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On Christmas Day 2009 activist, minister and songwriter Robert Park walked defiantly across the Tumen River from China into North Korea to protest international insouciance over well-documented mass atrocities taking place in the country’s prison camps as well as the state-enforced starvation of millions of Korean innocents. He was captured by North Korean security forces who then held and tortured him with the intent of silencing him and breaking his spirit. Forty-three days later, they released him.
After returning to the United States, Park was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress (PTSD), hospitalized for a total of nine months the first year of his return, and continues to suffer from nightmares, flashbacks and health complications in connection to his experience. Following a suicide attempt in 2011, he began to write his way out of hell by authoring some thirty articles which have been published in major newspapers, business and academic journals around the world and aided significantly in laying the foundation for a growing global recognition of North Korea’s human rights situation as a genocide under international law. In addition to his activist work, and perhaps more key to his recovery, he commenced to draw from his anguish to compose heart-rending, relevant and timeless music.
Last year, he joined forces with Portland, Oregon-based musician and composer, Chris Newman, and Portland engineer Mike Lastra in order to record some of those songs as a demo. Newman’s band, Napalm Beach, has been a favorite of Greg Sage of the Wipers who organized and released their first full-length studio recording, Rock and Roll Hell (Trap Records, 1983; re-released on CD with bonus tracks by Sage’s Zeno Records in 2004).
In a single session they produced four beautiful recordings, including “Indifference”, an enraged and sagacious masterpiece which evokes a sound and atmosphere akin to that of Gun Club‘s Miami and Neil Young‘s Tonight’s the Night, but arguably even darker.
Notes on the video: The genocides pictured include North Korea’s (ongoing), the Holocaust, Ottoman (Armenian, Anatolian Greek and Assyrian), Plains Indians (including Wounded Knee), Cherokee (Trail of Tears), Ixyl Maya, and Darfur. The unidentified man pictured in the last scene is Armenian genocide survivor Soghomon Tehlirian.
The video is dedicated to Han Jin-duk, who was imprisoned at the age of 5 with her entire family, raped, tortured, maimed and finally murdered in the North Korean gulag. An important article about her is this 2003 NBC interview with Ahn Myong-chol, who is a former guard who escaped, and has testified extensively about the crimes he once participated in.
The video was conceived by Park and edited by Erika Meyer, who is a regular contributor to the online zine Collapse Board. The recording was done in one take at Smegma Studios in Portland, OR. Chris improvised the bass, drums and slide guitar while Robert played the rhythm guitar and sang.
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