RYAN LIPPERT WRITES – Shin Dong-hyuk, whose experiences in a North Korean concentration camp are chronicled in 2012’s “Escape from Camp 14,” announced last week that parts of the story portrayed in the book are not completely true.
He stated, for example, that most of his time in the camps was actually spent at the less-infamous Camp 18. This has frustrated other survivors and human rights advocates, who hoped that Shin’s story could be used to attract the attention of the International Criminal Court and lead to an investigation of the situation in North Korea.
Although other camp survivors tell similar stories of being tortured and living in harsh conditions, some worry that Shin’s retraction of his story as originally portrayed could keep such an investigation from taking place.
Why did this happen? That’s anyone’s guess, but it is likely that North Korea’s damage control efforts are part of what led Shin to recant.
In October, North Korea posted a clip titled “Lie and Truth” aimed at disproving Shin’s statements about his experiences in North Korea’s prison camps. A defector who was imprisoned at Camp 18 recognized a man in this clip as Shin’s father. This prompted a discussion about the truth of Shin’s account of his time in the camps, eventually causing Shin to revise parts of his story.
We may never know whether or not Shin’s story is completely true. It is nearly impossible to find reliable information about North Korea due to the country’s secrecy and isolation (it’s not nicknamed the Hermit Kingdom for nothing).
While the North Korean government denies the existence of the camps, the stories of defectors such as Shin Dong-hyuk continue to provide the international community with evidence that the camps exist. That being said, there’s no need to worry too much about Shin’s retractions damaging efforts to hold North Korea accountable for the way it treats its citizens.