Sperryville column for July 19

North Korean refugees inspire audience

From left: Henry Song of the North Korea Freedom Coalition,  North Korean prison camp escapee Shin Donghyuk, Suzanne Scholte of the Defense Forum Foundation and refugee Jo Jinhye are introduced Sunday by Orson Maazel. Photo by E. Raymond Boc.
From left: Henry Song of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, North Korean prison camp escapee Shin Donghyuk, Suzanne Scholte of the Defense Forum Foundation and refugee Jo Jinhye are introduced Sunday by Orson Maazel. Photo by E. Raymond Boc.

Orson Maazel’s inspiration to invite North Korean human rights activists to speak in Sperryville during this year’s Castleton Festival enabled members of the community, and an international group of young, world-class musicians, to hear details of ongoing atrocities that need to be stopped. Last Sunday (July 15) at the Sperryville Schoolhouse, 2008 Seoul Peace Prize Laureate Suzanne Scholte reminded the audience that millions have died from execution, torture and starvation since the Kim regime came to power in 1948. Isolation and brainwashing, a massive political prison camp system and an abusive classification system – based on skewed perception by those in power of one’s loyalty to the regime, and determining what you eat, where you live and more – combine to make North Korea “one of the darkest places on earth, where there is not one single human right,” as she put it.

Shin Dong-hyuk was born in a political prisoner camp. He endured years of torture and malnutrition and witnessed the execution of his mother and brother. In January 2005, at age 23, he escaped, fleeing about 370 miles into China. According to Blaine Harden, who tells this remarkable young man’s story in his 2012 book, “Escape from Camp 14,” no other person born in a prison camp had ever escaped.

Shin quickly engaged the audience on Sunday night with his eloquence, his humanity and the reminder that the mass executions that have occurred in the world endured because of the silence or inaction of those who knew about them. Shin has lived through the atrocities that continue to occur in North Korea and urged members of the audience to “Raise your voice. Be the voice of the voiceless.”

“It is easier to kill a human in North Korea than to kill a mouse,” North Korean refugee Jo Jinhye told those assembled. As a child, she said, she killed mice for food to survive. Five of her eight family members were killed. Only her mother, a sister and she survived. Scholte had earlier told the audience that an estimated 80 percent of girls and women who managed to escape to China were taken prisoner and sold into human trafficking.

Jo’s story illustrated this in poignant detail; somehow, she and her mother and sister survived torture, separations and escaped from North Korea. She continues to have nightmares and fears and said that “ Even though we have freedom, my heart has not found that freedom yet. Perhaps God saved our family so we can tell about the injustice of North Korea.”

Scholte offered some “glimmers of hope,” noting that some 25,000 people have escaped from North Korea and are trying to connect with family members who remain there. The government’s public distribution system for food, clothing and basic needs, Scholte said, has broken down, giving rise to some free markets. There is some communication into North Korea that did not exist previously. For example, she said, Radio Free Asia has been expanding into North Korea.

You can help. In the words of Shin Dong-hyuk, you can “raise your voice” to support the work of these courageous young Koreans. For a donation of $50, you will receive a copy of “Escape from Camp 14” from the Defense Forum Foundation (Call 202-341-6767 or visit defenseforum.org for more information.).

Our gratitude to Orson Maazel for making this unforgettable evening at the Schoolhouse possible.

Bastille Day in Rappahannock

The opening lines of a tourism website describing the cuisine of Reunion Island are: “The plethora of races and nationalities has contributed to the integration of cuisines from India, China, France, Madagascar and the African mainland, making the local food interesting and exotic.”

An overseas department of France located in the Indian Ocean, one of Reunion Island’s gifts to Rappahannock is personal chef Sylvie Rowand (laughingduckgardens.com). At a private event in the county on Bastille Day, Sylvie prepared a meal that showcased the best of that exotic and tasty cuisine. Pate creole, Nems au Poisson fume, Porc roti au Gingembre, Poulet Massale, Lentille de Cilaos, Rougail de tomate, de citron and de Piment . . . just to name some of the courses. Do take the time to look these up on the internet! Sylvie has cooked for private dinners, for the Inn at Mount Vernon Farm and community events. Contact Sylvie well in advance if you want to get on her calendar for meals and events. The meal with Reunion Island cuisine was “extraordinaire.”

Also on this day, Philip Rosemond celebrated his wife’s birthday with a barbeque and band at their home. Happy Birthday, Kat.

‘No place like home’

From left: Carter, Duane, Lucas, Laura and Reed Morey, back home in Rappahannock. Photo by Brenda Van Ness.
From left: Carter, Duane, Lucas, Laura and Reed Morey, back home in Rappahannock. Photo by Brenda Van Ness.

Laura McNear Morey said that she knows it sounds corny, but what brings her back to her home, Rappahannock County, is that there’s no place like it. Her own family life was wonderful here and Laura and her husband, Duane, want their children, 3-year-old triplet boys, to be able to have grandparents Dick and Jeanie McNear be an integral part of their lives. (Duane’s parents are not too far away, either). Duane and Laura want the children to be raised in this rural environment that is so focused on the environment and a healthy lifestyle. They live on the farm formerly owned by the Halls, and hope someday to clear the orchard and put animals on the bottom pasture. In the meantime, Grandpa McNear has already planted pumpkins in the field behind Attic Treasures, where Old Hollow Road meets U.S. 211. He has visions of having his grandchildren develop the roadside stand and aims to begin with them and the pumpkins this fall.

But wait, there’s more: Duane has just applied to become a member of the Sperryville Volunteer Rescue Squad and will begin with training to become an ambulance driver. Duane served in the Army for five years and in the Coast Guard for five years. And there is still more! Laura, a physical therapist, and Duane, a physical therapy assistant, have joined the staff at Mountainside Physical Therapy. Their arrival brings the staff there to a level where services are now available to the community five days per week.

“Our main focus is raising our kids,” said Laura, and she delights in the fact that her patients are her parents’ friends and even her second-grade teacher.

So welcome back, Laura and Duane.

Note: Physical therapists at Mountainside now include Annie Williams, Sarah Poor and Laura Morey. PT assistants include Duane Morey, Harry Kelley and Monica Kursell, and there are five physical therapy technicians: Shane Benson, Nikki Bowers, Ashley Lamb, Rachel Tabor and Ella Miller.