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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Shin Dong-hyuk

Interviewed March 4, 2024

For me, I would equate the expression of freedom with the ability to fill your stomach and eat whatever one wanted to eat.

The reason why I answer this way is because, during the 24 years that I lived in the North Korean prison, there was not enough food for us to eat.

Also, I had no freedom to decide whether a particular food was safe or unsafe. We had to eat whatever we could find.

We had to eat whatever we could to fill our stomachs. We did not have the luxury of choosing or having the freedom to choose what we wanted to eat.

So now when I think about all the food I can eat, about the luxury of whatever food is out there, the fact that I can use self-control to eat as much as I want or to eat as little as I want, having that control, having that freedom is what I consider a blessing.

Eating whatever I want to eat, that freedom to choose is something very important.

The most difficult struggle I had adjusting to life in the free world is, in a free society there are so many different options, so many choices for me to make.

During the 24 years I was in the prison camp, I did not have the option or the luxury of making choices.

We were given our food to eat, we were given our clothes to wear, and we were given the work that we did.

I’ve struggled to cope with the options and choices that one has in a free society.

And I also believe that in a free and open society, there are so many things to do, so many things I must do.

If I am not careful, I can fall to the wayside and end up doing bad things.

So in terms of having those choices to make, actually deciding what to do is my biggest struggle.

I could fall into using drugs or committing robberies or other bad things so I must use self-control and I must make wise decisions, make the right decisions.