is a high honour. We were the first two foreigners who ever got this high honour. I do not care. I'm not the guy who was carrying this around. I was more interested in this one. This is what I call a North Korean VIP passport. It simply says that I got the friendship medal. Together, I got a driving licence. Wow. You know about North Korea. Normally there is a guide, a minder, a person who will check and care for you, a driver. You are never supposed to go anyplace.
I took my chances. Never ask stupid questions in North Korea, I learned. I took my passport, and I went to Namp'o and Wonsan. Of course, if there is a police stop or there are soldiers on the road, you don't go. And I tried. I showed this, and imagine what happened. As soon as they saw this, I could go through. It worked. My colleagues told me it would work. They were from East Germany. They knew about minders and policemen and soldiers. They would never report to one another when there was an incident. So I maybe abused my possibilities. I walked around. I took a bicycle. I took the subway in Pyongyang, and I drove my car all over North Korea. And I made so many observations. Together with my friendship medal I was invited to many, many facilities: to the guest house of Kim Jong-il, to the military parades. I met high official North Koreans. I got the normal picture of North Korea.
I realized that there is an elite in Pyongyang. There is Japanese sushi, Russian caviar, and French champagne for the elite in Pyongyang. I realized that there are Mercedes-Benz in Pyongyang, a lot of them. I felt quite at home in Pyongyang, sometimes. And I realized that there are two different worlds in Pyongyang.
When I came to the countryside, I saw that there were children starving in the hospitals. They were lying there without any food, without any medicine, in a condition that moved my heart. So I was upset, and I thought that I had to change my attitude maybe. You can stay in North Korea for ten years, and you will not get the real picture. Normally you are guided around, and there are all the monuments and all the official tours. And then you will go to a monument and there will be staged things. All the children are lined up, even with a little bit of makeup and some lipstick, and they are cheering, “Thank you. Kamsahamnida for the food donation.”
I wondered if this was the real picture. Because when you are an emergency doctor, sometimes there are emergency cases, and you have to rush into a hospital with the bloody victim of an accident on your back.
I rushed into the hospital and then there was no medicine any more. There was no food. We had just donated the other day or the week before. I wondered what was going on and where all the international aid was, the German aid, the Canadian aid, the American aid. There were American flags still on the bag. Where was it? Where had it gone?
My colleagues told me, “Norbert, you are an idiot”, and they were right. They said, “Norbert, you are so naive”. My colleagues were from the former East Germany. They told me that I, from West Germany, had maybe never experienced corruption, a communist state where everybody is going to look for his own. He must in order to survive. They told me this was like in East Germany, a Mafia-style society. There are starving children in the countryside and the elite in Pyongyang, in the showcase city, is enjoying a nice lifestyle. I went, in order to prove it, to the black market. I saw rice bags sold there with the American flag still on them. I saw our medicine sold in a hotel. I saw pullovers we donated, a German donation to the kindergartens. I saw these pullovers sold in a diplomatic shop.
As a physician, you are living there in Pyongyang in the international community. You are living in the diplomatic compound and there are many colleagues from Europe, from the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization, from other organizations. I am a general physician, but my hobby, so to speak, was psychological advice.
What happened in Pyongyang was I was often asked for psychological advice. Some of my colleagues from the World Food Programme asked me, when they were in trouble, to get help. There was one guy who wanted to commit suicide because he couldn't stand any more that something was going wrong in this country with the food donation, and he was not able to tell his head office, otherwise he would get in trouble.
There was one member of ACF, Action contre la faim, a French organization. She wanted to quit because a milk kitchen in the north of North Korea was not able to donate milk to the ordinary people because it was forbidden by the government because those people in the northern part were not obedient any more. She was an eyewitness to an uprising. She was not allowed to speak out about this in front of journalists, for example, or to speak out in front of her office back in Paris.
So I was a psychological advisor for some of those people who simply collapsed. They had nervous breakdowns because they couldn't stand any more to lie to their head offices, to lie to the world about what they were doing there.
Only then I realized, after one and a half years, that Kim Jong-il was really using food as a weapon against his own people, so I totally changed my attitude. I thought I had to inform the world about this. I had to take the pictures. I moved around. I took a video, which is also included in your package. I took all those pictures in this book and I invited some journalists for a private tour. When Mrs. Albright was in town, in North Korea, in 2000 she was accompanied by many journalists from CNN, BBC, whatever, so I invited them for a private tour. I had my driving licence. Why not? There were 12 of them, and I guided them around and I showed them the Pyongyang Mrs. Albright didn't see. That was the headline of the article the next day in the Washington Post, so that was quite an offence for the North Korean authorities. I was expelled. I was threatened with immediate expulsion, but I was saved by a protest from my head office of the German foreign ministry, so I was allowed to stay.
I documented all that happened then in many diaries. I took many pictures. I took videos and I wrote a protest, a statement of humanitarian principles. I gave it to Tony Hall, a U.S. congressman, when he was in town.
The next week I found a dead soldier in the middle of the road. He was malnourished. He was maybe 17, 18 years old, and he looked like a 10-year-old boy. He was beaten. I am not an expert on torture. I'm a general physician.
My colleague from the former East Germany was a member of Amnesty International. She took care of long-term prisoners in Bautzen, in an East German prison camp. She showed me the cigarette burns and where he was beaten and whipped.
I'm naive, I'm an idiot. I wanted to take a picture and I was immediately taken aside, my camera was confiscated, of course the film was eliminated, and that was the end of my friendship. I was expelled.
In December 2000 I was expelled. Instead of going home and doing business as usual, I went to South Korea. I gave interviews to the journalists. I gave lectures. I wanted to inform the world, mainly the South Korean students, the younger generation. I've written four books so far.
As a German, of course I also know about German history and the impact of refugees. I thought, maybe I have to get the real picture. Maybe I have to go to China. I heard about North Korean refugees. When I was inside North Korea, I never had any idea about refugees. Of course I was never allowed to go to any concentration camps, like the one Ms. Kim was in.
I had no idea. I was naive. I was invited by some activists to go to China, to the Chinese-North Korean border. I met many refugees. I interviewed them. Mainly I took medical care of them, of course, but I also spoke to them. I interviewed them via a translator.
I went to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand. I gave more and more refugee assistance. I stayed at least seven years in South Korea and Southeast Asia to take care of the people.
I realized that I really do not know anything of North Korea. Inside North Korea you cannot get the real picture. You have to have witnesses like Ms. Kim.
I learned about the power of the media too. I believe in publicity stunts. Therefore we decided how to inform the world. Nowadays the media need a breaking story.
We decided to storm some western embassies. It had worked for the East German refugees in Prague and Hungary, so maybe it would also work for the North Koreans. So we stormed the Spanish embassy in Beijing with 27 refugees, in front of CNN. Maybe it worked.
I went to the Tumen River and saw all these corpses in the river. I saw people who were shot at the border. I was shocked again. More and more I realized that North Korea is a failed state, led by a master clan.
You all know about German history. We Germans were responsible for Auschwitz, Treblinka, Dachau. Whenever I'm in Washington at the Holocaust Memorial Museum I'm ashamed to be German. I hope that nobody--the students--will recognize my German accent.
After Dachau, Treblinka, Auschwitz, we Germans told the whole world, “Never again”. But it's happening again, right now. Ms. Kim was there. We Germans were accused of failing to act, to speak up, to speak out about the atrocities going on in Germany with the Jews. So I have to talk about the real picture in North Korea. I have to talk about induced starvation, about crimes against humanity, the killing fields of today. I will even call it the unknown genocide, because Kim Jong-il is using food as a weapon against his own people. I can prove that.
I took these images in a North Korean children's hospital. These are not pictures from Auschwitz or Treblinka. This is the reality in North Korea nowadays, in a North Korean children's hospital. You can only imagine, when those are the children in the children's hospital, how it might look in Ms. Kim's institute, in the concentration camps.
Those children looked so sad, so hopeless.
And what should I do? I'm a medical doctor. Should I give some anti-depressiva, some injections, so they will smile again? No. I can't.
I have to take a political mandate. I have to change something. Therefore, I'm standing here in front of you, because my own country, Germany, unfortunately does not take so much care. Maybe they simply do not know about North Korea. I'm here in Canada, and I beg you, the people of Canada and the politicians, to do something. The children in North Korea are waiting for your help.