The Pyongyang Chief of Police had struggled to comprehend it at the time and he was no closer to understanding it now. He had been operating with the assumption that every man under his command was a good, honest and above all, loyal man; then it was revealed that around half of his charge were instead loyal to the General of the North Korean Army, and worse still, those treacherous subjects were involved in, what the media was calling, the North Korean Horror Story. He couldn’t understand it. He knew the General of the Army, he knew him well, they’d had drinks; never had the Chief of Police thought he could ever be capable of such ghastly atrocities against children.
What made matters more difficult is that when Chief Dewar had executed the warrant, recruiting man-power from around the country and deploying them in one giant sting operation, yielding results that shocked and repulsed him to the point of physical illness, the General was among those arrested. The Chief was justifiably outraged to find how many of his own men turned out to have been corrupted by the General’s charge; but to see his own comrade in shackles, so heavily restrained on the charge of being complicit in mass child abduction, was crippling. Chief of Police, Chi Dewar stood now behind a lectern in Pyongyang’s city square before over 200,000 confused little faces with no idea what was happening, or what had happened to them. The horde comprised more people squashed into one space than Dewar had ever seen; certainly more than the city square had ever accommodated. Children were bulging into doorways, forced into alcoves and flooding down side streets, shepherded by a speckling of uniformed officers making up the oversized throng’s perimeter. The Chief was more nervous at this point than he could recall. How was he expected to address a group when he hadn’t the slightest clue who he was talking to? He knew most would have had little or no education and that some would likely even lack the ability to articulate, thus probably wouldn’t understand a single word he said. Unlike the sting that had given these children another chance, the Chief was unsure how he was going to execute this giant operation.
“Children of Pyongyang,” he bellowed into a microphone, which emitted a loud squawk in response. He lowered his volume, took a step backward and tried again. “Children of Pyongyang, nobody, least of all I, can extend our regret far enough, to cover the great injustice, that has been done, to all of you … All I can offer, in token consolation, are my sincerest apologies, and the assurance, that you, Pyongyang’s young, will be given every opportunity, all the support, that you need, to once again, become great … I thank you all, for your enduring, fighting spirit, and my very best wishes, for the future.”
With that the Chief stepped down from his platform. No applause followed; he hadn’t expected any would. He looked on as his officers now directed tearful parents to their rightful young. It had been the Chief who had orchestrated proceedings immediately after the release: each rescued child had first undergone rigorous medical checks to ensure they were of satisfactory health and while most were malnourished to the point of collapse, a lack of contact with the outside world had ensured that every child was free from serious disease or in fact any modern malady at all. They were then bathed and assessed for any distinguishing marks or features so, along with dental records, there stood a good chance of locating their origin. In most cases this technique proved successful, for the remaining few, not so much; it was those remaining few who stood alone once the rest had been matched and had disbanded. Each child whose history had been discovered had had a number allocated to them; when the caregiver was located they were given a matching number. The mass of children who had stood before the Chief of Police in Pyongyang city square, although forming an ostensibly haphazard arrangement, were in fact, albeit roughly, placed in numerical order: number 1 stood at the front; number 212,101 lingered somewhere at the rear of the mob.
5,732 orphans now remained, some with numbers, some without. Whether their parents were no longer living or simply didn’t want to be found, these 5,732 had no one.