A salamander, c. mid 1990s

By Kang Cheol-hwan.

Yodok Salamander
Kang Cheol-hwan described his years in Yodok, political prison camp 15, North Korea, in a press ad for Amnesty International, 21 February 2014.

Mothers tried to keep their children alive by catching pregnant rats. The placentas and tiny foetuses made rich eating and were thought to cure disease.

Kang caught frogs and worms, snakes and centipedes and learned to relish salamanders, which were thought to provide the vitamins needed for survival, but his first attempt to eat one was a failure.

‘I pushed it into my mouth, but could not swallow. The creature was struggling to get out of my mouth. I was frightened, I closed my eyes and bit it hard. My mouth was suddenly full of bitter and stinking juice and I had to spit it out.’

A friend taught Kang that the only way to eat one was to hold the tail and gulp it down.

 

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