I is for Innocence – #AtoZ2018

Park Joo-Won closed the book he was reading and smiled wanly at his sister Park Ji-Woo. His eyes were half-closed as he sat under a King Cherry tree enjoying the mild breeze sifting through its branches. Joo-Won had suggested coming to the dilapidated park in Kanggye, the capital of Chagang province of North Korea.

Joo-Won was 25, still a bachelor and worked as a teacher. He was a gifted painter and singer, but taught subjects like ‘Great Kim II Sung’ and ‘Communist Morality’ to students in the senior middle school. Though he desperately desired to fill his canvases with images of his country, the only art he was ever allowed to create was the images of the Supreme Leader and the Eternal Leader.

Ji-Woo, his 16 year old sister, had some form of unidentified developmental disorder. His meagre salary was just about sufficient to buy food and pay bills, let alone pay for Ji-Woo’s treatment. A petite girl with breath-taking features, Ji-Woo usually wore men’s clothing to dissuade sexual assaults on her. Joo-Won had devised the plan after few previous attempts.

‘Nice day isn’t it, Sister?’ Joo-Won picked up a fallen cherry and started peeling it with his fingernails. His face was creased with worry. They belonged to the lowest category of Songbun – the system by which the North Korean citizens were classified based on their direct ancestors, the behaviour of their relatives and their socio-economic and political background. The better the rating in Songbun, the better was one’s lifestyle. They got better jobs, they were provided opportunities to live in the capital and they were ensured that they had food on their plates adequately.

‘Yes. I like coming to the park.’

Joo-Won passed her the pulp of the fruit and she ate it, making a face. ‘Sister, do you want to sing?’

North Korean teachers were forced to learn the accordion and the musically inclined Joo-Won was very proficient in playing the instrument.

‘Ok! Shall I sing the rice and potato song?’ Joo-Won nodded and started playing as his sister sang a famous folk song about the common people sharing a bountiful harvest of rice and potato. Her lilting voice had a soothing effect on his soul.

Joo-Won had received the horrible news the previous day. His innocent little sister had been selected to be a part of the Supreme Leader’s notorious Gippeumjo or Pleasure Squad – a team of nearly 2000 beautiful women whose sole existence was to entertain and provide sexual services to the elite class. There was no denying them. Joo-Won had argued, albeit feebly, about Ji-Woo’s medical condition but his protests were rejected summarily. Ji-Woo would become a part of the Gippeumjo in a couple of days.

Ji-Woo stopped singing, ‘Brother, Will we see the Supreme Leader today?’

‘I think so.’ He wiped the tears in his eyes. There was a conservatively dressed teenage girl approaching them. Her eyes were devoid of life and her face was devoid of any emotions. Joo-Won pointed out to her, ‘Look, sister, a girl approaches us. Do you want to ask her a question?”

The girl approached them. With a curt nod, she addressed Joo-Won.

‘Praise to the Supreme Leader. You are wearing jeans and banned shoes. It is against our morals.’

Joo-Won looked at her calmly, ‘My sister here would like to ask you a question.’

‘What is it?’

‘Is it true that the Supreme Leader never urinates or defecates?’ Ji-Woo asked, her eyes crinkling with mirth.

The girl’s mouth formed a ‘O’ even as she mumbled something about reporting them. Joo-Won started laughing and his sister joined him. The siblings laughed uproariously even as they were surrounded by more members of the discipline enforcement squad.

Later that evening, the state owned television channel aired the public execution of Park Joo-Won and Park Ji-Woo. The young girl who reported them was awarded a bowl of rice for her act of patriotism and loyalty.



  1. Ever since I found your site, I’ve been reading to catch up. All the stories, I simply liked, as I could be forever leaving you appreciative comments, but this one … I could not avoid expressing how beautifully you’ve captured the dreadful situation in Korea for its people. Nice work.


  2. Wow. As others have said, what an ending. The most mundane bowl of rice reward at the end is a nice touch.

    Returning your A-Z visit from ajblythe.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, AJ. The reward of rice is very real in North Korea. And the fact that people are ready to sell themselves and each other for it makes the reality rather more painful. Glad you liked the story.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Shalz 🙂 Sometimes death is a better option. Unfortunately, there are places in this world where that is a reality.


    1. Sometimes, the worst option might be the best course of action. That is the unfortunate fate of many in this world. Thanks for the comment, Sudha


    1. He chose a dignified death over a horrible life for the both of them. It’s unfortunate that many in our world are left with making such choices in life. Thanks for the comment, Melanie.


  3. That was a great idea made by brother to escape what was inside store for the sister. And you brilliantly conveyed the message at the end ‘bowl full of rice for being patriot’! Leaders and their leadership can be so hopeless especially the one who claims to be God and don’t need to do they routine abolutions!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reality sometimes can be more frightening than the scariest piece of fiction you could ever imagine. Unfortunately, that is part of the world we live in. Thanks for the comment, Medha.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. What a predicament when others feel glad for their death? Unfortunately it is the reality of many people in this world. Thanks for the comment, Shilpa. We should be thankful for having a voice through our blogs.


  4. Interesting read, indeed. You heald my attention to the end and you certainly deserve a gold star for that achievement considering my brain usually gets sidetrack. I’m so thankful to live in America. I can’t imagine what the poor people in North Korea or other communist countries face. We’re so privileged and blessed. My heart is saddened that the brother and sister were executed. Good writing!

    Curious as a Cathy
    A2Z iPad Art Sketch ‘Indians’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for visiting and commenting, Cathy. Humans belong to two classes only – the controllers and the controlled. The way the oppression happens and the degree of it might vary, but in the end it boils down to the same thing – ‘Control.’ Glad you liked the post.


  5. Oh, this was powerful … and so heartbreaking. I didn’t know about North Korea’s “Pleasure Squad” (I mean, I figured they had some such thing but didn’t know how it operated). Sex trafficking is a cause I’m pretty passionate about, so that was especially interesting to me (and saddening). Great writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The pleasure squad is just the end of the antenna of the fly which is sitting on the pile of garbage atop the iceberg that is the atrocities happening in North Korea. Working women resort to prostitution on the way to and back from their work, just for some extra money or some rice. Thanks for the comment, London.


    1. North Korea follows a three generation of punishment system. That is, if you commit a crime, your parents and your kids (even unborn) will be considered criminals and will be sent to concentration camps. There are lot of such stories which are now seeping out due to the people who have fled the country. Thanks for the comment, Iain.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Tells a lot about their lives when death is considered a valuable alternative to living, right? Thanks for the comment, DeeDee


    1. When death is considered as a great escape! Tells a lot about the state of affairs there, right? Thanks for the comment, Anagha.


    1. Thanks for the very kind words, Balaka. The next time I think of discarding food, episodes like these will flash in my mind. I know a lot of people who feel unlucky stuck in our country. They need to understand that there are much worse alternatives.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Kalpanaa. The stories come from everyday life. There are good, bad, ugly and downright weird in this world. My stories come from them only.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderfully written thought- provoking story. really liked how you have portrayed the terrors of an absolute regime and the inspiring bond between the siblings as something of an antidote. The ending made me wonder if at all the question was impromptu .

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This one really shook me to the core. I have heard of what kind of life people have to live in dictatorial regimes like North Korea. In such a short story you have managed to bring home the full horror of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Now I brace for your twist with every sentence! But this one left me feeling sad and confused. It is something akin to Rani Padmini’s Jauhar. Escaping worse fate and accepting death as a better alternate. (sigh)

    Good one!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The irony in the closing lines. The sad truth of many that aren’t even given the opportunity to bloom. Disheartening.

    A very well written fiction that says a lot. Powerful in its own way. Is it inspired from real incident?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Shweta. I’m pretty sure there have been a lot of real life Joo-Wons and Ji-Woos in N.Korea. Unfortunately we’ll never know the real state of affairs. Afterall, this is the country that built an entire fake city to show the South Koreans how awesome North Korea is.


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