A North Korean defector, whose dramatic escape from a brutal prison camp was the subject of a bestselling book, has changed key parts of his story and on Sunday apologised for misleading people.
“Escape from Camp 14“, written by former Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden, brought Shin Dong-hyuk international fame.
Shin, one of the best-known defectors from reclusive North Korea, said on his Facebook page he had tried to hide parts of his past.
“To those who have supported me, trusted 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,” Shin said.
He also said he may end his campaign to shut down prison camps in North Korea, which had been instrumental in bringing a U.N. resolution urging the referral of the country to an international tribunal.
Harden, whose book “shines through” with integrity, according to a fellow journalist’s comment on its cover, said he had been in contact with Shin.
“I contacted Shin, pressing him to detail the changes and explain why he had misled me,” Harden wrote on his website, adding he had given the information to the Washington Post, for which he originally wrote a story about Shin in 2008.
Neither Harden nor Shin gave details about the changes.
Shin had said in the book he was tortured when he was 13 after a failed attempt to flee Camp 14 where he was born in until a dramatic escape in 2005, when he climbed over the body of a fellow inmate who died on an electrified fence.
He said he informed a prison guard of a plan by his mother and brother to escape Camp 14 and both were executed.
According to the Washington Post, Shin told Harden that he was moved from Camp 14 to a different prison camp, Camp 18, and it was there that he betrayed his mother and brother.
He also told Harden that he had escaped the prison and fled to China where he was caught and sent back to the North, the newspaper said. In his original account, he said he had lived all his life in Camp 14 until his escape.
The Washington Post cited Harden as saying he would seek to correct the book but that he was convinced key elements were correct.
Shin, who has lived in South Korea, could not be reached for comment. A recorded message showed he has cancelled his mobile phone subscription.
(Reporting by Jack Kim and Sohee Kim; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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