North Korea is vehemently denying that any prison torture camps exist after a defector admitted to lying about some of the details of his time as a political prisoner in the pariah nation. North Korean state media have used this as an opportunity to fire back at criticisms and claims made by other defectors and rights groups.
“Sin had styled himself as a ‘survivor’ in the ‘concentration camp of political offenders’ that does not exist in the DPRK, no more than a sheer lie and a fiction,” the state-run news agency said on Tuesday, according to a translation by KCNA Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based organization. “Sin’s admission of his lies goes to prove that everything told by those who claim to be ‘defectors from the north’ cannot be trusted and the above-said report is peppered with sheer lies.”
Shin Dong-hyuk, known also as Sin Tong Hyok, North Korea’s most prominent and outspoken defector, was the subject of the best-selling biography "Escape From Camp 14," widely considered the most detailed account of life in North Korea’s prisons. Shin’s accounts were even used by the United Nations' human rights report, which was the basis of a recently adopted resolution by the UN General Assembly which recommended Pyongyang to the International Criminal Court.
North Korea claims that Shin’s retracted statement undermines the validity of the human rights report. “Needless to say, all the ‘resolutions on the human rights’ forcibly adopted against the DPRK on the basis of such false documents are invalid.”
“The truth behind the conspirational ‘human rights’ racket kicked up by the U.S. and other hostile forces against the DPRK in the UN arena is being self-exposed,” the KCNA report said. “Sin is a swindler who had appeared with false name and career and no more than a parasite who has prolonged his remaining days by noisily trumpeting about the misinformation provided by his master.”
The book’s author, Blaine Harden, said Shin -- who claims to have been in the prison camp from birth until his eventual escape -- admitted to inaccuracies regarding the amount of time he spent at the camp.
“On Friday, Jan. 16, I learned that Shin Dong-hyuk, the North Korean prison camp survivor who is the subject of ‘Escape From Camp 14,’ had told his friends an account of his life that differed substantially from my book,” Harden wrote in a statement on his website.
Blaine and Shin, however, still stand by his accounts of being tortured, which included being forced to eat “rodents, lizards and grass” to sustain himself, as well as being witness to the “public execution of his mother and brother.”
Michael Kirby, the chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into North Korea, also says the report’s conclusion on North Korea’s human rights issues still stands. “The dispute over Mr. Shin’s evidence appears to relate to the exact detention camp from which he escaped,” Kirby said in a statement. “In the big picture of gross abuses of human rights of the entire population of North Korea over more than 65 years, his experience – although very important to him and his family – is not critical to the inquiry.”