North Korea on Tuesday sought to discredit a prominent North Korean prison camp survivor who recently admitted inaccuracies in parts of his widely read story about horrific abuse in the country of his birth.
The public backtracking by Shin Dong-Hyuk proves that the entirety of his description of life in a North Korean prison camp was “scripted by (his) masters,” said a column on Pyongyang’s government-run Uriminzokkiri website. The website also said survivor reports published in a U.N. investigation into Pyongyang’s human rights abuses must be “nullified” as they depended on “human scum” such as Shin.
The attack on Shin isn’t surprising as Pyongyang harshly criticized him even before his recent retraction of some details in the 2012 book, “Escape from Camp 14.” But the new developments feed fears among rights groups and other defectors in South Korea that a push to hold North Korea accountable for its alleged abuse could stall.
Shin’s earlier account helped drive international efforts to hold Pyongyang accountable for what’s widely regarded as one of the world’s worst human rights records.
The book’s author Blaine Harden said in a statement on his website over the weekend that Shin had changed the dates and places of some events described in the book, although he stuck to the most horrific elements about torture and imprisonment.
Multiple attempts to contact Shin on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Shin’s story originally drew widespread attention because he said he had lived in a high-security political prison camp in North Korea from his birth until his escape over an electrified fence in 2005, when he was in his early 20s.
Shin now says he was transferred around the age of 6 to a lighter-security prison camp with his mother and brother. It was there, not the harsher camp, where he informed authorities about an escape attempt by his mother and brother, which led to their execution. He now says he was later transferred back to the harsher camp after he failed in a later escape attempt.
North Korean diplomats at the U.N. circulated a DVD called “Lie and Truth: Who is Shin Dong-Hyuk?” in an attempt to discredit him by using footage of his own father speaking out against him and saying the family had never lived in a “so-called political prisoner camp.” But Shin said the DVD merely proved that his father was still alive.