SYDNEY/SEOUL (Reuters) – A video message from his father, who he thought was dead, may have led to a prominent North Korean defector recanting parts of the dramatic story of his escape from a prison camp, the head of a UN inquiry on the state’s human rights abuses said.
Shin Dong-hyuk has said he was tormented to see his father alive and speaking in the video released by the North in October.
On Sunday, Shin, one of the best known defectors from the North who was a key witness to the UN inquiry that has issued a damning indictment of the isolated country’s rights abuses, admitted in a post on his Facebook page to having changed key parts of his story and apologised.
Shin gave no details. A statement from Blaine Harden, the author of a best-selling book on Shin, said much of the revised account was consistent with the original version and with his testimony to the UN commission.
“But he has significantly revised details of his early life and substantially changed the dates and places of major events,” Harden said.
Michael Kirby, an Australian judge who headed the UN commission of inquiry, said the trigger might have been the North Korean propaganda video of his father. “His father said various things about his testimony,” Kirby said in a telephone interview in Sydney.
In the video, his father told Shin to “come to your senses and return to the embrace of the Party”, referring to the North’s ruling Workers’ Party. He also referred to discrepancies in Shin’s story.