Nearly 30 years ago, I took my AP English exam at Boone County High School. Oddly, I still remember some of the questions — one was about the pun in the opening speech of Richard III, there was an essay on Auden’s “Song (As I Walked Out One Evening)”, and there was an essay about great villains in literature. Although I’m not a Dickens fan — never have been — I wrote about Fagin, suggesting that his evil was particularly egregious because he seduced children into his criminal enterprises. The choice was in part gamesmanship on my part — I was aware of my audience, and I figured they’d go for Dickens — but having made that choice, I did it with clean hands and composure.
I was reminded of that this morning when I read this BBC story on Oh Kil-Nam. A South Korean economist who earned his Ph.D. in Germany, the Marxist Oh defected to North Korea, lured by the promise of a government job and free medical care. But what takes this from the realm of poor choices into the realm of evil is that he took his wife and kids with him.
Much to Oh’s surprise (if no one else’s), they were immediately shipped to a re-education camp, where his family learned object lessons in the benefits of juche. He was offered a job in which he would pimp the North Korean regime to other South Korean students abroad, trying to lure them into making decisions like his. His wife, however, talked him out of destroying any more lives. Instead, he went on to his destination of Copenhagen — and defected again.
Not surprisingly, the Norks were less than thrilled, and sent the rest of his family to a concentration camp. He heard from them once — in 1991 — and never has again.
I’m grateful that it is not my job to determine who is saved and who is damned. Oh Kil-Nam should be glad of that as well.
H/T: Ace’s ONT.