The evangelical activist freed by North Korea after 43 days in detention returned to the U.S. looking thin and pale and burst into tears when he met his parents. Acquaintances say it was a noticeable change from the excitable Robert Park they knew, who walked into North Korea on Christmas Eve on a mission to convert the regime, which he apparently believed came straight from God.
Before he was freed, Park (28) was paraded before the North Korean media, reciting a nonsensical apology that blamed the error of his ways on "false propaganda" in the West and accepted that North Korea "guarantees the freedom" of all its people.
What had happened? A former senior North Korean official who defected to the South said, "Ninety-nine percent of these so-called press conferences in the North are faked through torture and coercion."
The State Security Department is in charge of such cases. Investigators from the psychological warfare office reportedly attempt to penetrate the inner world of detainees or suspects through an alternate series of torture and conciliatory persuasion. The investigators keep the detainees awake until they surrender.
But if Park was scared in the North, it would have been nothing compared to what North Korean dissidents suffer. Still, anybody from the free world would feel a lot more panic if they experience torture, however mild it is considered in the North.
North Koreans are said to shudder in horror at the mere mention of the underground prisons of the State Security Department, because unimaginable brutality is committed there. Once the department finishes investigation, detainees are transferred to another agency codenamed "No. 3 Building."
Those who have been sufficiently scared are supposed to read out a script or act as directed in a staged press conference. Jang Hae-sung, a former reporter for Korean Central Television who defected to the South, recalled that when he worked in Pyongyang, he saw a fake press conference for kidnapped South Korean fishermen. At the time, the press conference hall was jam-packed with government agents involved in South Korean affairs. The press conference went on exactly according to a script, he said.