TOKYO — Shin Dong-hyuk, a North Korean prison camp survivor who has become the symbol of human rights injustices suffered in that country, has changed key parts of the story of his ordeal.
Although the most horrific details, such as being lowered by a hook over a fire, still stand, Shin has admitted that many of the places and timing of events in his telling of his story were wrong, Blaine Harden, the author of “Escape from Camp 14,” a best-selling book about Shin’s life, said Saturday.
“From a human rights perspective, he was still brutally tortured, but he moved things around,” said Harden, a former Washington Post journalist who first wrote Shin’s story for The Post in 2008.
Shin, 32, has been one of the most prominent defectors from North Korea, trying to raise awareness about human rights abuses there. He also testified in front of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry, whose report has led to an international campaign to hold the totalitarian state’s leaders to account for decades of human rights violations.
North Korea, alarmed by this campaign and the prospect of “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong Un being indicted, has been trying to undermine Shin’s testimony and will doubtless seize on these revisions to try to portray all accounts of human rights abuses as fabrications.
In “Escape from Camp 14” and in his testimony to the U.N. commission, Shin has told this story: He was born in Camp 14, a sprawling high-security political prison in the mountains of north of Pyongyang, where he was brutally tortured and lived until his escape in 2005. He has consistently said that he escaped with a fellow inmate, climbing over his body when the man was electrocuted on the fence that surrounded the camp, and then made his way into China.
Shin admitted to Harden on Friday that when he was about 6, he, his mother and his brother were transferred to another prison camp, Camp 18, across the Taedong River from Camp 14.
It was there, after learning of his mother and brother’s plans to escape, that he betrayed them to the authorities, Shin told Harden. It was also in this camp, he said, that he witnessed their executions.
In the book, Shin recounted all these events as happening in Camp 14.
Shin also now says that he escaped from the camps on two occasions, in 1999 and 2001. The second time, he made it to China but was caught after four months by local police and sent back to North Korea. He was first held at Camp 18, then transferred back to the more draconian Camp 14, Shin told Harden.
It was then, when he was 20, that Shin was tortured as punishment for escaping. He was held in an underground prison for six months, where he was repeatedly burned and tortured. This diverges from his original account that this torture happened when he was 13, when authorities suspected him of also plotting to escape with his mother and brother.
Shin, who lives in Seoul, is traveling abroad and did not answer phone calls or e-mails requesting comment. But he had spoken to Harden and said he was “very sorry about all this mess.”
“When I agreed to share my experience for the book, I found it was too painful to think about some of the things that happened,” Harden quoted Shin as saying. “So I made a compromise in my mind. I altered some details that I thought wouldn’t matter. I didn’t want to tell exactly what happened in order not to relive these painful moments all over again.”
North Korea is the most secretive state on Earth, and it is notoriously difficult to verify details of defectors’ testimony. Harden notes in his book that this is especially the case when it comes to political prison camps, which are off-limits to outsiders.
But experts on North Korea’s gulags vetted and accepted Shin’s story, and human rights activists said that the revisions did not alter the fundamental truth of the horrors of North Korean prison camps.
“Camp 14, Camp 18, Auschwitz, Dachau, Birkenau — what difference does it make?” asked Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. “He is a political prison camp survivor, period.”
The revisions did not change the key parts of Shin’s testimony, or that of the entire movement of defectors agitating for action against North Korea.
“The critical points of the book remain true,” Scarlatoiu said. “This young man went through despicable torture. That is true.”
Harden said he would seek to correct his book, which has been translated into 27 languages since it was first published in 2012. He and Shin have been sharing the profits from the book equally.
But he said he was convinced that key elements remain correct.
“I’m confident that he was tortured because he has the scars,” Harden said, describing the burn marks on Shin’s lower back. “And I’m confident that he escaped from Camp 14 because of the scars on his legs. He was examined by medical experts who said they are consistent with severe electrical burns.”
Shin also has bowed arms, the result of a childhood of hard labor.
“He is still saying that all of this happened, but that they happened at different times and places,” Harden said.
Leeann Roybal, Shin’s wife, said that Shin was “very emotional” about the revisions and recognizes that North Korea probably will try to exploit them.
“He thinks about this a lot,” Roybal said from Seoul. “He knows this is going to have a catastrophic impact on a lot of people’s lives.”
North Korea has already tried to dismiss Shin’s story and assassinate his character. Last fall, amid mounting calls to refer North Korea’s leaders to the International Criminal Court, the regime released a video titled “Lie and Truth,” in which Shin’s father says that his son never lived in a political prison camp and that his testimony is false.
Занятного тут много.
1. Неясно, с чего это вдруг Син стал менять показания и признаваться. ИМХО, всплыли некие даные, которые поставили под сомнение первоначальную версию и при этом не могут быть отметены как северокорейская пропаганда.
1а. http://www.washingtonpost.com/people/anna-fifield - автор заметки. Ни разу не просеверокорейски настроена.
2. Характерна реакция борцов с КНДР, включая плагиатора Скарлатойю: но в главном же он прав!
2а. Хотя неизмененные рассказы о пытках оставляют вопрос о том, не является ли он Маклаудом.
3. Северокорейскую версию упомянули, но не прокомментировали.
4. Европейская жена Сина - кто она? https://www.linkedin.com/pub/leeann-roybal/30/873/529 и https://www.facebook.com/yooonique1/about Есть даже запись о браке с Сином: http://registry.theknot.com/leeann-roybal-donghyuk-shin-april-2014/10079706 верующая (сильно) и профессиональный маркетолог.
5. И, наконец, реакция самого Сина из его ФБ: https://www.facebook.com/NKSDH?fref=nf
Every one of us have stories, or things we’d like to hide. We all have something in the past that we never want brought to light. I too, forever wanted to conceal and hide part of my past.We tell ourselves that it’s okay to not reveal every little detail, and that it might not matter if certain parts aren’t clarified.
Nevertheless this particular past of mine that I so badly wanted to cover up can no longer be hidden, nor do I want it to be.
To those who have supported me,tr…usted me and believed in me all this time, I am so very grateful and at the same time so very sorry to each and every single one of you.
At this point I may or may not be able to continue in my work and efforts in trying to eliminate the political prison camps and bring justice to the oppressed- the same goes for my entire fight altogether against the North Korean regime.
But instead of me, you all can still fight. I still have faith in you. For my family, for the suffering political prisoners, for the suffering North Korean people, each of you still have a voice and an ability to fight for us and against this evil regime. On our behalf you must continue to spread what you know. The world still needs to know of the horrendous and unspeakable horrors that are taking place. These will be my final words and this will likely be my final post.
6. Читаю ФБ Сина далее, вижу загруженные фото отца из того самого северокорейского ролика и его статью в ответ: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/shin-dong-hyuk-north-korea-will-not-silence-me/2014/11/28/6b663db0-75ad-11e4-a755-e32227229e7b_story.html как мне кажется, там много пафоса и мало ответов по существу.
I committed a grave sin against my father when I fled the North Korean prison camp where I was born. I was 23 years old, fully aware that my escape from Camp 14 would trigger his torture and probably his execution.
Then, I knew nothing of love between fathers and sons. My wild hunger for what lay beyond the camp’s electric fence trumped everything else, even fear of my own death. Leaving my father behind to suffer and to die, I ran off, first to China, then to South Korea and the United States.
That was nearly 10 years ago. My life has since been consumed by regret and by concern about my father and all the others I left behind. Trying to raise awareness of the human rights catastrophe in my homeland, I have told my ghastly story around the world. “Escape from Camp 14, ” a book about my life by journalist Blaine Harden (who assisted me with the writing of this column), has been published in 28 languages. I was “Witness No. 1” before a U.N. inquiry that questioned more than 300 survivors of abuse in North Korea. It concluded this year that crimes against humanity have been and are being committed by the government there. It also found that responsibility for these crimes rests on the shoulders of the country’s young dictator, Kim Jong Un.
At the United Nations this month, I found a measure of victory and vindication, as 111 nations voted to refer North Korea for trial in the International Criminal Court. The referral, though, is nonbinding and must be acted on by the Security Council, and that seems unlikely. China has indicated it will use its veto to block any trial.
Still, the vote was a stinging and historic humiliation for North Korea, and its government worked feverishly to prevent it. For a while, Pyongyang tried accommodation. It released Americans it had held prisoner, invited a U.N. human rights official to visit the country (but not the political prison camps) and deigned to discuss human rights for the first time with foreign diplomats.
Then it resorted to threats. A North Korean U.N. representative said that if the vote passed, Pyongyang would have no choice but to explode a fourth nuclear device. The country warned last weekend of “catastrophic and unimaginable consequences” of what it calls the “human rights racket.”
North Korea has also tried to blacken my character, accusing me in videos released on YouTube of being a liar, a rapist and a thief.
In one of these videos, my 70-year-old father appeared and joined the chorus of my accusers. He said that neither he nor I had ever lived in a political labor camp. It was an extraordinary shock. I had thought he was dead. Now I know that his torture continues at the hands of his North Korean jailers, who are forcing him to lie. My guilt for abandoning my father is more painful than ever. I dearly miss him. I love him.
In Camp 14, there was no concept of family. I did not know a child’s heart. We were starving animals competing against each other — betraying each other — for scraps of food. The feelings I have now for my father were learned only after I escaped the hell of that prison.
Since watching the video of my father, I have felt an overwhelming desire to travel to North Korea and be with him. My friends, of course, have warned me that I would be killed.
But I want to give North Korea a chance to live up to its claims that its citizens are living happily and in freedom. If it seeks credibility, the regime should welcome my request to meet my father, who doesn’t have much time left on this earth, so that he can see and touch my face. It should be an open, publicized, official visit that includes an on-the-ground inspection of Camp 14.
Realistically, such a visit is unlikely, and my guilt about my father will only deepen. In all probability, China will use its U.N. veto to insulate Kim and his underlings from accountability for crimes against humanity that continue to this day.
Camp 14 still operates, as do other political labor camps that imprison up to 120,000 people. Camp guards continue to punish children and their parents, working them to death as slaves and snitches in a world without love.
For all my guilt about my father’s continuing torment, I will not be silenced. Injustice cannot cover up justice. I have an obligation to those still in the camps, as does everyone in the outside world.