Excerpt: Somewhere Inside
We were taken into a small room, where the guards handed over our belongings to a commanding officer. We were then escorted back outside and made to wait. The post was little more than a dirt clearing, where I assumed military training took place. Several curious, wide-eyed soldiers surrounded us. In any other situation, I might have attempted to make a friendly connection by offering a smile or "hello" in Korean. For the past decade, I'd worked in dozens of countries, many of which have poor relations with the United States, yet I have always been able to establish cordial, sometimes even warm connections with the people. But this wasn't just any foreign country. So little is known about what actually goes on in North Korea. The only thing that became immediately clear to me was the deep-rooted hatred North Korea's government has for the United States. I had to remind myself that as an American, I was the enemy.
I looked down at the ground, trying to seem meek and respectful. It was as if I had entered a parallel universe. Would I ever see or hear from my family again? I wondered. Could this be my last day alive? The combination of fear and sadness engulfed me and made me tremble.
After a ten-minute wait, we were led out of the post. The same two border guards who had apprehended us held our wrists tightly as another soldier led the way. We followed a narrow trail through dry grassland. Along the path, we saw a couple of men who looked like poor farmers or peasants. They were at least a full head shorter than me and emaciated. Their skin was dark and weathered. I could tell they were curious about us, but they averted their eyes as we passed. My heart sank with each step as we headed farther and farther inland, away from China and the outside world.